Behind the scenes of my final day Appian treasure hunt challenge

Published: Saturday, Mar 2, 2024

At the very end of 2023, I made the tough decision to leave Appian where I’d worked for 21 years. In January, I moved over to Capital One to expand my experience with big data and serverless technologies. Leaving Appian was incredibly emotional since so much of my adulthood was tied up with the company and I had tons of great relationships. So to bring a little levity into my departure, I decided to leave behind a fun challenge for my now ex-colleagues. In doing so, I hoped I could bring some joy into my last day which would otherwise just be very sad. This is the behind-the-scenes story of how and why I crafted this challenge.

The idea was to leave behind a treasure trove of Appian memorabilia (pictured above) that I had collected over the years. But in order to find the prize, treasure seekers would need to find 3 clues which I had scattered across the internet. Each clue was independent of each other, but people would need to collect all 3 clues in order to uncover the location of the treasure.

The idea seemed simple, but first I needed a location for the treasure which was sufficiently sneaky and hard to find. Luckily, one of my favorite things to do at work was to take an after-lunch stroll around the Appian office building, Valo Park. The building has multiple stairwells and even some very out-of-the-way hallways that are very hard to find. During one of my earlier jaunts around Valo, I had walked to the new 4th floor in the other tower to get some of the on-tap kombucha. On my way back, I bypassed the elevator and decided to walk down the G stairwell. To my surprise, unlike every other stairwell in Valo, the G stairwell didn’t open into the lobby. The only way to access it from the ground floor was to go through the Studio space and through the “secret” hallway which runs under the stairs and behind the auditorium.

Clue 1 - G Stairwell

So the G stairwell seemed like a good candidate for hiding my treasure, since it was already pretty hard to find. In early January, I returned to the G stairwell to scout it out and I discovered a door that appeared to require a badge to access, but was actually always unlocked.

Clue 2 - Secret Door

Cautiously exploring the other side of that door, I discovered “the room where office supplies go to die”. It was full of old office chairs, desks, monitors, cabinets, printers, and all other manner of office detritus. It was scary, dark, intimidating… and perfect for the treasure hunt. I stashed my treasure in a sideways cabinet that was completely inconspicuous and the game was on.

Clue 3 - Hidden cabinet

So the 3 clues ended up being:

  1. Find the G stairwell
  2. Open the seemingly-locked-but-actually-unlocked door
  3. Find the specific cabinet where I’d stashed the treasure

Getting any single clue wouldn’t itself provide enough context to suss out the full location of the treasure. Only when you had all three clues would you know the path to find the treasure.

Now I had to figure out where to put these clues such that they would be findable, but not easily.

The most obvious place for someone making a career change to leave a clue was on their LinkedIn profile. So I went and updated the description of my most recent position at Appian to include the first clue at the bottom. The beauty of this is that LinkedIn doesn’t display the entire position description by default unless you click “Show More”. I needed to make the clue sound sufficiently business-y, so I added the following bullet to the list of my accomplishments as an Appian VP: “Spearheaded a visionary, paradigm-shifting, gamified treasure hunt, whose inaugural clue begins in the G stairwell of Valo, which serves as the gateway to unparalleled exploration and discovery”. That seemed sufficiently buzzword-y and no, I didn’t ask ChatGPT to write that for me.

The location for the next clue was also pretty obvious: my website. But where? Truthfully the most fun part of my website is the chatbot I’ve added on the landing page, so I figured it would be fun to program the bot to reveal the 2nd clue. This proved harder than I thought, because I needed it to only respond if someone asked for the “second” clue, not if they just asked for any clue or the 1st or 3rd clue. Despite what some people presumed, this chatbot doesn’t use generative AI as it dates back many years. It’s just using DialogFlow and rudimentary natural language processing and pattern matching. So after much experimentation with lots of combinations of training phrases and responses , I was able to tune the chatbot to only respond positively to questions like “what is the second clue to Jed’s treasure hunt challenge?”. If you asked generically about the treasure hunt, it would tell you to be more specific. If you asked about the 1st or 3rd clue, it would tell you to look elsewhere.

The location for the third and final clue was the hardest to decide. I didn’t want to make anyone have to sign up for something, so using the Simple Weekly Meal Planner was out. And I couldn’t add anything to Audiobook Locker without leaving a trail in the git history, and the Shared Slides Clicker is dead now so I didn’t want to delve back into that code. So that just left Lorem Quotesum, my fun little movie/TV quote snippet site. As I poked around the site, I debated adding the clue as a fake quote to some show, but how to pick a show? Then it hit me - show the clue when NO shows are selected. By default, Lorem Quotesum loads with 2 shows already pre-selected. I figured it would take a little time for people to think of deselecting all the available shows. So after a simple update to the codebase and a quick deploy, my third clue was live.

On my last day at work, I posted a message to our Off-Topic room announcing the treasure hunt and outlining how the clues worked. Shortly thereafter, my Appian credentials were revoked and I lost access to everything Appian.


I got messages via LinkedIn asking clarifying questions or blaming me for them having wasted a whole day looking for the treasure. I’ve heard that it caused quite a stir the day I left and the following Monday. The treasure was discovered faster than I expected, but I should have known my trickery would be no match for clever Appianites.

I hope that people had fun with this treasure hunt and that it gave them one more thing to remember me by. For me, all this effort was completely worth it, because when I think back to my last day at Appian, I think of this treasure hunt and it brings me a little bit of happiness alongside all the other sadness of leaving.