In October 2009, Mudders discovered that Victoria's Secret was holding a competition between universities to determine which schools to add to their 'Pink' line of college clothing. Much to Mudders' chagrin, Harvey Mudd was not on the list! Not only that, but the top three schools were UCSC, UCSD, and RIT, who were all using scripts. This could not stand. Hence, the Captchathon begins!
Because the 'voting' process unfairly favored large schools, a small 800-person tech (ahem... 'liberal arts') school could not hope to be victorious. In a tremendous display of school spirit, dozens of Mudders descended upon the voting page and broke the process down.
- Only one vote per cookie per day was originally allowed, verified by a simple CAPTCHA.
- Disabling cookies could allow users to submit any number of votes per day, but the process of loading, typing, submitting, clearing, and reloading the Flash was time consuming. We're lazy! Let's make it easier.
- SimonYang? wrote a web page that automated the voting process, and AndrewFarmer posted a modified version on his web site that streamlined the process further.
- The script is posted to Case and East dorm chat lists. Within minutes, Mudd has risen from a measly few hundred votes to several thousand, going from 222nd place (at my first check) to under 100th.
- Mudd was in 781st place when the first e-mail was sent at 18:12 PDT.
- As more Mudders (students and sketchy alums) join, Mudd shoots up the list at 400-500 votes/minute, entering 6th place around 1:30 or 2 AM on the 7th.
- By 5 PM on the 7th, Mudd passes Evergreen State College and enters third place at around 76,000 votes.
- A day later, Mudd passes UCSC and UCSD at 240,000 votes and enters first place! Victory is ours!
- Computer vision experts Mac (now of Duke) and Dodds are consulted in an attempt to formally solve the captcha. Progress continues! The prospect of submitting a million votes at the click of a button beckons.
- HMC scholars successfully spell something using the first letters of the top 25 school names. Unfortunately, I can't recall what it was. Something like, "HMCROCKSCALTECHCANSUCKIT," although that's only 24 letters.
- VS IT catches on to Mudder antics. Schools "assisted" by the spelling above are reset to 5000 votes, while Mudd is reset to -4M. Also the captcha package is changed... to a completely unmodified ripoff of a common captcha library that is, ironically, much easier to formally solve. More challenges await!
- Unfortunately, they also appear to be regularly resetting HMC's votes to -4 Million. Whether this is automatic or by the hand of a sysadmin has not been determined. Most plans now revolve around simply manipulating other schools to spell out desired messages.
Will Mudd convince Victoria's Secret to produce a line of HMC lingerie and pink underwear? Only time will tell!
Current status, as of 11/23/2009:
- 1st place: St Louis University, with 163,923 votes
- 2nd place: Rhode Island School of Design, with 121,814 votes
- 3nd place: United States Marine Corps University, with 118,096 votes
- 2,034th place: Harvey Mudd College, with -3,999,662 votes
[Original voting page]
[Mudd voting page]
[Vote history graph]
Roll call! Did you participate in the Captchathon?
- BrianKirkpatrick, averaging 33 per minute
- KevinOelze, participated in the initial push to the top 25, but then was sidelined by that "work" thing.
- MacKenzieStuart, typed from #5 to #3, then got back to work
- JeffBrenion, in bursts when work became too boring/stressful
- AaronGable, typing madly from ~#90 to #3, and brainstorming with Dodds.
- JamesBrown, because it was more entertaining than networks. Also, making that graph thingie above...
- KathrynLingel, assisting communication between Case dorm chat and Schmack
- AdamField, did a few at lunch. Back to work now. But dang, that captcha... I misread a few, and I'm pretty sure I'm not a bot.
- EricMullen, sure his accuracy was below 10% at some time that first night.
- ArianaFriedman, typed in vigorous spurts from ~#200 to ~#60, types slightly less vigorously from ~#60 to ~#20, and is now tired
- MarcDavidson, obsessed over the countdown and contributed to the efforts during a 24-hour take-home exam
- EricAleshire, part of the initial grind to the top 25 before, after, and during a dorm meeting, and receiver of the captcha "sexting"
- TrystanKoch, I was there the whole time! #1! Woot!
- MartinPyne, mainly present for the initial push to the top 25 and snarky mailing list comments
- KwangKetcham, because he was bored
- AndrewFarmer, because it was hilarious