where "word of keystroke" begins

October 19, 2000 -- Java Puzzle Cards

Transcript of the live chat session that took place Thursday, October 19, 2000. These sessions are normally scheduled for 12 noon-1 PM US Eastern Time (Standard Time = GMT -5, Daylight Savings Time = GMT -4) on Thursdays.

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Threads (reconstructed after the fact):

Today's Participants

Scott Cramer (Home Page)

Richard Seltzer (Home Page)

Bob Zwick (Home Page)


11:52 - Richard Seltzer

It's just about time to start. All -- as you connect, please introduce yourselves and let us know your interests. Our topic today is javapuzzlecards.

12:10 - BobZwick

Hello Scott and Richard. I'm Bob Zwick - Author of eBookIt FREE software to add multimedia capabilities to any text including Palm synchronization. See the examples and download your FREE copy at

12:13 - scott cramer

Welcome... have u tried puzzlecards

12:14 - BobZwick

benn kinda busy. haven't had time to check out the puzzles. What is the business application for the puzzles ?

12:16 - scott cramer

Well, that's the million dollar question. It can be viewed as a simple application which allows people to create messages on images, turn those images into puzzles, then invite others to solve the puzzle and get the message. Another angle is to look at it as a marketing or contest tool.

12:17 - BobZwick

Scott -- I take it the app is a java applet. Are you the programmer?

12:18 - scott cramer

My colleague Chris is the technical genius. I'm the other half of the team.

12:20 - BobZwick

Soory I was late- Can you give a url so I can take a quick look? Does the program allow me to build a visual puzzle from my own graphic?

12:20 - scott cramer

yes... and best viewed thru IE on a pc

12:21 - Richard Seltzer

Looks/works great with Netscape too (at least with version 4.0+).

Ability to handle traffic

11:54 - Richard Seltzer

Scott -- Has anything further happened with javapuzzlecards since we last talked? Have you gotten interesting feedback from people who have found your site? Have you seen traffic build as people spread the word?

11:55 - scott cramer

We are seeing increased traffic. Much of it, I believe, is the result of your sending out the word. And so far so good... it has continued to work!

11:56 - Richard Seltzer

Being in beta mode, your capacity for handling traffic is probably low. But this app seems very addictive. I could image demand rising steadily. It would be interesting to track that.

11:57 - scott cramer

Actually, the applet, itself, is designed to be accessed by thousands of users simultaneously. Of the many things we worry about, server size and capacity is not one of them.

11:58 - Richard Seltzer

That's good news. But is your capacity based on the assumption that all puzzles are sent by email (just the url) and that those URLs are temporary?

11:59 - scott cramer

In talking with Chris, we can keep those URLs for a long time, and it won't degrade performance or take up much space.

Richard Seltzer

I'd think that one possible business model would be to focus on building a user base -- letting it spread virally, then coming up with ways of capitalizing on the audience you've built.

11:58 - scott cramer

I like that idea. We are working on getting a better handle on the stats.

I also believe we would be able to trap the email addresses of people who have used it and who send it.

Permanent puzzles and contests

12:00 - Richard Seltzer

I'd love to be able to create a puzzle at your site and do it immediately, not have to email a URL. I'd also like to be able to create a puzzle and bookmark/link to it to send friends and customers there.

12:01 - scott cramer

I am trying to imagine the UI... but seems very interesting. People would have instant personalized pages with their own puzzle or puzzle links perhaps

12:01 - Richard Seltzer

Another possible twist -- have you considered enabling contests? Either ones that you hold yourself to promote your business, or ones that other companies would like to run? E.g., a very interest picture turned into a puzzle with an "insane" number of pieces; and if you solve it (or solve it within a fixed timeframe) you get some sort of prize/reward.

12:02 - scott cramer

A guy in England created an eternity puzzle for which he offered 1 million pounds to the first person who solved it. He is now in the process of selling his "castle" in order to pay out the prize. But, yeah, we could have something like that.

12:02 - Richard Seltzer

Yes, you could make it easy for people to store the puzzles they have made in their personal puzzle space. Or you could simply give the option of "go to puzzle now" (as an alternative to mailing the puzzle), and tell folks that all they need to do is bookmark their puzzle page or link to that URL.

12:03 - scott cramer


12:04 - scott cramer

when we started this, we considered a couple of high level things to do. a) sell it somewhere. b) run it ourselves. In one regard, we saw b happening if a didn't work.

12:04 - Richard Seltzer

I think that the time factor could be important in contests. Given enough time, anyone could solve one of these puzzles, even "insane" ones. But to do it in five minutes or so would be quite difficult, but yet seem doable enough for people to try and try repeatedly.

12:05 - scott cramer

Ahh, we could add a timer feature... a little hourglass dropping sand.

12:08 - Richard Seltzer

Yes, an hourglass. And people creating puzzles and electing to save them in a space where anyone could access them could keep track of the records of who has done them fastest. That provides incentive to do the same puzzle more than once. It also provides incentive for people to make very creative puzzles.

12:09 - Richard Seltzer

I see this as much, much more than an e-card.

12:09 - scott cramer

definitely... just like the games on zoogdisney. Here, puzzle freaks could see who could assemble it the fastest... the puzzle hall of fame.

Implications of being able to make a puzzle out of any image

12:06 - Richard Seltzer

Another variation -- you could enable the creation of puzzles based on text alone, rather than a picture. Then you need to put the pieces together to decode the message. Once again, you could base contests/games on that, with a sequence of puzzles to be solved. (Like putting together an old treasure map.)

12:07 - scott cramer

yes... also... the import feature lets you import any gif or jpg. it could be an image of anything... or just a white background with text.

12:08 - scott cramer

one thing to add, though, is that the import feature does not work behind a firewall... and it is also likely that people cannot reassemble puzzles if they are behind a firewall. it could be made to work, but is a bit complex. I also have a question about the certificate that people are asked to sign. Do people routinely accept such certs today

12:08 - Richard Seltzer

Text with a white background could be a useful variation, if it's easy for folks to do.

12:21 - scott cramer

There's always been a certain reserved fear of mine. The ability to upload an image means you could upload anything, from porn to who knows what else. Not sure the ramifications of this.

12:23 - Richard Seltzer

That becomes an issue if people can save images in a public space -- not just for friends. If they are just inviting friends by email or are linking to their image from their pages, that should be an issue. (Actually, porno sites would be a potential market.). For public use images, you'd need to add an approval step -- someone would need to see the image and okay it for public viewing.

12:25 - scott cramer

okay, so it can be worked... another angle is to turn off the import feature and have various images of the day. swap them daily.

12:28 - Richard Seltzer

I think the import feature is absolutely great. I wouldn't turn that off. Rather I'd set up a public gallery area, where people can post the puzzles that they have created for the general public to view and play with. I'd have an approval process for getting into that gallery (it could be presented as a "quality" check -- not just as censorship).

Puzzle cards for marketing and childhood education

12:16 - Richard Seltzer

Scott -- this app has real entertainment/contest/addictive power. That's interesting in and of itself. But business-wise, it is also interesting to consider how that power can be applied -- e.g., for marketing and for early childhood education.

12:17 - scott cramer

I think there is the opportunity to brand it for a specific use, or customer, or contest. The engine is the same, but the window dressing can be modified fairly easily

12:18 - Richard Seltzer

For marketing, I could imagine creating an ad-like image with an ad-like message and sending it as a puzzle. It's fun and intriguing to solve any of these. And in the course of solving you pay attention to the image and message as they unfold. Add to that the incentive of a contest with prizes for solving or solving by a certain date or solving within a short time frame...

12:19 - scott cramer

Maybe we should approach an ad agency?

12:20 - Richard Seltzer

For education, the image and the message can convey information that you want a child to remember. And there could be sequences/series of puzzles that build one lesson on another. I could also easily see this at the Web site of Harcourt (the edu publisher) in their Kids fun page area, as an addictive app to bring kids back again and again to their site. Also would be great at

12:21 - Richard Seltzer

Do you know Larry Chase, by any chance? He's a long-time Internet advertising guru and an old friend of mine. He's located in NYC. It would be good to get his reactions/ideas.

12:22 - scott cramer

don't know him, but sounds good.

12:25 - Richard Seltzer

Larry Chase started the first online ad agency back in about 94. He now makes his bucks with an online publication Web Digest for Marketers (wdfm), a subscription-based pub that consists of brief reviews of marketing-related Web sites. I'll send you his email by email, or if you like I could send him a message introducing you to him first.

12:26 - scott cramer

Sure, if u can open the door with a note, that would be great

Puzzle cards for books and advertising

12:22 - BobZwick

Thinking of how to apply it ...... Could puzzles be created in a mystery novel to give clues as the book is read ?

12:23 - scott cramer

say more

12:25 - BobZwick

say ... at the end of a eBook chapter there is a puzzle with the next clue. and at the end "the buttler" of course.

12:26 - scott cramer

that could work nicely. i am wondering if mystery freaks are puzzle freaks. you need to have a certain type of patience to assemble these things.

12:26 - Richard Seltzer

That sounds like an intriguing idea. You could embedd the URLs for these puzzles in an eBookIt book.

12:27 - BobZwick

It would be nice if the puzzle had to be solved before the next chapter could be read.

and as a marketing ploy ...

the solved puzzle could be an advertising banner

12:28 - scott cramer

The beauty of a puzzle is it is both image and text. Double the brainwashing power. And u no doubt have to concentrate on it to solve it

12:31 - Richard Seltzer

Bob -- excellent idea. Almost a new genre. Set it up like one of those branching adventure stories, but you actually have to accomplish something to move on, not just make a choice.

12:32 - scott cramer

perhaps you could let readers create their own clues for other readers. interactive clues.

12:32 - Richard Seltzer

Plus, along the lines that Bob was suggesting -- puzzles could come in sequences, solve one to get to the next one, or could be used as triggers to allow you to do something else. For instance, a kids' games site where instead of logging in, you have to solve the puzzle of the day (which actually is an advertising image/message).

12:33 - scott cramer

diabolical. the advertiser's heart would sing

12:33 - BobZwick

There is also the possibility of using random puzzles to make thing dynamic for each vist to a page.

12:34 - BobZwick

That business model could eliminate the need for royalties for authors. Or add to them.

12:34 - Richard Seltzer

:-) and I think we're just scratching the surface. Lots of neat angles here. Need to brainstorm with people who have a variety of needs and perspectives.

12:34 - scott cramer

Here's a question... Would you go viral marketing, trying to drive usage... Or would you be more private and take it to an advertiser, PR firm, etc etc. Or both

12:36 - Richard Seltzer

Indeed. You could have a book set up so you can read it for free, but to go from one chapter to another, you have to solve advertising puzzles. Or you could make the puzzles part of the creative experience of the book/story.

12:37 - Richard Seltzer

Both. Build your audience. Set up creative things along the lines we've been chatting about to encourage people to play with this in a variety of ways and send puzzles everywhere. At the same time, begin contracting ad companies, PR firms, educational Web sites, etc.

12:38 - scott cramer

sounds like a good plan

12:38 - Richard Seltzer

Also, contact DoubleClick, Engage, all the companies that are now dying because banner ads are dying. What you have here could breath a little fresh life into that industry...

12:39 - BobZwick

Why try one or the other. I'd experiment with all venues.

12:39 - Richard Seltzer


12:44 - BobZwick

Will the program be downloadable so it can be used locally or will all puzzles need to be built on your site ?

12:49 - Richard Seltzer

Bob, I really like your book-related ideas and I believe that they could be adapted for a game-related Web site -- not just as an alternative to login/password but also at gateways from one part of a site to another.

12:50 - BobZwick

I definitely see potential in the concept and program. I'd also like to explore educational uses for the program.

12:51 - Richard Seltzer

Imagine a site with lots of free content -- like cheat codes for video games. But instead of banner ads, to get to the free info you want, you have to solve an ad puzzle (much more memorable than a plain banner).

12:53 - Richard Seltzer

I'll email Scott and ask him to check to transcript to see what he missed. Bob, thanks very much for joining us today. I'd like to see some books done the way you were suggesting.

12:54 - BobZwick

Richard - I'd like to correspond with Scott about the potential for the program. Would you send him my email?

12:56 - Richard Seltzer



Thanks again. I'm going to call it quits for the day. Next week, we plan to have Kathleen Gilroy talking about her distance ed experience.

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