Hacking Freerice.com: A Program to Feed the World

While I was working on some changes to Twittervision yesterday, I saw someone mention freerice.com, a site where you can go quiz yourself on vocabulary words and help feed the world. How? Each word you get right gives 10 grains of rice to, one hopes, someone who needs it.

The idea is that you will sit there for hours and look at the advertising from the do-gooder multinationals who sponsor it. Which I did for a while. I got up to level 44 or so and got to feeling pretty good about Toshiba and Macy’s.

It occurred to me though that my computer could also play this game, and has a much better memory for words than I do. In fact, once it learns something, it always chooses the right answer.

So I wrote a program to play the freerice.com vocabulary game. In parallel. 50 browsers at a time. Sharing what they learn with each other. Cumulatively.

It’s a multithreaded Ruby program using WWW::Mechanize and Hpricot. Nothing terribly fancy, but it does learn from each right and wrong answer, and after just a few minutes seems to hit a stride of about 75-80% accuracy. And a rate of about 200,000 grains of rice per hour (depending on the speed of your connection).

UPDATE: With some tuning, the script is now able to push out about 600,000 grains of rice per hour, which according to the statistic of 20,000 grains per person per day, is enough to feed over 720 people per day! If one thousand people run this script, it will (allegedly) generate enough to feed 720,000 people per day.

Before you go off on me, disclaimer: Yes, I realize this program subverts the intent of the freerice.com site. I’ve released this not to “game” freerice.com but simply to show a flaw in their design and have a little fun at the same time. If what they are after is human interaction, this design doesn’t mandate it. That’s all I’m saying.

Run it for a while and see how many people you can feed!


  • Ruby (Linux, OS X, Other)
  • Rubygems
  • gem install mechanize –include-dependencies

Download the code