Developer Challenge – A Red Herring

Mike BerrymanLast month I was asked to help create the IBS Developer Challenge, a series of five clue-based puzzles designed to test the basic skills of all participating developers.

Five developers worked together to create the challenge. After a group brainstorming session, we each worked on creating our own puzzles. When I initially designed it, I thought it was far too easy. Since we wanted to keep the level of complexity basic, I opted for a misdirection to make it more difficult. Apparently my puzzle stumped more people than I expected!

For those of you who did not participate in the challenge, here is what my puzzle’s page looked like:


My intention was to have everyone believe the answer related to binary code when they arrived on the page. To perpetuate that belief, I chose the image of binary code.  Since it sort of looked like the Jeopardy board, I also included the “I’ll take binary for 111110100, Alex” quip just for fun.  The bullet points were the “easy misdirection” clue, so to speak. I included the “…or does it?” bullet point with the intention of causing the user to pause and hunt for the answer.

Essentially, all of these things were red herrings. And the binary code at the bottom of the page? Well, that was literally a “red herring”. Translate that line of binary into text, and you’ll get the words “red” and “herring.”


After realizing the other clues were a red herring, I presumed the next logical step was to check the page source code. To make it a bit more obvious that they were on the right track, I included two green comments, which you can see in the screenshot. The real clue indeed lies in the source code (taken from an earlier version of the page). Can you find it?


If you were unable to locate it, the clue lies in the name of the first image on the page, “ChangeExtensionToTXT.png”. Download the image below and open it in a text editor to see it for yourself!


Though I did not expect my puzzle to be as much of a stumper as it was, I’m glad participants found it challenging!


One comment

  • QR codes on phones

    I’m guessing one reason so many people struggled with it as that we used our phones to get to your clue by scanning the QR code. When I’m on my phone, I don’t look at web page source, and many mobile browsers don’t give you the option. Good for those who opened the URL on their computer and figured it out.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s