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Possible improvements for the next golf apocalypse

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December 8, 2001 17:31
Possible improvements for the next golf apocalypse
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While it is still fresh in everyone's minds, I thought I should
make some notes on possible improvements for the next apocalypse.

1. Timing

We probably all spent more time on this than we can afford.
I think 5 days was too long; 2-3 days feels about right.

It seems fairest to announce the game start time two weeks (say)
before the event, to give people time to prepare.

2. Tie-breaking rule

I chose to break ties by rewarding the first to post.
I suppose other ways are possible (e.g. reward the more
efficient one) but they all seem a little artificial.

3. Number of Holes

Though 9/18 is traditional in golf, five seemed sufficient to
provide an interesting spread of scores. Any more than five
may be unnecessarily cruel.

4. Hole Difficulty

When I posted the game, I thought the holes were too easy.
In retrospect, I think they were about right because they were
simple enough to allow novice golfers to have a go, while still
providing a challenge for the elite golfer.

5. Individual Hole Scores - to post or not to post?

The individual hole scores were kept secret until Eugene, in a
sportsmanlike gesture, revealed his leading scores about 16
hours from the end. I think this worked quite well.

However, I suggest that in future games the Arbiter should reveal
the leading scores for each hole about 4-8 hours from the end.
This should make the final hours quite exciting.

6. Perl Version

Interestingly, I never stated the Perl version, and had no
trouble in this area! I suppose it should work on the
latest stable version of Perl.

7. Scoring Rule

This caused me the most trouble. If I had my time over,
I would have stated the scoring rule more clearly when
the game was first posted, and taken more care to write
a bullet-proof GolfScore() function.

I always intended this game to be a "cross-platform one liner"
game but I was scared if I made a long complicated announcement,
noone would bother to read it, so I described the game in a single
paragraph (which quite a few people didn't seem to read anyway;-).

There seem to be two reasonable scoring rules:
 1) The "cross-platform" one-liner that I chose.
 2) The multi-line rule (with newline counting as 1,
    but not on the leading #!perl line) as implemented
    in Keith C Ivey's submitted GolfScore() function.
I am neutral on this issue. Some may find the single line rule
more aesthetically pleasing, plus it allows easy conversion to
a one-liner via -e switch. On the other hand, others may feel
it an unnecessary restriction that stifles creativity.

The most important thing is to state the rule precisely when
the game is announced, so that it is a level-playing field
for all the players. Had I allowed multiple lines, I am
certain Eugene would have found the multi-line solutions
found by others on hole 4.

I don't like golf games that use the bash shell, say.
I find having to escape characters from the shell a nuisance
and a distraction from Perl. Plus, even if you dislike
Windows users, it seems a little Fascist to bar them
from competing in golf games.

8. Fairness

I lost sleep over this one. I know it's only a game.
Yet soccer referees have been shot dead after games, cricket
umpires accused of racism, and tennis umpires routinely abused
by the players. Plus, I noted the recent wars on the p5p
mailing list and didn't want to start any wars on fwp.

This unfortunate aspect of human behaviour is thankfully
not evident on fwp:-). The most pleasing aspect of the game
for me was the excellent spirit in which it was played.

I think the key to a fair game is a really tight test program
on day one ( had too many holes). It is ideal if you
can just say "if it passes the test program, it is ok";
that also eliminates ambiguity about the game's semantics
and spares you from having to describe the semantics.

9. Submission Format

I received entries in all sorts of formats: embedded in the
mail message, gzipp'ed tarballs, zipped files, attached files
and so on. I only had trouble rarely when some over-zealous
email virus checkers rejected the .pl extension in an
attachment as "unknown" or "dangerous".

In retrospect, perhaps the most convenient is a single
gzipped tarball or zip file. It wouldn't be too hard to
write a little Perl server program that scanned your inbox,
extracted the entrant's files, ran the test program on them,
then automatically posted an updated leaderboard to fwp if
it passed or a reject mail message to the entrant if it failed.
Of course, this depends on having a bullet-proof test program.

10. Other things Santa did wrong

Constructive criticism is always appreciated.


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