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# google programming contest... (b.s. contest?)

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i thought I''d start a separate thread on this, although it was "briefly" discussed in another thread, because I''m interested in what other people think about it... http://uk.news.yahoo.com/030918/36/e8rev.html Personally, to me, it seems like they (and other similar type contests), are taking advantage of people and I don''t like it: (a) Synopsis of it is, is basically a coding "contest", where they (google) decide (i) what types of programs you have to write, and (ii), it is only, at most a $10,000 prize. I don''t like it because: (b) Require you to submit SOURCE CODE. (c) You essentially waive any rights to your source code (it becomes their property) -- which is virtually the same for all contests. (d) It is 500 people, short listed to 25 people after *two* competitions. In other words, they get you to do free programming twice, and if you are lucky, you might get to program for them for free a third time. If you are super lucky, you get a "whopping" total of$10,000. Whopahdeedoodah. Unfortunately, it takes advantage of students (who generally are top coders), and don''t yet have the work experience to realize that $10,000 is NOT a lot of money, and definitely not worth it for someone else to (steal) your code and make money off your (free) work. And then total side note... for these "100K" competitions... From reading, basically a lot of companies that offered them -- they turned out to be shafts in that the company decides, due to some legal clause they have -- to cancel the contest, or because their was not "sufficient" interest, or "sufficient" quality (extremely subjective), that they no longer have to offer a prize of$100K... What are your thoughts on this?

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I think I read about that a few months ago already, and also thought it was BS. I have some reservations of topcoder.com too. They probably put there their own jobs as "contests" and let gullible people do the job for them . Oh look, they also advertice that Google.com contest.

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I''ve been doing topcoder for 2 years now, so I can tell you a bit about how it works.

Topcoder hires from its own member base to write problems for competitions. For any given problem, there will be a writer, and 2 testers, all of whom must come up with a solution to the problem before the contest. Also, realize that these contests are short(1hr 15min coding time), so it''s not like you''re going to have time to program something incredibly useful anyway.

The problems tend to be short and fairly concise, and are usually algorithmic in nature. Here''s the problem specification from a recent contest:
The Desert. Failing water, dying camels, howling wind. The desert wind has hands -- it throws sand in your face, pushes you down, tries to bury you. We are stranded in the desert. But we have a map showing where we are, where all the impassable terrain is located, and where every oasis is located. The map is divided into square cells, and our trip will be a sequence of legs, where each leg goes from one cell to one of the 8 adjacent cells. We must start at our current location and make it to an oasis, any oasis. Of course, we cannot use any impassable cell and cannot leave the mapped area. Our survival depends on how many days it will take to make the journey. That evil Desert Wind is our nemesis! Each leg takes one day unless we are traveling directly against the wind. In that case the leg will take three days. Fortunately, the wind''s direction can be determined just before setting out on a leg and will not change for at least a day. Create a class DesertWind that contains the method daysNeeded that takes a String[] theMap and returns the number of days required, assuming the worst possible wind conditions will occur. Return -1 if no path to an oasis exists. Each element of theMap gives the terrain for the cells (in west to east order) at a particular latitude; the first element is the most northern, the last element is the most southern on the map. Each cell is indicated by a single character:''*'' is an oasis ''X'' is impassable ''@'' is the starting location ''-'' is sand

So it''s pretty safe to say that these contests aren''t being used for cheap contract labor.

Regarding the prizes: $10k is nothing to laugh at. And I actually ended up as a finalist in one of these$100k competitions. Let me assure you that the check did not bounce =).

Anyway, in case you can''t tell, I really like topcoder. I love the competition aspect of things, and the people are really great. Try out a contest sometime before you condemn them.

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10,000 not a lot of money?? I''m sure the average college student will disagree with you there. 10,000 can buy a lot of ramen noodles.

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quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
10,000 not a lot of money?? I'm sure the average college student will disagree with you there. 10,000 can buy a lot of ramen noodles.

no, it can buy a LOT of ramen noodles

VSEDebug Visual Studio.NET Add-In. Enhances debugging in ways never thought possible.

[edited by - CpMan on September 21, 2003 2:52:10 PM]

I agree that $10,000 is nothing to sneeze at. Its certainly enough for a down payment on a new car...hmm, maybe I should look into this contest "I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it." --Voltaire [edited by - cmptrgear on September 21, 2003 3:00:37 PM] #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites >>I''ve been doing topcoder for 2 years now, so I can tell you a >>bit about how it works. >>Topcoder hires from its own member base to write problems for >>competitions. how much was *that* competition worth, with the prizes you mentioned? first time I''ve heard of one of these competitions actually having questions like that... And BY THE WAY, the google competitions ARE NOT like that. generally speaking, they have been providing complete source code/solutions to problem, not something like "find the angle in this triangle"... sounds like highschool questions you had for that. Look at 1995, with the IBM Java contest (one of the ''legit'' contests)... And then there were a number of others that ''popped'' up realizing IBM''s success... that, now recently have been high profile "hacking" competitions (i.e., in Korea, which ended up essentially saying "haha, oops, just kidding!" for a 100K purse (not to mention any "hackers" stupid enough to voluntarily sign up their names in a big database), and -- wish I could remember who it was -- not sure if it was topcoder or not -- but another "firm" that basically did the same thing... (said, since, judging subjectivly, they did not feel the programming submissiones were "quality" (who decides that?) -- that the 100K prize would not be awarded, and instead, only 5K... for a whole bunch of free programming). So -- no, 10K is 10K. But -- in this google competition, it is 500 programmers shortlisted, after *TWO* "competitions", to 25, to decide whom gets a WHOLE ten thousand dollars. (Also, remember they have 25 million in VC funding, plus a lot more money from there ad revenue, etc, -- 10 WHOLE THOUSAND dollars is nothing). And all this programming for free. 500 ppl, say 10 hours each = 5000 hours FREE PROGRAMMING. Assuming quality,$100/hour,
thats $500K for only$10K. Not a bad (con) deal.

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quote:
Original post by johnnyboy
>>I''ve been doing topcoder for 2 years now, so I can tell you a
>>Topcoder hires from its own member base to write problems for
>>competitions.

how much was *that* competition worth, with the prizes
you mentioned? first time I''ve heard of one of these
competitions actually having questions like that...

Look at events -> tournaments -> collegiate challenge 2003

quote:

And BY THE WAY, the google competitions ARE NOT like that.

And, BY THE WAY, they are. Contest rules

quote:

So -- no, 10K is 10K. But -- in this google competition, it
is 500 programmers shortlisted, after *TWO* "competitions",
to 25, to decide whom gets a WHOLE ten thousand dollars.
(Also, remember they have 25 million in VC funding, plus
a lot more money from there ad revenue, etc, -- 10 WHOLE
THOUSAND dollars is nothing).

each = 5000 hours FREE PROGRAMMING. Assuming quality, $100/hour, thats$500K for only $10K. Not a bad (con) deal. I think you''re severely uninformed. Here''s how topcoder contests work: contestants solve 3 problems for points. The contest administrators ALREADY have solutions that they use to judge the contestants'' solutions...they''re not getting anything out of the actual code submitted - except for a chance to evaluate some really good programmers, and perhaps offer them jobs. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites quote: Original post by johnnyboy And BY THE WAY, the google competitions ARE NOT like that. And BY THE WAY, this one will be. It''s just going to be a normal Topcoder contest with Google-themed questions. All your objections to it are pointless. Why? Well, here''s why: "(b) Require you to Submit SOURCE CODE." You value source code too much. "(c) You essentially waive any rights to your source code (it becomes their property) -- which is virtually the same for all contests." Your source code is worth nothing to them. All the problems are already solved and you are judged based on the consistency of your results when compared with theirs. "(d) It is 500 people, short listed to 25 people after *two* competitions. In other words, they get you to do free programming twice, and if you are lucky, you might get to program for them for free a third time." You''re not doing "free programming" for Google. Your results are worthless to them. It''s just a contest. They see who correctly solves the problems fastest and they give that person$10,000. They have no reason to steal your code unless you create a new method of sorting or searching, which you won''t.

These are all problems which have solutions that can be coded and tested in an hour and a half. They all can be solved using algorithms documented in Cormen, et al., or slight variations. Rest assured that Google already has a plethora of coders who know how and when to use these algorithms, and you''re not doing them any favors by competing.

In short, you only have to worry about Google stealing your source code and profiting off of it if you are arrogant enough to think that you can discover a method of doing things in an hour and a half that thousands of computer scientists haven''t been able to come up with in about 30 or 40 years.

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I took it as google are looking for some fresh programmers, this is one way to find them and I think a good way.

Unfortunately I doubt I''m up to it, is anyone giving it a go? Good luck if you are, a job at google wouldn''t be bad.

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