Community Live - Google Code Jam, European Semifinals
Across Europe on Monday morning, more than two hundred coders sat down in front of laptops and were given two hours to solve a selection of problems as part of Google's Code Jam, a competition to find the best problem solvers in the world. As an added challenge, the developers participating in Munich, Krakow, St Petersberg, Zurich and London, were also disconnected from the internet. heise online UK were there for the start of this intense, simultaneous battle of algorithms.
This is the latest stage in this year's Google Code Jam which has been running annually since 2002. This year's contest saw 45,000 registrations and over 11,000 participants who took part in the online elimination rounds. This left 488 finalists, 211 of them from the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) area who were funded by Google to attend one of the five European locations. At Google's London office, around forty semi-finalists gathered having come from the UK, the Russian Federation, Lithuania, Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Malaysia, France, Portugal and the Ukraine, to take part.
The Google Code Jam is part community competition, part recruitment exercise, with the focus on the competition part at this point. There is $80,000 available to be won, with the first place winner taking home $10,000. Previous winners have been employed by Google; even the software used to run the competition was written by a previous winner in their "20%" time at Google, replacing the TopCoder platform used before 2006. We asked if the Google competition platform would be released as open source; Google say that it is being reviewed for open source release to but they have no announced plans to do so. The actual competition involves selecting one of six problems and coming up for a solution. The problems were, in the sample questions we saw, a variation on the Towers of Hanoi and a optimisation problem for fence painters. Each problem came with test data, ready to exercise any solution.
Before the contest began and before they caught sight of the problems, developers were given thirty minutes with internet access to install any tools they wanted to use. Then after a break, with video streams showing the other four locations live, the room waited for the countdown. Internet access was turned off, and to the sound of a gong, the problems appeared on the laptop screens.
After the two hours, the contestants submitted their work and waited through the afternoon to hear the results. By 8pm, the results came through, and congratulations were in order for Erik Jam Krugsman, Alexey Gusakov, Andrey Khalyavin, Ilya Razenshteyn, Vytis Banaitis, Bruce Merry and Paul Jefferys, who competed and won in London, meaning that they will be travelling to the US for the finals on November 14th at Google's Mountain View headquarters.