Dude, awesome coding


From Wired:

Competitive programming may strike you as history’s worst idea for a sport—shuffleboard minus the bracing speed, the Scripps National Spelling Bee without the adorableness. In fact, battle-coding is a surprisingly popular global pastime, indulged in by thousands of high-school and middle-school programming clubs and turbocharged by websites like TopCoder, a sort of social networking and gaming site for algorithm nuts. At TopCoder, kids and adults alike battle one another to solve IOI-style problems for cash prizes. Member ID neal_wu shows up in red, signifying elite status. To get your name in this color, you need a TopCoder rating of 2,200 or better. To become a “target”—the elite of the elite—you need at least 3,000. Wu’s rating is 3,248, making him number six in the world. (Korotkevich also has a TopCoder handle, tourist, and is ranked number five.)

As if TopCoder weren’t enough, many of the national programming teams host their own sites, where they post sample problems and practice exams. The USA Computing Olympiad site is run by Kolstad, who also holds a weeklong camp every year for 15 elite American coders—at the end of that week, the four-person IOI team is selected. With his thick shoulders and deep bellowing voice, Kolstad seems more like a football coach than a computer guy. “I don’t know how to do most of the algorithms,” he says. He prefers to focus on mental preparation and attitude: “Just like Vince Lombardi, who, of course, didn’t play football on the field with his players.”

“Teen Mathletes Do Battle at Algorithm Olympics”, Jason Fagone, Wired