Wednesday, April 26, 2006

All about TopCoder

Next SRM is on 28th morning at 6:30 am IST. And yes it has lots of prizes as it is the 300th SRM. Do participate.
Nowadays I am addicted to TopCoder as I said in the last post. So what is TopCoder? Most of the IIITians here would already know about it as IIIT is primarily an IT institute. TopCoder conducts weekly programming contests in its own special arena(will write abt it later in the post) and you get a chance to compete with world's few of the finest coders.
Programming contests are conducted by other organisations as well, but they are not as thrilling and fun as TopCoder's is. ACM ICPC is one of the world's finest contest, but is conducted only once a year. Its true that there are hundreds of acm practice sites, but they don't have that thrill. They are just for practice.
TopCoder's weekly matches are termed SRMs - Single Round Matches. Let me till you a little about SRMs. Each SRM consist of three phases - Coding, Challenge and System Test. Actually only the first two of these are relevalant. In coding phase you will be given 3 problems : easy (300pts), medium(500pts) and hard(1000pts) and you have 1 hour and 15 minutes to code them all. Yes you heard me right , just 1 hr 15 mins!!! And there are in now way less challenging than ACM questions. The easy one is usually too trivial, medium one is alright, but the hard one is as good as an ACM Hard question. I am saying hard because half of the problems on are too too too trivial. There are questions like subtracting two numbers, etc on ACM sites. Yes dudes, those of you thought ACM questions to be too tough or something , change your mind now. Have a look at this questions and see for yourself :-
272 : Tex Quotes : Just replacing quotes!!!
424 : Integer Inquiry : Adding integers using strings !!
458 : The Decoder : Just do ch=ch+7
488 : Triangle Wave : This you already did in your first sem
499 : What's the frequency : Simple Counting
There are hundreds of more dumb questions. And yes I do agree there are hundreds of pretty tough questions as well.
But whatever, doing 3 questions in 1 hour 15 mins at TopCoder requires some skills dude. But there are people here who do all three of them much before the time. The record is 15.50 minutes by Zis. All red coders here are ACM finalists or have been an ACM finalist during there time. Many of them are ACM coaches in some universities. So you have a chance to compete with the best coders and yes you can chat with them during the matches and on the forums.
Oh yes I forgot to tell you about TopCoder's rating system. All new members who have never competed in an SRM are called unrated and are white. Coders till rating of 800 are Grey. 800-1200 are Green, 1200-1500 Blue, 1500-2200 Yellow, 2200-3000 Red and above that are called target. I am currently Blue and its really easy to get a green or blue. Initially you compete in divison 2, which has extremely easy questions. (Don't frown when you see dumb questions when you participate for the first time .. coz you are in div2). Once you are Blue , that is you rating is above 1200, you start competing in divison 1. For actual rating formula, see this.
Ok this was all about coding phase. The competition does not ends here. Next comes the challenge phase - 15 mins . In this phase you can see others' codes and challenge their codes with a valid input if you think the code is wrong. You get 50pts for this and -20 [ EDIT : Its -25 actually ] if you have unsuccesfully challenged. I forgot to mention that , when you submit a solution during a SRM, then its not evaluated at that time. Its finally evaluated at the time of System Tests. That is when 100s of test cases are applied to your problem and you get zero if your code does not pass all system tests.
So does it sound good ?
If not then wait, there is more to topcoder. Maybe you don't like just programming but you like making softwares, etc. In that case you can compete weekly in design and development competitions. And I must say, they have a lot of prizes as these events are directly sponsored by IT companies. I can't tell you any more about design and development matches as I have never participated in any of these.
Then there are other events like Marathon Matches and Intel Multithreading Series.
And TopCoder also conducts an annual TCO which has a lots n lots of prizes. This year's finals will be starting in a few days in LAS VEGAS. (Yes, every year they choose cool locations for the finals).
And yes it was TopCoder only which conducts Google Code Jams.
And being a good scorer at TopCoder can enhance your resume. You can place following badges on your resume:-

Obviously, these are available in various sizes.
For more information about TopCoder, visit the FAQ section at Topcoder's website.

PS: Doesn't it look like I am advertising for TopCoder?
PS1 : Ohh! I forgot to write abt the arena. I will do it later :( Its too much for today.

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Pramodh said...

Nice to see a post dedicated to topcoder.. Many a times I felt that "I should've started this in first yr itself "..TopCoder rocks!!.. It makes one realize that "coding can be fun!".

Its -25 in case of wrong challenge.. instead of -20 as you wrote..

Anonymous said...

good work! .. waiting for more posts on similar lines.

Turbo said...

Thanx for pointing out the error.

Maruti_Slim said...

great correction it's ch=ch-7 that ACM problem ...anwyz ..can u put up some more easy ACM problems