Information Technology News
Cyberlore The Internet Hunt
If you’ve ever taken part in a scavenger hunt, you’ve probably found yourself rummaging the neighborhood in pursuit of an empty pizza box, a broken yellow crayon, a torn ticket stub, or any of a thousand other elusive items. But you may not have imagined yourself sitting in front of a computer. Until recently, that is. Now, the burgeoning Internet has added a new dimension to this recreational activity.

In September 1992, Rick Gates, then a library school student at the University of California in Santa Barbara, began a contest called “The Internet Hunt.” It was basically an old-fashioned scavenger hunt, but with a modern twist—instead of collecting a variety of prescribed objects, participants answered a set of questions only by using information resources available on the Internet.

Gates wanted to encourage exploration of the Internet. He hoped the Hunt, besides being fun to play, would help people discover the net’s potential as a source for all kinds of information. He also thought it would provide a chance for some hands-on experience with various Internet search tools.

Once a month, Gates and a few friends formulated several questions whose answers lurked somewhere on the net. Questions were assigned a point value, from 1 to 10, based on degree of difficulty. (See the Original Internet Hunt below.) Gates distributed the questions to various Usenet newsgroups, LISTSERV discussion lists, and Gopher and FTP sites. Anybody who wanted to could participate. Contestants had one week to submit the answers in an e-mail message to Gates.

The winner was the first person to answer all the questions. If no one answered all the questions, the contestant with the most points won. Answers that described how to find the desired information earned more points than those that just gave the information by itself. Winners received prizes, such as a year’s subscription to Internet World.

The first few Hunts had no particular theme, but later editions often focused on a specific subject or the use of a certain net tool. In the October 1993 Hunt, for instance, all the questions dealt with locating e-mail addresses, while the September 1994 Hunt had a “Back to School” theme. Gates sometimes departed from the usual format. In June 1993, the Hunt had a single question: it simply presented an e-mail address and asked contestants to find out as much as possible about the owner.

The Internet underwent dramatic changes with the emergence of the World Wide Web (WWW). Suddenly, navigating cyberspace became much easier, with search services like Yahoo greatly simplifying the task of finding information on the net.

In October 1994 Gates decided it was time to revamp the Internet Hunt to take advantage of the WWW. He suspended the contest, intending to set up a Web site and resume in a few months. Alas, the Hunt instead seems to have entered a state of perpetual hibernation. The Web site has not materialized, and it’s uncertain whether Gates plans any more contests in the future.

But even if the original Internet Hunt never again returns, its legacy endures and inspires numerous imitators. In classrooms all over, teachers are using hunts to introduce students to net-based research. Organizations sometimes sponsor a hunt as a promotional activity. For example, the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) is commemorating its 30th anniversary with a monthly hunt during the 1996-97 academic year. You can get the details about their Internet Hunt from the ERIC site on the World Wide Web:

So if you should encounter one of these online scavenger hunts, consider joining in. You can have some fun, learn more about Internet resources, sharpen your search skills, and maybe even win a prize—all while taking part in an emerging net tradition.

Tom Kozma · Academic Computing & Customer Services



The Original Internet Hunt

Here is the very first Internet Hunt contest from September 1992. The numbers in parentheses are the point values assigned to each question.

Curious about the answers? Just access the host using a Web browser or FTP client software. There you’ll find a complete archive of every Hunt question and answer, along with a number of other Hunt-related documents.

  1. (4) I’m leaving for Japan tomorrow. Approximately how many yen can I get for my dollar, give or take a few yen?
  2. (7) A hurricane just blew in! Where can I find satellite photos of it’s progress?
  3. (6) I’m taking a job as a social studies teacher at a high school in Denver, Co. Where can I find a list of local environmental organizations that could come speak to my classes?
  4. (4) My wife just got a job at the University of North Carolina. My specialty is computer/data processing work. Where can I find a list of jobs in that area of the state?
  5. (2) How many copies of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” does the University of Nevada at Las Vegas hold?
  6. (6) Bill Clinton made a speech somewhere on Earth Day this year. Where can I find the text of it?
  7. (7) I just read an interesting paper by a Bradley Smith in the Chemistry Department at the University of Western Australia. Is it possible to get an e-mail address for him?
  8. (2) Someone told me that there’s a collection of software specifically for libraries stored somewhere in Canada called libsoft. How do I get ahold of this software?
  9. (4) Where can I find news, discussions, and perhaps eyewitness reports out of what used to be Yugoslavia?
  10. (6) Could you tell me how I can find the Washington address for the congressman from my district?

Maximum points: 48

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