The game of go makes use of "proverbs" as a teaching tool. Proverbs are short, simple rules that teach general principles of good strategy. Because FoldIt is a game of similar complexity, it has been suggested that proverbs may be useful in teaching good FoldIt Strategy as well.
Here are some that have been heard from time to time:
- Always wiggle a new puzzle.
A global wiggle is often a good thing to try right out of the starting position. This will show you a good deal about how the protein "wants" to move. After that, you can reset the puzzle and make some adjustments while remembering these tendencies and using them to your advantage.
- If you come to a fork in the road, take it.
This one owes its existence to Yogi Berra, who does not play FoldIt, but probably should. Here's the explanation: When you Nudge or Pull your protein, you will usually end up with a score far below your original one. There are two ways back to Stability: Either Shake first, then Wiggle, or wiggle then shake. Try them both!
There are no known methods to determine whether the shake or the wiggle should come first. Try them both. Some players (e.g. Diderot) tend to think the wiggle first wins. Others (e.g. spvincent) tend to think the opposite, that the shake is better. The real answer may depend on the situation in ways that we can't fully predict. In any event, try them both.
- Be bold in the opening.
It pays to take risks early in a fold, when the mojo is still low and the potential is high. Indeed, in the opening, almost anything you do will yield points. Give it a try.
- Bend at the Glycine.
Glycine is the only amino acid with NO sidechains. It just looks like a tube. Chemically, this means it's very "bendy," and if a given area of the protein has to bend, then it's often best if a lot of the bending is done right at the glycine rather than anywhere else. Note that Proline will bend whether you want it to or not, but that glycine can be either straight or bent, depending on how you want it. Glycine is flexible where proline is rigid.
- Blue outside, orange inside.
Citrus fruits are known to hide in the clear blue sky. Actually, this is just a statement of good Hydrophobicity principles.
- If it's worth doing once, do it twice.
Whatever "it" was, try it again after you have stabilized the global structure. You may get more points from it. Besides, it can't hurt.
- Never ten points without one.
When you gain a large amount suddenly, there is commonly another smaller amount to be gained by another adjustment afterward.
- Poke the reds.
When you look at individual segments of the backbone using relative score coloring, some will look green, others will be brownish, and some will be orange. One or two will usually be red -- sometimes more, but never less. The red ones are usually good targets for wiggles, minor pulls, or even rebuilds. Don't leave red bits of the backbone unattended. Go bother them. (But also see the U-turns article for possible exceptions.)
- Pull so it snaps into place.
It's often a good idea to pull in the opposite direction from where you intend the protein to go. Then it will snap backwards on the next wiggle... and go where you want it to go, with about the right amount of force.
- Trust the mojo.
As a protein fold moves from the opening through the middlegame, it gains a stronger and stronger tendency to return to the same shape, almost regardless of the current score. This tendency to return to the same shape is called mojo, and it means that the boldness you've showed in the opening will also frequently serve you well in the middlegame.
- Prefer beauty to gains
If you have the choice between a chaotic looking solution with many points and a nice looking solution with small score, prefer to fine tune the nice one. It has a higher (score and science) potential than the quick winning one found by the computer. If necessary, use freezes and bands to protect the best parts of the puzzle: nice helices, aligned sheets etc. Computers are unable to see beauty, that's why players are needed.
- Low then High
Start with low or auto wiggle power behavior. It gives you much more flexibility to find the best shape. When you are finished, jump to the high wiggle power on end game: this will optimize and fix the solution without changing the design.
- When one proverb fails, try another one.
FoldIt is all about finding a balance among different goals: Compactness, Hydrophobicity, finding natural shapes for your amino acids. This means that, after you've achieved a lot in one area, it's often a good idea to try something new. There's no single "best" strategy, except flexibility.