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Cookies, Accounts, and My Puzzles

In the earliers days of this web site, people could simply make puzzles, and list them for the public if they wished. All was good...

Except...

People would list a puzzle, and then say "oops, I didn't want to list that puzzle because it has my name in it". I would get messages via email asking that I remove puzzles. That wasn't a big deal other than the people would not say which puzzle they wanted deleted.

The other problem was that people would print out a puzzle and then notice that they had misspelled some word. All I could tell them was to type in the information again. That wasn't ideal.

Part of the intent of this web site is that it is very straight forward on how to create puzzles. Put in the information, hit the button, and you get a puzzle. There was no creating accounts, logging in, or any other things that got in the way of making a puzzle. I consider that a feature.

To support the issues noted above, I didn't really want to create account where you'd have yet another password to remember. I also wanted to be able to handle the person who wanted to go back and edit a puzzle.

The HTTP protocol has a magic cookie that serves this purpose. I create a small entry on your computer called a cookie. I can't choose where your web browser puts it, or anything like that. It isn't dangerous. It's just a bunch of numbers that might look something like:

    1232836698.272.391443762
When your web browser comes back to our web site, it presents this information saying "the last time I was here you gave me this cookie, here it is back for you again.".

This cookie let's me keep all of your puzzles together, and know which puzzles you created, listed, etc. Note that I don't know who you are, simply that you are the same person that you were the last time. Actually, I don't even know anything about people, all I know is that it is the same web browser running on the same computer as last time.

With that, I can organize your puzzles, let you unlist puzzles that you accidentally listed, and edit your puzzles, all without your ever having had to set up an account.

Now there are downsides as well. If you sit down at a different computer, my web site doesn't know that you moved, and there is no way for you to say that you've moved. Ouch. Another pitfall is that some people have configured their web browsers to forget about all cookies when the web browser is shut down, or to not even accept cookies in the first place. If my web site doesn't get the cookie back, it will assign a new one which is unrelated to the first cookie and there is no way to collect all of the puzzles you have created together in one place.

It's possible that someone might be able to forge a cookie and make it look like they're you. It's likely not all that hard if someone was that interested. I am not terribly worried about this because there really isn't any financial interest to do so. This isn't about Internet Banking, it's all about making puzzles. So don't worry about that.

Using cookies in this fashion has worked out well for the users to maintain their puzzles.

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