Westworld Podcast – New Episode!

I’ve been a frequent guest on my friend Craig Carter’s Westworld podcast over the past year or so. He started this project with another friend, Jonathan Yeomans, who is the guest in the episode that came out today.

They talk about the three new Westworld cast members and the fact that Jimmi Simpson will return next season. That means more scenes from the past, which is intriguing. They also give a preview of next week’s discussion of Jurassic Park, which has a lot in common with Westworld, namely that it is about a theme park that goes haywire, causing the visitors to become prey.

I love this podcast, and not just because I’m on it. It has some great interviews with actors from the show, original player piano music from Alex Thompson, and reviews of other titles in the Western and Sci-Fi genres. Its been super fun working with Craig on this project, as well as the other guests of the show (Brian Sutorius, Heather Barefoot, Wil Heflin, and Jonathan Yeomans).

If you’re looking to sate your Westworld fix for the long haul between now and season 2, then this is the podcast for you.

Palindrometer: The Twitter Bot that Finds Palindromes

I wrote a bot recently that searches tweets for palindromes. A palindrome is any word, phrase, or sequence of numbers that is the same when written backwards. The number 101, the town of Wassamassaw, SC, the word “madam”, and the band name ABBA are all palindromes. The most famous one is, “A man, a plan, a canal – Panama.”

This isn’t the first Twitter bot I’ve written, but it is the first one that I feel is interesting enough to share. You can take a look at it on Twitter to see what it is up to.

I set it up so that it only finds multi-word palindromes (so “Hannah,” “Anna,” “mom”, and “dad” are all out unless they are part of a larger palindromic phrase) and they must be 9 characters or longer, excluding spaces. That way its activity is somewhat throttled and the quality of palindromes found is higher. Theoretically. This is Twitter we’re talking about.

Why is this something that exists?

Purely for fun. Given enough time, the bot could find the next, “A man, a plan, a canal – Panama.” That would be pretty cool. Since I last checked it this morning it has retweeted tweets that include:

  • “forever of”
  • “never even”
  • “did it, I did”
  • and my favorite, “dammit I’m mad”

For now I hardcoded those into the bot so that it doesn’t repeat them, but when I get to it I will hook a database up to the bot so that it can add found phrases to the database and then check new ones against that set so it doesn’t repeat itself.

How it works

The fun part for me was writing the code that parses tweets and then finds symmetry across multiple words in the tweet. First, the bot parses each Tweet it can get (it can’t get all Tweets) by removing any punctuation, multiple spaces, and capital letters. That leaves it with just the words and numbers in the tweet.

Next it puts each word or number into an array, and from that array creates a new array of every possible combination of two or more sequential words or numbers. For example the 4 word tweet “hey what is new,” would be broken up into these 6 segments: “hey what,” “hey what is,” “hey what is new,” “what is,” “what is new,” and “is new.”

The bot then runs a function on each segment that looks for symmetry. That function, as you might have guessed, starts with the first and last character of each segment and works its way to the middle character (or pair of characters if the segment contains an even number of total characters) checking for matches. If they all match, then there is symmetry in that segment and the bot has found a palindrome.

Embeddable Quizzes

I made a small update* to Quizzly today that will make it much easier for bloggers to embed quizzes into their site. Let’s say I have a blog about coffee. I can embed a quiz into my blog post, which will make it more interactive and thereby increase the amount of time visitors spend on my site – an important engagement metric. After a few paragraphs of content about coffee, I might place the quiz here:

At this point in your blog post it is a good idea to engage with your visitors about their score. Encourage them to post their scores or discuss the quiz in the comments. You can create quizzes specifically for your blog post on my quiz maker site.

*Specifically, I added in a few lines of JavaScript to the quiz pages that checks if it is in an iframe, and if it is, removes all other page elements except the quiz itself. I also added a “get embed code” button at the end of each quiz.

Adwords Script for Limiting Monthly Spend

I want to share this Adwords script I wrote a few months ago because I thought it might help some account managers who were having a similar problem. Adwords allows you to set daily budgets for your campaigns, but there is not a way to set a monthly budget.

There are some features that come close, but in my opinion don’t quite do the trick. For example, there is Manager Defined Spend (MDS) but that is only useful for agencies that manage multiple accounts, and even then it might not be the ideal method. The shared budgets feature lets you set monthly limits for campaigns that share a budget, but what if you don’t want to use a shared budget? Nine times out of ten you will want to allot varied daily budgets to your campaigns, so that you can reward the high converters with a greater share of the budget.

I wrote the script below to add what I consider to be a basic feature to Adwords. With this bit of code, you simply provide your monthly budget and Adwords will pause all active campaigns in the account if their total spend month-to-date meets that number. Then, on the first day of the next month, it will enable those campaigns once again.

To use this script, copy and paste it into your Adwords account under Bulk Operations >> Scripts >> New Script.

//Author: Jake Ratliff
//April 14, 2016


//NOTE: set MONTHLY_BUDGET to a number slightly less than
//your actual monthly budget and set this script to run
//hourly. Setting this variable to less than actual budget
//will keep you from going over between hours.

//This is the main function, which Adwords calls when the
//script is run, so it must be named main. In our main
//function we are logging the total cost month-to-date,
//checking if that number is greater than the specified
//budget, and if it is, we apply a label to all active
//campaigns and then pause all active campaigns. Finally
//we check if it is the first day of the month, and if it
//is, we re-enable all the campaigns that have the label
//that we applied earlier.

function main() {
    var itsFirstOfTheMonth = ((new Date()).getDate() == 1);
    var totalCostMTD = getTotalCost().toFixed(2);
    Logger.log("Total cost this month: $" + totalCostMTD +
        "; monthly budget: $" + MONTHLY_BUDGET

    if (totalCostMTD >= MONTHLY_BUDGET) {
        Logger.log("spend has reached monthly budget");

    if (itsFirstOfTheMonth) {


function getTotalCost() {
    var campIter = AdWordsApp.campaigns().get();
    var totalCost = 0;
    while (campIter.hasNext()) {
        totalCost += campIter.next().getStatsFor("THIS_MONTH").getCost();
    return totalCost;

function applyLabel() {
    var labelName = 'Active Last Month';

    var campaignIterator = AdWordsApp.campaigns()
        .withCondition('CampaignStatus = ENABLED')
    while (campaignIterator.hasNext()) {
        var campaign = campaignIterator.next();
    Logger.log('labels applied.');

function pauseCampaigns() {
    var campaignIterator = AdWordsApp.campaigns()
        .withCondition('CampaignStatus = ENABLED')
    while (campaignIterator.hasNext()) {
        var campaign = campaignIterator.next();
    Logger.log('enabled campaigns paused');

function reenableCampaigns() {

    var label = AdWordsApp.labels()
        .withCondition('Name = "Active Last Month"')

    var campaignIterator = label.campaigns().get();

    while (campaignIterator.hasNext()) {
        var campaign = campaignIterator.next();
        campaign.removeLabel('Active Last Month');
    Logger.log('First of the month: campaigns reenabled')


Last week I launched Quizzly. It is a free web app you can use to quickly make, distribute, and save multiple choice quizzes. Log in to create a quiz. Find a topic you like and explore.

It is in Beta, so it is very close to its final form, but some new features and design changes might happen. I might even change the name. All of your quizzes will still be there.

Thanks for checking it out, have fun!


Ireland Trip 2015

Cristina and I went to Dublin a few weeks ago and had a fantastic time. We also drove down to Glendalough, a beautiful national park. Other highlights: touring Guinness brewery, matins in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and eating a full Irish breakfast every morning at Kilronan House.


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