Hacking Venmo’s $1M Money Tree Giveaway with Javascript and Chrome

Venmo is a payment system designed for mobile devices that makes it easy to pay or transfer money over to friends (venmo.com).

Venmo’s currently having a promotion on moneytree.venmo.com where they’re giving 1 million dollars in total to new Venmo users who play their game. The game is pretty self-explanatory: you have 10 seconds to click on leaves falling from the “money tree”, each green leaf clicked gets you 10 cents and each blue leaf clicked gets you 20 cents.

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After you’re done, you can share the game with friends to continue playing or collect your winnings (if you’re a new visitor) by giving Venmo your phone number and installing the Venmo app:

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I noticed that the game was created with Javascript and not Flash, so I thought that I could hike up my game score pretty easily by changing the javascript in the page. Chrome Developer Tools makes it pretty easy to do this by allowing you to live-edit javascript of a page and see its results in the browser (which is really cool), so I tried a little proof-of-concept to see what I could do with Venmo’s game.

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Solving the Achievement Gap in Programming

Learning to program is difficult: 30-60% of students in university introductory programming courses fail. This is associated with a belief that only students with a natural “aptitude” or talent for programming are able to truly succeed in learning to program, while students without this aptitude are doomed for failure or at best mediocrity in programming. Although studies have shown that this programming achievement gap based on natural talent does exist in introductory courses, recent work has pointed towards pair programming as a possible solution for helping bridge this gap.

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The RIAA forced me to shut down a successful website/apps I built in high school

Just a disclaimer before I start:

I am not in any way condemning the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) for what they did or claiming that in some way they “wronged” me; they had the right to send me a cease-and-desist and I immediately complied. I’m simply telling my story about how my website/apps with 15 million hits a month got shut down, which others may find interesting.

The story

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