Thursday, February 17, 2022

Sharing Wordle scores: "This is all madness."

"Random Word Machine," by Daniel Faust
(Metropolitan Museum of Art)
     People despise Facebook. And rightly so, as an addictive time sink, a gigantic 24-hour carnival of triviality and pathos and malice that they can neither abandon nor embrace. A cheap simulacrum of life and the world that keeps them from experiencing the real thing. 
     I get that.
     Myself, I kinda like it, as a curated 5,000 member shock troop of readers, as a source of ideas—I often learn the news, not from publications such as mine, but from snippets people post. Now that we don't gather in public anymore, Facebook delivers the zeitgeist, the tone of culture, at least those clustered around me. 
     Then there is my own life, served back at me from a decade ago.
     "Don't do anything reckless," I told Ross a dozen years ago, when he was in his mid-teens and heading downstate for an overnight chess tournament, the precious memory preserved in amber like a paleolithic wasp.
     "What do you mean?" he asked, guileless.
     "Don't open with anything other than your king or queen's pawn," I sputtered, improvising.
     "What about the Sicilian?" he answered, sailing beyond my chess knowledge.
     I shared that with the public. Some readers fill their page with Bible quotes, or real estate listings, or trite memes. Which is their right. I would never dream of objecting. "What's all this about your wife being in heaven? Heaven is an artificial human construct. Ludicrous, really, in its..."
     So it surprises me to see the pushback directed at Wordle, the popular little game where you have six guesses to nail a five-letter word. There is a button that lets you post your score—not the mystery word itself, which is the same for all players every day, but the colored boxes reflecting how accurate your series of guessed words was. 
    I post my score, because dozens of people then comment. They have a Wordle party on my Facebook page. I posted Wednesday's score with the remark, "Nailed it in three." All sorts of people chimed in: from my college roommate's mother to director Bob Falls.
     Most comments were along the lines of this:
     "Took me 5. I just couldn't pull it together!" wrote Joe O'Connor.
     It doesn't seem the sort of stuff to annoy people. But it does, big time. Forty-six people commented on my Feb. 12 score, including this, from Joe Lenord:
     "This is all madness to me and I refuse to be a follower."
     The classic refrain of all the objectors, which is curious, given the actual madness going on, and what people are clearly willing to follow. Their objections reminded me of the Chicagoans-don't-put-ketchup-on-hot-dogs trope, which of course is not a culinary debate at all, but a parody of the sneering you-don't-belong-here exclusion that our tribal city used to feel comfortable projecting at anybody arriving on the block uninvited, now preserved as this very odd, ritualized condiment scruple.
     In that spirit, given what an enormous wildfire Facebook represents, it is very human that public ire would be directed at the five-minute commitment required by Wordle. Yet "madness" is the word people frequently use. 
     "Feel free to play, but for G-d sakes please STOP sharing this madness!" Bruce L. wrote on Wednesday's post, setting off an interesting exchange.
     "How about people stop getting so upset about it?" I replied. "You don't hear me complaining about golf."
     "Because we’re not posting about our golf game!" Bruce riposted. "Yet 20% of our feeds these days are people posting this silliness... That’s why you hear complaints..."
     "I'm confused," I wrote. "Are Worlde scores any more trivial than baby photos or what somebody ate for lunch today?
     That drew a lengthy, thoughtful exegesis from Bruce:
     "Yes Neil Steinberg, Wordle scores are infinitely more trivial than baby pics and modestly more trivial than food pics..."And again, we’re not posting our golf scores, our Scrabble results, our bowling scores, or our completed NYT Sunday crossword puzzles...
     Why do so many people feel the need to share their Wordle scores? I guess that’s the part the rest of us are confused about... Why do Wordle players think that other people care, yet nobody else seems to share any of their scores from those other trivial activities...
     Go ahead and play and enjoy! But why the need to share? Unless the ulterior motive is to clear out your friends list because you know so many people hate it and will stop following you... in that case, you may just be a genius! ."  
     While I do need to periodically thin the herd, that isn't my intention.  I replied:
     That's easy. Because they can. Wordle gives you a button to paste the score to your clipboard, for easy posting to social media. I guarantee if there were a button next to the handle on your toilet, posting your efforts online, Facebook would be crammed with those photos. So perhaps gratitude is in order; worse is no doubt coming.
    Even as I typed that, 
it occurred to me that my reasoning was doing more to bolster his argument than mine. I try to be able to be persuaded; it's my superpower. I'm sure the blush will go off both the playing and the posting of Wordle. New baubles will appear to distract us with their shine. Until then, if anybody should be bitching about Wordle, it should be me. The column I wrote about Wordle drew two comments when I posted it on Facebook Feb. 9. My Wordle score for that day drew 38.


  1. Love the toilet comment. That will probably be patented by the end of the day. Hope you got there first.

  2. The Wordle phenomenon is a result of the easy to share button you mentioned but also because it is an easy game to play. Much more so than a good crossword, sukodu, jumble, etc.
    There is also that element of luck.
    Scores mean absolutely nothing. Solving it in two or three guesses just means you guessed right. Today I had four of the five letters correctly located on my second guess but it took me two more tries to guess the right word.
    Regarding Facebook, it does much more harm than good. Besides its unchecked distribution of misinformation, I just read an article in Time involving how poorly paid their content moderators in Nairobi are. Zuckerberg is not moving the human condition forward.

  3. THANK YOU for putting your finger on what has always annoyed me about that "no ketchup on hot dogs" nonsense -- its silly parochialism.

    As for Wordle, I got it in three twice in a row and I don't care who knows it.

  4. I hate being led by the nose into something that's already a big craze, I suppose mainly because I dislike having to go through the newbie phase of making dumb mistakes in full view of everyone else. I would much rather find a previously undiscovered niche interest of some sort, and master that before going public with it or seeking out others with the same interest. Thus I never got into Facebook, but have a rather successful 18-year career selling in certain categories on eBay.

    That said, I do like the Great Equalizer of this game, the fact that your first guess has a strong influence on how well you'll do in finding the answer before others in your social community. One bragging point I found for the first time in my solution this morning was that although it took me 5 lines to solve, I did it with zero mustard letters (right ones in the wrong position), just columns of green letters ending in a green row on Line 5. Simple and elegant.

    One other observation: while I don't know how one might cheat in finding the solution, I did learn how to cheat when texting my results to others. I thought something looked a little off in the color grid that Wordle pasted into my text window. Some poking at it with the cursor revealed that it wasn't a screenshot image, but a string of individual colored-square characters with newline commands ending each row. I could delete, move or copy-and-paste to my heart's content. "Hey, look, everybody! I got it in 2!"

    1. Do you play Wordle in "Hard Mode," Andy? (That means that once you've picked a correct letter, you must continue to use it in subsequent guesses.) I don't, and today's game is an example of why. Today, after my third word, I had 4 letters in the correct places. However, there were at least 5 words that would have fit with those letters, while I only had 3 guesses left. Not taking any chances, I "cheated" by playing a completely unrelated word using 3 of the letters that could complete the Wordle. When one of those came up green, I knew what to play for my 5th guess. (Had none of those been good, I still had one more try to use the 2 other letters of the 5 possible and still solve on the 6th try.) Had I been playing in hard mode, it would have just been a guessing game as to which of the 5 words was "it." In which case, hard mode just comes down to luck, which is why I don't like it.

      Sorry, EGDers, I'm sure that's way more than *anybody* wants to read about that! ; )

  5. I think the problem with getting ketchup on a hot dog at a Chicago Hot Dog place is that you are not ordering the dish that the place serves. Ketchup change the unique flavors savory....not sweet....of what makes a Chicago dog a Chicago dog. You aren't getting what these places are in business to do. (Any place that, when serving a Chicago Hot Dog, tries to pass of sweet relish for the neon green savor relish that the dish demands is clearly woefully misunderstanding of the dish ( I have seen this multiple times at places outside of Chicago where they tag this a "Chicago style hot dog). It would be like going to a cheesesteak place in Philly and asking them to put something other than whiz, American or provolone on. Goat Cheese may be delicious but it ain't what the place is in business to do. Go ahead and get ketchup but you aren't eating a Chicago style dog anymore. In my mind, You are eating as different a dish as Kugel is from Lasagna.

  6. Two clever aspects of Wordle baked in by its creator were the easy grid-posting function and the once-a-day restriction.

    I can see folks being annoyed by a stream of Wordles on their Twitter or Facebook pages, even if they play. But it's so harmless, I'm surprised by how annoyed people are by it. Have you noticed Gene Weingarten's ongoing Twitter campaign mocking how easy the game is and folks' interest in posting their grids, Neil? (Conducted while still managing to let them know how he did that day -- he's a player, after all.)

    The ongoing Wordle saga featured an earth-shaking new chapter this week. Many are moaning that the words have gotten harder since the NYT bought it. Which, if true, is just a coincidence. They're using the same words as planned. For the most part! But, they've redacted some and it resulted in the original website posting a different word on Tuesday than the NYT website. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued. (GNASH would be a pretty good Wordle BTW, methinks.)

  7. I too, am tired of the Wordle posts. The colored boxes are just that - colored boxes. I don't look at them, I don't count them, and I don't analyze them..

  8. It’s a year later, and people are still posting their Wordle scores. I just want to scream NOONE CARES. It is especially annoying since the game does not reveal the word. It’s like some secret little club. That I don’t care about. At all.


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