Thursday, July 08, 2010

ICFP 2010 contest

Our team had 5 members this year: Myself, Loftie Ellis, Niel Thom, Pieter Holtzhausen and Albert Swart. It was Niel's first time participating and helped tremendously. We had a lot of fun. Mostly due to the team dynamics. The contest itself... not so much.

We soon figured out the organisers tried to make things interesting by leaving out large parts of the spec. This might have been a good idea if there wasn't multiple plausible interpretations for the single provided example. And Occam's razor did not hold true.
It took us about 24h to convince ourselves that our initial assumptions were incorrect. Our interpretation did not produce a consistent mapping. If it wasn't for a comment on the IRC channel, we might have wasted even more time trying to track down non-existent bugs.

Overall I was disappointed in this year's problem. The barrier to entry was just too large. In fact, only about a quarter of registered teams received any points. Meaning they either couldn't figure out the circuit format or couldn't compute the prefix. That's just silly. It should be easy for a team to get going, after which things can get as complex as they want.

I doubt many teams got to the really interesting problems. If Loftie didn't submit the correct prefix 5am on Monday (about 7h before contest end), we wouldn't have had any points.

I hope next year is organised by an American university. From my experience, their's are usually more fun.

I again made some time lapse videos of us working. We played a lot of StarCraft towards the end :) I might put it on youtube some time.

Update: Videos follow