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Programming

Are Contests the Best Way To Find Programmers? 260

Posted by timothy
from the be-the-19th-caller dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Tech firms are engaging in several non-traditional hiring methods, from programming contests to finding the right people via algorithm. One of the more popular methods: set up a coding challenge or programming contest to bring out interested parties, with the top prize being a trip to the sponsoring company's headquarters to interview for a job. Look at what Facebook is doing in this area, sponsoring several Kaggle.com programming contests to find the best programmers; it also makes use of the site InterviewStreet to screen potential applicants. In theory, any company can build and run a contest online. But is it really the best way to go about hiring a programmer (or any other tech-minded employee, for that matter)?"
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Are Contests the Best Way To Find Programmers?

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  • by olsmeister (1488789) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @10:51AM (#43653747)
    to find programmers who like contests.
    • by dkf (304284) <donal.k.fellows@manchester.ac.uk> on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @10:55AM (#43653839) Homepage

      to find programmers who like contests.

      or who like gaming contests.

      • by i kan reed (749298) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @11:05AM (#43654017) Homepage Journal

        to find programmers who like contests.

        or who like gaming contests.

        That is to say future business leaders.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        So the person who wins the contest shows up and starts griping that they're expected to fix some simple bugs. Like winning after a season on The Apprentice and getting the dream job of flipping burgers. Or they've got a big ego now and aren't fitting into the team of non-contest-winners.

        A contest is going to filter for people who code fast and with clever tricks. Good programmers aren't necessarily fast programmers, and they're definitely not programmers who use a lot of coding tricks.

    • by jellomizer (103300) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @11:05AM (#43654029)

      Is it the best way.
      Those are closed minded questions. Contests are a good way to find a particular type of developers. Normally the developers who write code that is Quick, and often elegant in its solution. However they usually fail on code that is is easier to maintain, or requires bigger picture development.

      I use to be a hot shot developer and over the years I have cooled down and changed my tactics. Everyonce in a while I get into arguments with the new kids about how to do things, I tend to bring up adding hooks for those "Oh By the ways" that come up. For some cases I propose not to strictly type particular class elements and use more generic templates, or just use an enumerated array vs an other class. Just because I know the nature of what the Oh By The ways have without knowing what they are going to be. But it often requires adding extra detail, or sending different types of data, not in the specs. So instead of a rewrite of a class it is just a slight modification.

      • Everyonce... excellent new word, we should use it.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @11:10AM (#43654103)

      Because the best programmers don't take time to thoroughly analyze the problem, look for process alternatives, look for opportunities to adapt existing code base and propose integrated solutions. They just jump right in a create a quick, one off and specific solution.

    • by David_Hart (1184661) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @11:10AM (#43654105)

      to find programmers who like contests.

      ...and who have time to participate in contests

      • My mod points seem to have vanished early; I thought I had two left for today.

        This is exactly my first thought. I like contests, but I've got a family with other obligations that, for example, prevented my participation in the recent Hillsborough County Hackathon right here in Tampa (as reported [slashdot.org] on Slashdot).

      • by lgw (121541) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @12:47PM (#43655469) Journal

        to find programmers who like contests.

        ...and who have time to participate in contests

        Exactly. To judge by my interview with Facebook, in particular, I think they're OK with that. They seem quite focused on hiring young programmers who could bang out code quite fast (to solve non-trivial problems), with blithe unconcern for ideas like "maintainability" or "design review". They were also mystified why they had such a hard time hiring senior devs.

        Still, they know what they want, and contests seem to fit that quite well. And even if you prefer sanity to freneticness (freneticism?), hiring a few devs occasionally through "contest screening" could be worthwhile.

        I really like the idea of a purely objective hiring process where anyone can compete and resumes don't matter - but as an add-on to your normal process, not a replacement for it. That way madness lies.

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          I think sometimes that these contests are more of a way for the company to market itself. Ie, they put out a contest with an implication that they only hire geniuses, and the public buys into that myth.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @11:25AM (#43654317)

      "Wanted: highly intelligent but deeply insecure attention seekers woefully ignorant in the larger ways of life. Must be easily manipulated and enthusiastically embrace indentured servitude for life (or until we deign to discard their burned-out husks). Will pay big shiny baubles and provide free desk, chair and leg iron benefits. Those with any self-respect or business acumen need not apply."

    • It's a generalized problem with metrics, measurements, and assessments. Holding contests are a good way to find people who like contests and perform well in that setting. Collecting resumes and cover letters is a good way to find people who are good at producing cover letters and resumes. Using algorithms is a great way to find people who fit those algorithms.

      Know what you're measuring, and try to find a measurement that lines up with what you want.

    • ...to lure a bunch of hopeful suckers into doing free work and externalizing HR.
    • This.
      There are definitely competent programmers at these competitions, but most truly good experience ones would not bother and many would have a bunch of very useful specific programming skills, that your organization might need , but are not necessarily the rights ones to actually compete and win in competitions.

  • NO (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @10:55AM (#43653837)

    No experienced competent software engineer would ever enter one of these code contest. If you need good engineers try offering the best compensation and the best working conditions.

    • Re:NO (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @11:43AM (#43654565)

      If you need good engineers try offering the best compensation and the best working conditions.

      Pro tip: Providing bad engineers with good pay and better working conditions doesn't make them into good engineers.

      Good pay and good working conditions will allow a company to be more selective about who they hire, but they still need some way of selecting the good ones. Many companies fail badly at this. I have worked for several that paid well, and ended up with salaries that were negatively correlated with competence.

      • When I'm hiring, I usually just advertise on Craigslist. 90% of the interview is just being able to complete a freshman level programming assignment. But I usually am hiring entry-level developers. It's depressing to see just how few applicants can pass the test, even guys with 5 years experiance. I was beginning to think my test was unreasonable util I had a prospect pass both tests (FizzBuzz and sort a text file of numbers) in 15 minutes dispite never having used C#, .NET or Visual Studio before. His

        • by lgw (121541)

          I strongly endorse Fizzbuzz-style screening - and not just for junior devs! Anyone senior who gets insulted and refuses to write some trivial code is giving you all the warning signs you need.

          Of course, if you're not hiring entry-level, you'd want a bit more than that, but it's amazing what a good culling mechanism "solve a couple of trivial problems in real time" is. I don' think that runs into the problems with contests at all, if it's just a screen.

    • Re:NO (Score:4, Interesting)

      by iamgnat (1015755) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @12:29PM (#43655215)

      I disagree. I think contests are a perfect filtering mechanism for experienced programmers. It tells us that the company would rather waste our time on trivial crap rather than solving the real problems.

      I do see value in this type of stuff for giving the people with no experience a chance to rise above the thousands of other resumes for the same entry level position.

  • maybe, maybe not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ganjadude (952775) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @10:57AM (#43653879) Homepage
    I believe that this is a good way to bring in young talent, people in college or kids who dont have a formal education but are self taught and need a shot.

    I dont expect this to be a good method for bringing in top level experienced workers however.
  • by PseudoCoder (1642383) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @10:58AM (#43653895)

    Maybe I misunderstand the nature of these contests, but what I produce in 4 weeks is different than what I produce in 4 days. I have to make serious trade-offs that will impact the software design significantly and will not reflect what my vision would be for the "big picture" goals like clarity, maintainability, modularity, safety, error handling and all manner of best practices.

    I wouldn't want a prospective employer to judge me based on the stuff I can churn out in a flash, unless that's the nature of the work they have in mind for me.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Any company looking for programmers the can churn code out in 4 days and not care about quality isn't an organization I want to be part of.

  • Who has time? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @10:58AM (#43653897) Journal

    I'm not going to go out on a limb and claim to be one of the best programmers.

    However, I don't have time to do programming constests with my day job being rather busy. I generally give a lot to that job so I'm not going to spend time coding when I get home on the weekend.

    I'd imagine that I'm not particularly unique in this regard.

    On the other hand, you wil find good programmers who have no time commitments other tha coding, so I guess it does work out well.

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      Job interviews also take time.

      • Since the prize is a job interview the two are cumulative rather than mutually inclusive. Also, you're fired.
      • Job interviews also take time.

        And they take time during the working day, when it is hard for currently employed people to get time off. So you end up selecting for people that are currently unemployed, usually because their previous employer cut the bottom 10%.

        Pro tip: People looking to switch jobs tend to be better candidates than unemployed people, so you should accommodate them by offering to interview them in the evening or on a weekend.

        • by lgw (121541)

          I've never expected someone to interview me outside of business hours, as a good job interview takes a day and a team of people - they're taking time out of real work, just like me.

          Phone screening is a different matter - I'm not going to take a day off to be phone screened, and you typically need to write code in those these days, so I'm not doing it from my desk at work. I've found people willing to be pretty flexible with that, however.

    • Re:Who has time? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by i kan reed (749298) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @11:07AM (#43654049) Homepage Journal

      Now, if I were in charge, what you just said wouldn't be a reason to not hire you. There are lots of good programmers who don't have time for extra programming, but the best programmers, in my experience, are those who really enjoy it, and will take on small projects for fun from time to time.

      • Is your first sentence a boolean logic test and you would've hired him?

        • Sort of. Double negatives have value in communicating certain complex ideas in the space of first order logic. Not for all people like GP not would hire the OP. There are other ways of semantically communicating the same idea, but that's the way I chose this time.

      • by vux984 (928602)

        There are lots of good programmers who don't have time for extra programming, but the best programmers, in my experience, are those who really enjoy it, and will take on small projects for fun from time to time.

        There are lots of good telemarketers who don't have time for extra telemarketing, but the best telemarketers, in my experience , are those who really enjoy it, and will take on small projects for fun from time to time.

        That's why when my telemarketing company needs a new telemarketer, we just hold a

    • by gutnor (872759)

      Contest coding is quite different than coding for a business. It is all about speed, knowing best of kind algorithm for a variety of problem. That is a fun activity that is related to coding.

      Plenty of people, even with families, have hobbies. As with other hobbies, it tells you that this guy is using up his free time and is not available for work anymore than the guy that go fishing with his kid.

      Now, because his hobby is related to coding, it may be relevant to some jobs, but most of the time it is as

  • by wcrowe (94389) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @10:59AM (#43653915)

    Let's see if I've got this right: there is such a shortage of programmers in the U.S. that we have to raise H-1B visa limits in order to supply them, and yet companies have to create hiring contests in order to screen the overwhelming number of applicants?

    • I agree with your logic. And while I don't share this opinion, but aren't these large companies wanting to raise the H-1B visa limits because of allegedly poorly trained/inexperienced programmers? If this is truly the case then I could see why raising the visa limit AND screening applicants via hiring contests would still be a logical solution.

    • by Nidi62 (1525137)

      Let's see if I've got this right: there is such a shortage of programmers in the U.S. that we have to raise H-1B visa limits in order to supply them, and yet companies have to create hiring contests in order to screen the overwhelming number of applicants?

      Well, you have to see what exactly the best programmers have on their resumes so you can tailor job opening announcements to specifically avoid them so you can claim a shortage so you can bring in that H-1B holder at a fraction of the price. Either that or just tailor the contest so that no one wins, and claim that this indicate there is no one in the US qualified for the position.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      A quick look at the economics dictionary would tell the story of why there's a shortage of programmers.
      Shortage (n): Not able to buy something at a price you are willing to pay.

      • by Njovich (553857)

        Actually, it's the other way around, in layman's terms it is 'Not able to buy something at a price you are willing to pay.', in economic terms, what price you are willing to pay is irrelevant, if you are not willing (or able) to pay the price that it costs, you are not considered part of the demand side of things. Look it up. Of course, in no way am I implying that this is a free market with perfect competition. Most journalists or HR staff are not really economists of course...

        About this case: The reality

        • by dkleinsc (563838)

          in economic terms, what price you are willing to pay is irrelevant, if you are not willing (or able) to pay the price that it costs, you are not considered part of the demand side of things. Look it up.

          The demand curve is, in theory at least, the aggregation of what price people are willing to pay for the product. For instance, you might have a 100 people that would buy a widget if it cost $100, 1000 people that would buy it if it cost $80, and 10000 people that would buy it if it cost $60. If the equilibrium price is $80, then from the point of view of the 9000 people trying to pay only $60 there's a shortage, because they're going around and saying "$60 for a widget, anyone want to sell?" and getting no

          • by Njovich (553857)

            Actually I agree with you, I'm sorry if I gave the wrong impression there. I was mostly just referring to that the way these companies say it's a shortage is not even the way economists would coin that term. As you say, it looks like a shortage to them, but in terms of the whole market it isn't really. Of course, figuring out if there is an actual labor shortage is nearly impossible aside from very obvious cases, mostly because of the sheer range of variation in employees and jobs.

    • by Rakishi (759894)

      Shortage of competent programmers. There is a difference. A guy who spend three days reading a "java for dummies" book may be applying for a programmer position but he isn't a competent programmer.

      Someone wrote a bit back that 70% of their applicants, who passed the HR screening I believe, couldn't even code fizz-buzz. As in couldn't code it at all, not even badly or not even mostly.

      • by vux984 (928602)

        never heard of that test, just looked it up, you mean this fizzbuzz?

        for n=1 to 100
        case:
        n is divisble by 15: print 'fizzbuzz'; break
        n is divisible by 3: print 'fizz'; break
        n is divisble by 5: print 'buzz'; break
        default: print n
        end loop

        yeah, that's really sad* for a programmer job. (* and I probably goofed it, making me look ridiculous, lol) Doing it without testing

        • by lgw (121541)

          Yup, that's the literal Fizzbuzz, though people often use the term for any sort of trivial programming screen, e.g. "reverse a linked list". There are no hidden depths here - it's a simple as it sounds.

          Screening for "can you write code at all right here, right now, while I watch" can filter out a remarkable percentage of candidates before you waste time interviewing them, and that includes candidates with 20 years experience. You'd be amazed.

          Even for real interview questions, I've found I learn more from

        • by Todd Knarr (15451)

          I'd write it out longhand (2 modulos, then a 4-legged if/then/else block using the modulos) to make sure the logic worked, then compact it to the case version for performance with an explanation of why it worked so I'd remember what the real requirements were when I came back to it.

          And the last depends on the language. In C/C++ integers can be interpreted as booleans with 0=false and non-0=true. I think the same holds for PHP, Ruby, Python and a bunch of others. In C# I believe you have to use a boolean ope

      • Shortage of competent programmers.

        And the employers get to decide who is a true Scotsman, so they can always claim there is a shortage.

  • by The Evil Atheist (2484676) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @11:00AM (#43653927) Homepage
    Interview question #1: Explain why you hate C++ Interview question #2: Justify why you repeated soundbites about C++ and not formulate your own explanations Interview question #3: Explain why you like Java or C# better Interview question #4: Justify why you didn't know that C++ can also do those things
    • by CTalkobt (81900)
      Interview questions that start with a false premise are usually places to avoid.
    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      1. I don't.
      2. I didn't.
      3. Java is better at some things, C++ is better at other things. I assume C# must be good at something but I know nothing about it.
      4. I didn't say it couldn't.

      Obviously I don't want to work at a company that has complete morons making hiring decisions, so no I really don't care that I failed your interview questions.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Interview question #1: Explain why you hate C++ Interview question #2: Justify why you repeated soundbites about C++ and not formulate your own explanations Interview question #3: Explain why you like Java or C# better Interview question #4: Justify why you didn't know that C++ can also do those things

      • #0: It is useless syntax sugar over C.
      • #1:You would not understand anything else then 'soundbite'.
      • #2: Java and C# are proprietary crap that only amount to event more high-fructose syntax syrup.
      • #3: C is sufficient for any project. OO is a design, not a language.

      Let me ask you one question; Why didn't you start numbering your questions with zero?

    • by geekoid (135745)

      So you have no idea how to hire? thanks for sharing.

      • by lgw (121541)

        That whooshing sound you hear? Yeah. Also, I'm sure he didn't call himself the Evil Atheist by accident.

  • by Ryanrule (1657199)

    Its the best way to find alpha douchebags.

  • by Nethemas the Great (909900) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @11:05AM (#43654023)
    It kind of depends upon what you need. Contests will find puzzle solvers, those that would work reasonably well doing research. Contests however, will not be very effective in finding the "big picture" folks that are needed to develop clean, robust architectures. I suspect they may well select against them. You will also almost certainly limit your applicants to college kids, and/or recent graduates looking to establish themselves not those that have already proven their abilities.
  • nope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JustNiz (692889) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @11:07AM (#43654043)

    ....all those competitions do is find the fastest programmers.

    Fast usually means hacky. it definitely does not equal good, but unfortunately many managers dont understand that concept because they all subscribe to the "make it fit in my microsoft project plan" mindset.

    Sadly, In this culture, poorly engineered and buggy software and the corresponding very costly rework have just become accepted as unavoidable even though its actually not.

    Its actually much cheaper in real (but unfortunately largely hidden) costs to take the time to get it right before you deliver to the customer.

    I'll take the programmer who loses these competitions because they took the time to do a robust job thanks.

    • I almost agree with you. I'll take the programmer who would have lost because they took the time to do a robust job, but didn't because he didn't waste his time and focused on something productive instead.
      • by JustNiz (692889)

        Yeah you just exactly demonstrated the point I was badly trying to make, that not enough people emphasise or even realise how productive doing a thorough job is, rather than doing a superfcial one.

    • Re:nope (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pla (258480) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @02:10PM (#43656603) Journal
      Its actually much cheaper in real (but unfortunately largely hidden) costs to take the time to get it right before you deliver to the customer. I'll take the programmer who loses these competitions because they took the time to do a robust job thanks.

      Absolutely correct - And largely irrelevant to the modern business environment.

      In almost twenty years of working as a programmer, I've had the luxury of doing it "right" exactly four times. Outside that, the speed with which I can hack something together has mattered far, far more in my day to day job performance. Yeah, I can build you the Bugatti Veyron of code, given $X budget and Y months; but everyone just wants a slightly used moped, preferably by 2pm yesterday.

      Yes, you have it correct, some people can't handle large projects but might do okay on a coding contest - Certainly a problem. But some people don't know when not to turn a request for a moped into a Veyron. That hypothetical god-like software engineer who fails your contest? He failed not in doing "too good" of a job, but in ignoring the actual project requirements, simple as that: "Make it work, ASAP, ACAP".
  • Contests only gather a weird, smallish subset of programmers who are good enough to win a contest, but who have the spare time[1] and will[2] to enter a contest. [1] This means they have little internal motivation because they're not otherwise working on something that inspires them. Good employees have internal motivation, bad ones need Management to whip them, which is what you'll get here. Instead find those who contribue to open source projects or who spend free time giving stellar information to the p
    • Dunno if that level of self motivation is necessary a good thing for a large company, for which it's impossible to really bind employees emotionally ... seems to me self motivated people will also be more motivated to search out opportunities and jump ship faster.

  • If your company can offer the combination of difficult tasks, aggressive schedule and high benefits, go for it.

    Otherwise you don't need the IT recons, deltas and rangers. They would die of boredom in your place. Let them go to cool startups, googles and facebooks, for the challenge they're worth.

  • You see, between all the proprietary crap messing with peoples heads, and all the technology egos, and those daytime prisons they call public schools, it becomes really hard to find a good programmer.

    IMHO, the best way to find a great programmer is to find some high-school kid who hasn't been corrupted by the public school system, who can think analytically, and who has a good attitude, and train him.

  • by bstarrfield (761726) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @11:18AM (#43654217)

    Programmers and related IT folk are the absolute bottom of the corporate barrel - below custodians, below security guards, below the cafeteria staff. Only programmers / analysts / sysadmins / etc. are expected to take 6 month "contract-to-hire" positions. Only IT professionals can work in a job hierarchy with very few, if any, opportunities to advance to senior management. Mainly only IT professionals are told to take salary cuts, work extra hours, and train their successors due to outsourcing.

    And now you want a contest to decide who to hire? Do accountants, operations staff, finance staff, and marketing have contests to see who will be hired? Even in sales you're hired for a position - you need to meet your quota, but there's none of this patently demeaning treatment of IT professionals as mere expendable cogs in the machine.

    So what if you win the contest? Are you expected to perform at that amped up level every day of your work career? Are you supposed to quit when some new young buck / buckette does better in the contest next year? Is your education, prior experience, ability to work with others totally irrelevant? And damnit, do you have any sense of dignity in your job?

    I've worked in IT for 15 years. During that time I've seen friends from undergraduate days and graduate school days move steadily up the ladder while nearly every person I've worked with in programming are stuck in the same ruck - everyone's a "Senior Engineer" or "Architect." And now we can look forward to job duels? Coding against each other endlessly in a competition to stay gainfully employed.

    Don't accept this garbage. Being a productive employee is far more than just the ability to spew some excellent code in a contest. We have to make our field a profession, not a joke.

    • by Viol8 (599362)

      "During that time I've seen friends from undergraduate days and graduate school days move steadily up the ladder"

      Why care? Management is for a dead end "career" for losers who weren't up to their original roles and greasy pole climbers.

      Programming is a profession. You wouldn't ask a top surgeon why he hasn't been "promoted" to a management position so why would ask a programmer the same question?

    • by neiras (723124)

      Don't accept this garbage. Being a productive employee is far more than just the ability to spew some excellent code in a contest. We have to make our field a profession, not a joke.

      Absolutely right. We have a serious image problem.

      I've seen so many talented, gung-ho people be so focused on their work that they forget to act like the well-educated professionals they are. They lay all their cards on the table; they fight for the technically correct ideal; they are true believers in what could be accomplished with the amazing tools they work with; they work all night for the cause; they overcaffeinate and burn out regularly; they are brutally honest in meetings with non-technical peers a

  • Pwn20wn is probably the high bar for programming contests. Charlie Miller can walk in there and drop a 0-day for Chrome on the judges and walk out with a check for $100k. Is this not the market at work? Is browser sandbox security now such an integral part of the internet security landscape that it warrants the need to pay, and pay fruitfully for the knowledge of how these exploits work? A young guy, maybe 18, nobody heard of, with no real internet 'cred' from Eastern Europe, who had no real degree or CS ed
    • by Animats (122034)

      Charlie Miller can walk in there and drop a 0-day for Chrome on the judges and walk out with a check for $100k. Is this not the market at work?

      It is. There's an established market for 0-day exploits. They have to outbid the Russian mafia and the Chinese government.

  • by accessbob (962147) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @11:19AM (#43654247)

    Yes it is important that the candidate can program and can problem solve, but its not often that individuals analyze, design, code, and test an application, you work as part of a big team.

    Further, a team of egotistical coding superstars is never going to be an effective team. Dull plodders who have an attention to detail are as important as the superstar programmer. You have to have a mix.

    So yes, there may be a place for coding challenges, but a good coder is not necessarily a good analyst, a good tester, or a good integration guy.

    And given the above, the only tests I'd want to see are those conducted at the company where you can ask "Why that way? Why not this way? What if I needed these changes now? How would you scale that idea? How could you best document that for the testers? How could you make that easier to integrate with this?". It would be difficult to get any of that out of a coding challenge.

  • ...their:

              Experience
              Work ethic
              Ability to work with others
              Software ENGINEERING capabilities (not to be confused with 'programming')
              Et cetera...

  • In Bioshock Infinite, Fink allowed potential to employees to bid on jobs. "Who can do it in 30 minutes?" I have 30 minutes. How about 15, who'll bid 15."

    Utopia.

    Although some might think it's insulting to a professional to have to bid for a job and pay for the bid with free work, I feel that this innovative thinking tells you what a wonderful place Facebook would be to work.

  • by SpinyNorman (33776) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @11:40AM (#43654539)

    Decent programming skills are a requirement for a software developer, but only one of many skills required. Given how many people lie about their experience and fail *VERY* simple interview programming tests, having a programming test screening procedure wouldn't be a bad thing, but only to drop the worst, not to automatically hire the best.

  • The effort on the side of the programmer is far to big. This means you will only get desperate people and people that cannot manage their time effectively. Not good. If you want programing samples, pay them.

  • Apparently many of the posts on this thread come from people who didn't look at the contest.

    This is not a programming contest in the sense that they are asking people to create a program. It's a data mining contest where they are asking people to solve a data mining problem.

    Yelp [yelp.com] is a business directory that allows people to post reviews. The programming challenge is to create a program/algorithm/method to determine how many "this was useful useful" votes a review will receive. Presumably they want this info

    • by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday May 07, 2013 @01:11PM (#43655809)

      Also it's a long-term contest (8 weeks) instead of the "overnight hackathon challenge" you might be thinking of. You can make several submissions and get feedback for how your algorithm is doing, and how it stacks up to other teams. ...

      Everyone complains about the HR "minefield" that sorts candidates by requiring useless or immaterial experience instead of raw coding ability. This is a new type of job search that doesn't have these problems.

      This has worse problems. They plan to get a useful difficult alogorthm solved for free. (And multiple variations on it too.) This will apparently will require teams weeks of efforts to come up with. That's hundreds even thousands of hours of free unpaid labour.

      I should have strata's landscaping done like this. Instead of paying a landscaper to come by everyweek I'll just hold a contest, and have 50 contractors each come in one week and do their thing. At the end I hire the best one for a one year contract.

      The year after that... I'm not sure he's the best one anymore... I'll need another contest.

      Free landscaping every other year is a pretty sweet deal.

      The only flaw in the ointment is that unlike programmers, landscaping contractors don't work for free. And they don't buy into idiotic arguments that the best landscapers love landscaping and want to spend their time off doing it for free too.

  • Sorry, but such contests are ridiculous at best.

    Who will enter such a contest? Probably young programmers without much experience who have the time to actually do such ridiculous "tests", who view the whole thing as a big game show. I can't use game show candidates, I need people I can TRUST. Not people who'll play the price is right today and jeopardy tomorrow. I need people who also have the ability to stand up in a meeting and declare that they will NOT bend over and take it from marketing or accounting,

  • Are contest the best way to find programmers? It depends. If you are looking for programmers who can write use once, throw away code that doesn't have to be maintained, then the answer may be "Yes." On the other hand, if you are wanting programmers who can write code that can be maintained by somebody else five years from now and easily modified, then probably not.

    Will your contest winner be able to readily adapt to your entity's coding style/standards? Will your contest winner be able to adapt to your c

    • Will your contest winner be able to readily adapt to your entity's coding style/standards? Will your contest winner be able to adapt to your client's needs (and if it is for internal coding, then your internal customer's needs). And finally, will your contest winner, be there for the long haul or will he/she get bored and look for the next puzzle/contest, leaving you high and dry?

      There is only one way to find out! More contests! Contests for ease of Coding Style adoption, Contests for Internal and External Customer Ass Kissing! Once hired, we can even set up fake contests to see how loyal the programmer is! Congratulations! You've won the Contest! You're Fired!

  • The prize for winning a programming contest is an interview? What am I thinking of? Oh Yeah. I remember now.

    [fuckthatshit.jpg]

    Seriously if I win your contest and I don't even get a job offer, it's probably not a company worth working for in the first place. Jesus quit being dumbasses and just require a coding screen in the interview process.

    • by Shados (741919)

      It only works for top 1% hiring companies...the ones that everyone want to work for (sometimes they're mislead to want to, but hey, supply and demand doesn't always involve rational decisions). The kind of company that has to filter out hundreds or thousands of resumes because they're that popular.

      If you're not one of those, then it won't work

  • The best way to find good programmers who can work with your codebase effectively is to hire them from the mailing list of your Free (libre) and Open Source Software.

  • I've given out a homework problem to candidates for several years now and I really like the insight it gives me. the problem is based on this: http://steve-yegge.blogspot.com/2008/10/universal-design-pattern.html [blogspot.com] - just design a class that implements the prototype/property pattern. Amazing the stuff people come up with
  • In a position I held a while ago I had a pair of programmers about as unlike as you can get.

    One was fast, quick to offer a solution, never wanted to write docs and always made a hash of them when he did. He got code out fast, but it was often flawed in every way you can imagine and frequently didn't pass anything but the most obvious use case.

    The other was quite slow. She asked me a lot of questions and we spent time going over the best strategies for solving a problem before she wrote her code. Her code wa

In any formula, constants (especially those obtained from handbooks) are to be treated as variables.

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