Stuff about, you know, puzzles

On Puzzle Hunt Forums

People seem to want there to be a puzzle hunt forum where they can gather to post and discuss different issues. However, when there is one, they rarely post. Why? I think it’s because there’s already one, but spread across the Internet. Instead of new topics, people write blogs. Instead of posts responding to topics, most blogs have a comment section. Instead of stickies announcing important information, there’s tweets and Curtis’ calendar. It’s all very decentralized but provides people with the outlet the need to express their opinions and gather facts. Finding them all may be a bit of a challenge, though.

Temporary forums have popped up for recent Games, which I think is great. The No More Secrets forum had over 100 posts and the Ghost Patrol forum had close to 200. I don’t know about Microsoft Puzzle Hunt or the MIT Mystery Hunt; they may have internal forums or lists. There’s also the Game list and the BANG list for general discussion.

So what people want from the Puzzalot forum? Apparently, they want it to be there. They want people to post, because everyone loves reading what other people have to say about puzzle hunts. But nobody wants to post there; to do so would take away from a blog post.

And require effort. People (including myself) are lazy and tend to not register or go to the trouble of posting if they don’t have to. I would like to provide alternate ways to set up accounts, using logins from, say Facebook or Twitter. I’m concerned abouts security, though, so haven’t delved too deeply into those options. Making use of OpenID would be great, but it won’t be supported until SMF 2.0, which I don’t want to install until the final version is available (it’s at Release Candidate 2 right now).

So how to make the Puzzalot forum succeed where others have failed? For one, I think the SMF software is more secure than phpBB, which is the forum that was spammed out of control for both Scott Blomquist and myself… so it should be around as long as there is a puzzalot. This gives it more of a chance to grow.

Towards that goal, here are some things I’ve set up:

  • Boards created for each event and give moderator powers over that board to the organizers (when they register).

So instead of there being a forum setup on a Game’s website, there would instead be a link to the board on Puzzalot, where GC would have the same power as they would over their own board.

I will continue to post to with interesting links that I find, regardless whether people post to the board or not. Having other people post links there too would be, of course, awesome.

  • Sending out tweets of each new post to the board.

Right now, they’re sent out via my Twitter feed, but I may change that to a dedicated account at a later time.

  • Using Twitter hashtags

I need to decide which hash-tag is best for the posts. Right now I’m using #puzzleforum, but I’m wondering if #puzzalotforum or #puzzlehuntforum (#phforum?) might be better. And maybe have a separate hash-tag for posts that are simply links (#phlinks?).

  • New posts also go out to the RSS feed and Google Buzz.

  • Providing announcements of new events and a calendar to keep track of them.

What else is there?

  • CKL

    I think you're overlooking a fundamental problem, which can be summed up in two words: introverted xenophobes.

    This is probably also why there aren't more hunts (especially full-weekend events), and why every GC seems to want to reinvent three out of four wheels.

    It's also possible that I'm just out of the loop, and everyone else is talking to each other all the time. Shrug.

  • Skott

    Not so much overlooking as trying really hard to ignore… mostly cuz I don't know what I can do about it, if anything.

    The introverted xenophibia may affect the low hunt count. But also so many hunts and Games have been done so well that there's a feeling of being unable to meet the previous standard. I think Wei-Hwa mentioned that the team who might have been up for doing Google Puzzle Hunt 2 said that the Burninators set the bar too high. I joking told a teammate that we need to host a really bad hunt, as a way of encouraging other teams to say "We can do better than that!"

  • CKL

    That's an interesting perspective, but I think it's too easy to use as an excuse for not even trying.

    I'm pretty sure the real reason is because most puzzlers would rather play a Game than run one. What the community really needs is more people who want to be GC, and that requires a different skill set than just knowing how to solve puzzles.

  • Skott

    You have a point. I'm guilty of the same feeling. You would think, though, that those of us like that would get a clue and realize that the best way to get entrance into an upcoming Game is to host one. (Although that effect only lasts for three years, maybe?)