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C'est la Z

Who Played Spiderman part 1 or my Nifty Assignment (that was rejected)

Parts 2 and 3

  • [[/post/who-played-spiderman-2/][Part 2]
  • Part 3

I wasn't going to teach this lesson today. I was planning on starting a multi day project starting with an exercise in specification writing and design.

Beforehand though, we had to talk about classes. One of my students asked if probability and/or statistics were really important for CS. I started to cite a few examples and then decided to segue into this. Normally, I do this as a couple of lessons which leads to a project, we just did the first part. I might do it as a project with my class later on.

I also submitted this as a "Nifty Assignment" for SIGCSE a couple of years ago but it wasn't accepted. I was going to share the lesson at some point so, well, here goes.

It starts with a question:

Who played Spiderman?

That's it. Every student writes down their answer. No talking, no Googling or other searching, just write something down.

We then go around the room an tally up the answers. I got something like this:

Toby Maguire7
Tom Holland6
Andrew Garfield3
Peter Parker4
I don't know4

So as a class, we think that Toby MAguire played Spiderman with Tom Holland also being a good choice.

After painstakingly explaining that Peter Parker couldn't play Spiderman because he IS Spiderman I also shared some of the more interesting answers I've gotten over the years.

I've gotten "the lady playing the song on the violin in the movie in front of the subway" which is technically correct and I also get Willem Dafoe because as the Green Goblin / Norman Osborn he PLAYED Spiderman.

In any event, it appears that if we get a lot of data on who "played Spiderman" it's likely that the most popular result is the right answer or at least the right answer will be among the most popular results. Of course, this is not always the case but with reliable data sources.

So, the basic idea is that if we have a question to answer like "Who played spiderman?" we can start by collecting a whole bunch of documents from the web with terms like "played Spiderman" in them.

When I first taught this lesson, we used the Google API to search for web pages with the search terms in them but more recently I've used the Bing API instead.

This leaves us with a large number of documents that could potentially answer a search for "who played Spiderman?"

We'll leave it at this for now. Next time, we'll talk about how we can go from this collection of documents to a likely answer to our query.

Tune in again tomorrow, same bat Time, same bat channel.

Parts 2 and 3

  • [[/post/who-played-spiderman-2/][Part 2]
  • Part 3
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