April 14, 2006 12:30 PM PDT

Russia dominates computer-programming contest

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A team of Russian college students has captured a top programming prize.

Saratov State University placed first, with four other Russian schools in the top 10 in the 2006 Association for Computer Machinery's International Collegiate Programming Contest (ACM-ICPC).

Contest winners

Seven of the top 10 teams were from Europe, and just one from the United States: MIT placed 8th, managing to solve 5 of the 10 problems in less than 14 hours.

The poor U.S. showing could provide new fuel for the debate over whether U.S. computer programmers lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to talent.

World finals for the 30th annual AMC-ICPC were held in San Antonio, Texas. Competitors were given 10 complex problems to solve within an allotted time by using computer programming.

The 10 problems (click here for PDF) challenged programmers to create software for everything from data decompression to origami. One problem asked programmers to design a structurally sound sculpture, restricted by the physics of a specific set of materials and specifications. Another challenged them to write a program that could instruct on how to assemble a clock with minute and hour hands, given a specific shaft speed and collection of gears.

Winners were determined first by the number of problems solved within the allotted time, then by the time it took them to do it. The Saratov State University team completed six of the 10 problems in a little over 15 hours.

Each of the Saratov State University team members won $10,000 in scholarship, computer equipment from IBM, an event sponsor and the prestigious world title to put on their resume.

Other than six total slots taken by Russia and the U.S., three other countries made it to the top 10. Poland's Jagiellonian University placed second, and Warsaw University took seventh. A team from the Netherlands took fourth place and one from China took fifth.

Another American university, California Institute of Technology, shared 15th place with 39 other schools, solving only two problems. Other U.S. universities that participated have received honorable mentions for making it to the finals.

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Russians are great programmers
Cant say this suprises me. I've worked with a number of them, and Russia does have its share of great programmers.

But the notion that this competition somehow means US programmers 'lag behind' other nations is simply rediculous - and demonstrates either a lack of critical thinking on the part of the article's author or intended dishonesty. This competition was between college kids currently in school, NOT among professionals, NOR among all programmers in general. Implying it was relevant to ANYTHING ELSE is dishonest - a typical media distortion to try to drum up some 'crisis' that needs attention.
Posted by (402 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Russians need to learn how to communicate
Ever worked with them? They may have won this contest, but in real world situations, they lack certain key software engineering skills such as the ability to communicate with peers.
Posted by microsoft slayer (174 comments )
Link Flag
I love it when someone else expresses my thoughts so clearly and eloquently!
Bravo! I am much more blunt and and brutal in my opinions of media journalists: they are stupid. Period.
This drumming up a non-existent "crisis" is pervasive among media journalists in every human endeavor:
physical or mental. Dear heavens! The US hockey team only won silver this year at the Olympics, not gold. The US is "seriously behind" in hockey. Well, guess what? The US is almost certainly behind in several hundred Olympic venues, sports that NEVER get reported.

99.9% of journalists never did a hard day of work in their lives. If they want to measure a real crisis,
they should start with these famous words (slightly modified by me):
The greatness of a nation can be measured by the way it treats its animals and human prisoners.
They should start by ranking nations according to THAT criterion.

On a second theme: are there any paid jobs (not for me, but a relative of mine who is an ace Java computer programmer, who has written his own music-related software, which tackles some massively complex problems) in these computer programming competitions for a coach or a competition judge?
My relative (and I) live in the United States.
Posted by orleoncapper (1 comment )
Link Flag
Russians are great programmers
Cant say this suprises me. I've worked with a number of them, and Russia does have its share of great programmers.

But the notion that this competition somehow means US programmers 'lag behind' other nations is simply rediculous - and demonstrates either a lack of critical thinking on the part of the article's author or intended dishonesty. This competition was between college kids currently in school, NOT among professionals, NOR among all programmers in general. Implying it was relevant to ANYTHING ELSE is dishonest - a typical media distortion to try to drum up some 'crisis' that needs attention.
Posted by (402 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Russians need to learn how to communicate
Ever worked with them? They may have won this contest, but in real world situations, they lack certain key software engineering skills such as the ability to communicate with peers.
Posted by microsoft slayer (174 comments )
Link Flag
So Then!
If "Seven of the top 10 teams were from Europe, and just one from the United States: MIT placed 8th, managing to solve 5 of the 10 problems in less than 14 hours."... in "the 2006 Associate for Computer Machinery's International Collegiate Programming Contest (ACM-ICPC)." why then the European Commissions bullying tacticts/tricks against the US-based Microsoft Corporation. Is Bill Gates et al smarter at "business sense/strategies than those from Europe since they appear to be so good in their performance at the "Computer Machinery's International Collegiate Programming Contest (ACM-ICPC)" and will American companies now place these "high performers" on their pay-rolls!
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Because...
... not even the smartest programmers can wrestle an entire industry from the strangle hold grip of a monopoly, without regulatory assistance. This has been the case even in the US, and there are numerous recent examples of the regulators stepping in to help realign the competitive landscape (the break up of AT&T being one).

But as several other people have already stated, above, this contest is not a pronouncement on the programming aptitude of one nation over another& it is however, an indicator of the calibre of programming candidates that are being attracted into the computer science faculties in the respective countries.
Posted by Flytrap (82 comments )
Link Flag
So Then!
If "Seven of the top 10 teams were from Europe, and just one from the United States: MIT placed 8th, managing to solve 5 of the 10 problems in less than 14 hours."... in "the 2006 Associate for Computer Machinery's International Collegiate Programming Contest (ACM-ICPC)." why then the European Commissions bullying tacticts/tricks against the US-based Microsoft Corporation. Is Bill Gates et al smarter at "business sense/strategies than those from Europe since they appear to be so good in their performance at the "Computer Machinery's International Collegiate Programming Contest (ACM-ICPC)" and will American companies now place these "high performers" on their pay-rolls!
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Because...
... not even the smartest programmers can wrestle an entire industry from the strangle hold grip of a monopoly, without regulatory assistance. This has been the case even in the US, and there are numerous recent examples of the regulators stepping in to help realign the competitive landscape (the break up of AT&T being one).

But as several other people have already stated, above, this contest is not a pronouncement on the programming aptitude of one nation over another& it is however, an indicator of the calibre of programming candidates that are being attracted into the computer science faculties in the respective countries.
Posted by Flytrap (82 comments )
Link Flag
Sun already has!
Sun already has, need one say more?
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sun already has!
Sun already has, need one say more?
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So are they really good?
So check this by programming these puzzles oneself. Trouble is, there's no indications as to how to grab the *.in files. Anyone know?
Posted by LordSnooty (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag
just make them!
Normally they would have a test set of inputs for the judges to
run through the submissions, but for development the
participants normally just make the files up themselves using
the sample data supplied.

Look over the problem set - it supplies the test data to use. Just
suck that into a file and name it appropriately, then have some
fun! Realize that half the trick is to identify the problems you (or
your team:) can solve quickly and plow through those first. If
you picked the wrong problem, it can hang up your whole day.
They usually have at least one "easy" problem and one "really
hard" one, the rest being somewhere inbetween in terms of
complexity.

Yes, I have done this once or twice before a half dozen years or
so ago. Not only was it a great experience, but a ton of fun as
well!
Posted by Dalkorian (3000 comments )
Link Flag
So are they really good?
So check this by programming these puzzles oneself. Trouble is, there's no indications as to how to grab the *.in files. Anyone know?
Posted by LordSnooty (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag
just make them!
Normally they would have a test set of inputs for the judges to
run through the submissions, but for development the
participants normally just make the files up themselves using
the sample data supplied.

Look over the problem set - it supplies the test data to use. Just
suck that into a file and name it appropriately, then have some
fun! Realize that half the trick is to identify the problems you (or
your team:) can solve quickly and plow through those first. If
you picked the wrong problem, it can hang up your whole day.
They usually have at least one "easy" problem and one "really
hard" one, the rest being somewhere inbetween in terms of
complexity.

Yes, I have done this once or twice before a half dozen years or
so ago. Not only was it a great experience, but a ton of fun as
well!
Posted by Dalkorian (3000 comments )
Link Flag
Poles are best programmers
They are vice-champs in this event (Jagiellonian University from Krakow) but they win very consistently (not just one event):
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.topcoder.com/stat?c=country_avg_rating" target="_newWindow">http://www.topcoder.com/stat?c=country_avg_rating</a>
Posted by mkozak (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Thanks
I agree. We are the best.
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
Link Flag
Poles are best programmers
They are vice-champs in this event (Jagiellonian University from Krakow) but they win very consistently (not just one event):
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.topcoder.com/stat?c=country_avg_rating" target="_newWindow">http://www.topcoder.com/stat?c=country_avg_rating</a>
Posted by mkozak (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Thanks
I agree. We are the best.
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
Link Flag
Why did India do so bad?
Not just the contest, but this page: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.topcoder.com/stat?c=country_avg_rating" target="_newWindow">http://www.topcoder.com/stat?c=country_avg_rating</a>

The site seems to rate Indian programmers rather poorly.

I have heard that the Indian Institute of Technology puts MIT to shame.

I guess not.
Posted by Dachi (797 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why Did You Think INDIA Would Do Well?
What makes you think that a hundred thousand so-so Dot Net, Java and other kinds of "Application" programmers would somehow be able to come up with a few great problem solvers?
Indian "IT" skills are already too hyped up and our - misplaced - arrogance is blind-siding us to the REAL advances others are making. The same arrogance that places an IIT over an MIT because some IIT-ans did better that some MIT-ans in some programming exercise.
Do not confuse coding skills with developing skills. See any serious product come out of India recently? Or any serious IP for that matter out of "Indian" IT shops?
All the people who put up such drivel - as well as those who believe and propogate it - should have their heads examined! India is far away from world-dominance in IT and is probably getting further over time.
Posted by lordram (4 comments )
Link Flag
Why Did You Think INDIA Would Do Well?
What makes you think that a hundred thousand so-so Dot Net, Java and other kinds of "Application" programmers would somehow be able to come up with a few great problem solvers?
Indian "IT" skills are already too hyped up and our - misplaced - arrogance is blind-siding us to the REAL advances others are making. The same arrogance that places an IIT over an MIT because some IIT-ans did better that some MIT-ans in some programming exercise.
Do not confuse coding skills with developing skills. See any serious product come out of India recently? Or any serious IP for that matter out of "Indian" IT shops?
All the people who put up such drivel - as well as those who believe and propogate it - should have their heads examined! India is far away from world-dominance in IT and is probably getting further over time.
Posted by lordram (4 comments )
Link Flag
why did india do so bad?
When the best programmers of the rest of the world are competing for ACM competition. The best college level Indian programmers are studying for GRE. I think they have got their own priorities.
Posted by YankeePoodle (785 comments )
Link Flag
Why did India do so bad?
Not just the contest, but this page: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.topcoder.com/stat?c=country_avg_rating" target="_newWindow">http://www.topcoder.com/stat?c=country_avg_rating</a>

The site seems to rate Indian programmers rather poorly.

I have heard that the Indian Institute of Technology puts MIT to shame.

I guess not.
Posted by Dachi (797 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why Did You Think INDIA Would Do Well?
What makes you think that a hundred thousand so-so Dot Net, Java and other kinds of "Application" programmers would somehow be able to come up with a few great problem solvers?
Indian "IT" skills are already too hyped up and our - misplaced - arrogance is blind-siding us to the REAL advances others are making. The same arrogance that places an IIT over an MIT because some IIT-ans did better that some MIT-ans in some programming exercise.
Do not confuse coding skills with developing skills. See any serious product come out of India recently? Or any serious IP for that matter out of "Indian" IT shops?
All the people who put up such drivel - as well as those who believe and propogate it - should have their heads examined! India is far away from world-dominance in IT and is probably getting further over time.
Posted by lordram (4 comments )
Link Flag
Why Did You Think INDIA Would Do Well?
What makes you think that a hundred thousand so-so Dot Net, Java and other kinds of "Application" programmers would somehow be able to come up with a few great problem solvers?
Indian "IT" skills are already too hyped up and our - misplaced - arrogance is blind-siding us to the REAL advances others are making. The same arrogance that places an IIT over an MIT because some IIT-ans did better that some MIT-ans in some programming exercise.
Do not confuse coding skills with developing skills. See any serious product come out of India recently? Or any serious IP for that matter out of "Indian" IT shops?
All the people who put up such drivel - as well as those who believe and propogate it - should have their heads examined! India is far away from world-dominance in IT and is probably getting further over time.
Posted by lordram (4 comments )
Link Flag
why did india do so bad?
When the best programmers of the rest of the world are competing for ACM competition. The best college level Indian programmers are studying for GRE. I think they have got their own priorities.
Posted by YankeePoodle (785 comments )
Link Flag
This proves nothing
And the top technology companies in the world are?

1) Google
2) Apple
3) Yahoo

What have they invented over there?

1) Tetris
2) Microsoft Beer
3) $.01 unlimited mp3 downloads
4) Warez Crackz
Posted by microsoft slayer (174 comments )
Reply Link Flag
In what way
Surely Microsoft is "better" than Yahoo? What is you yardstick?
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
Link Flag
This proves nothing
And the top technology companies in the world are?

1) Google
2) Apple
3) Yahoo

What have they invented over there?

1) Tetris
2) Microsoft Beer
3) $.01 unlimited mp3 downloads
4) Warez Crackz
Posted by microsoft slayer (174 comments )
Reply Link Flag
In what way
Surely Microsoft is "better" than Yahoo? What is you yardstick?
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
Link Flag
It proves something...
It just proves that Russia has the exceptional talent pool in the area of software development. Many silicon valley companies recognized this fact and outsource software development to Russia. The revenues of local outsourcing companies are growing double digits every year, though they are far away from Indian companies in this area. There is a difference between India and Russia: if you want that developers do exactly what you say, outsource to India. If you appreciate creative work and like results, which exceed your expectations, go to Russia.

To answer sceptics, lets mention some facts:
- Google founder Sergei Brin was born in Russia and brought by his parents to the US when he was six.
- 5% (~1000) of Microsoft developers in Redmond are native Russian speakers.
- Hundreds of thousands of software developers in Silicon Valley are native Russian speakers.

yes, Russia does not have companies like Microsoft, Yahoo or Google. In fact the other countries have only a few of such companies. The main problem of Russia is lack of business managers and poor understanding of the high tech economy trends. This is mainly because of years of communist isolation.

Why the US students do not perform well in such contests? this is not because the US has less talents. Americans talents simply go to business, not to IT, earn lots of $$, and then buy the best software developers from Russia, which make excellent software for their US bosses, which earn big $$, etc...

Should the America be concerned with poor performance in the programming contest? Not really, when many software talents from all countries dream to work here.


========
check web site accessibility, privacy, quality: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://checkwebsite.erigami.com/accessibility.html" target="_newWindow">http://checkwebsite.erigami.com/accessibility.html</a>
Posted by Erigami (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Cheap Indian Programmers
I am from India.

I have no problem with the comments about "Cheap Indian Programmers" because there is a simple kernel of truth. We are a low cost provider of Programming Skills. We are not necessarily a large supplier of High Quality skills at low cost.

If you want to understand the IP issues associated with Indian Engineers (Software or Otherwise)- then differentiate between those who work in the Out Sourcing scene in India - FROM - those who work in the USA (or other advanced countries). Particularly if they have been groomed in the Advanced Environment.

I have worked with Russians. Their scientific establishment has very strong mathematical and theoretical foundations. I have seen excellent software from Russia. In fact - I would say that outside the Wild West creative style of the USA, Russia probably produces the most aggressively creative, yet disciplined, supply of programmers.

We in India are good government servants. Don't shoot good obedient servants - BECAUSE - very often that is a cheaper way to solve a problem that does not need rocket science.

If you have any spare asbestos suits, please let me know. I am sure that I will need them.

Hakuna Matata
Sughyosha
Posted by sughyosha (21 comments )
Link Flag
It proves something...
It just proves that Russia has the exceptional talent pool in the area of software development. Many silicon valley companies recognized this fact and outsource software development to Russia. The revenues of local outsourcing companies are growing double digits every year, though they are far away from Indian companies in this area. There is a difference between India and Russia: if you want that developers do exactly what you say, outsource to India. If you appreciate creative work and like results, which exceed your expectations, go to Russia.

To answer sceptics, lets mention some facts:
- Google founder Sergei Brin was born in Russia and brought by his parents to the US when he was six.
- 5% (~1000) of Microsoft developers in Redmond are native Russian speakers.
- Hundreds of thousands of software developers in Silicon Valley are native Russian speakers.

yes, Russia does not have companies like Microsoft, Yahoo or Google. In fact the other countries have only a few of such companies. The main problem of Russia is lack of business managers and poor understanding of the high tech economy trends. This is mainly because of years of communist isolation.

Why the US students do not perform well in such contests? this is not because the US has less talents. Americans talents simply go to business, not to IT, earn lots of $$, and then buy the best software developers from Russia, which make excellent software for their US bosses, which earn big $$, etc...

Should the America be concerned with poor performance in the programming contest? Not really, when many software talents from all countries dream to work here.


========
check web site accessibility, privacy, quality: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://checkwebsite.erigami.com/accessibility.html" target="_newWindow">http://checkwebsite.erigami.com/accessibility.html</a>
Posted by Erigami (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Cheap Indian Programmers
I am from India.

I have no problem with the comments about "Cheap Indian Programmers" because there is a simple kernel of truth. We are a low cost provider of Programming Skills. We are not necessarily a large supplier of High Quality skills at low cost.

If you want to understand the IP issues associated with Indian Engineers (Software or Otherwise)- then differentiate between those who work in the Out Sourcing scene in India - FROM - those who work in the USA (or other advanced countries). Particularly if they have been groomed in the Advanced Environment.

I have worked with Russians. Their scientific establishment has very strong mathematical and theoretical foundations. I have seen excellent software from Russia. In fact - I would say that outside the Wild West creative style of the USA, Russia probably produces the most aggressively creative, yet disciplined, supply of programmers.

We in India are good government servants. Don't shoot good obedient servants - BECAUSE - very often that is a cheaper way to solve a problem that does not need rocket science.

If you have any spare asbestos suits, please let me know. I am sure that I will need them.

Hakuna Matata
Sughyosha
Posted by sughyosha (21 comments )
Link Flag
the four categories--spamming, phishing, virus writing, porn
Unfortunately, too many of our Russian friends are exercising their talents for stupid and criminal enterprises. Perhaps these university students can find a way to erase the sorry reputation for computer criminality that their countrymen have established...
Posted by Razzl (1318 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Or Better Yet...
... they (our Russian friends) work with IBM (and those in the open Source community who are clamoring for it to be released) to demonstrate to the world the inherent "superiority" of the OS/2 Warp Operating System over the Windows and Linux Operating Systems!
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Link Flag
the four categories--spamming, phishing, virus writing, porn
Unfortunately, too many of our Russian friends are exercising their talents for stupid and criminal enterprises. Perhaps these university students can find a way to erase the sorry reputation for computer criminality that their countrymen have established...
Posted by Razzl (1318 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Or Better Yet...
... they (our Russian friends) work with IBM (and those in the open Source community who are clamoring for it to be released) to demonstrate to the world the inherent "superiority" of the OS/2 Warp Operating System over the Windows and Linux Operating Systems!
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Link Flag
"It's The Economy Stupid!"
... just to use the Bill Clinton's Campaign Theme... so what if "Russia dominates computer-programming contest" in addition to the statement by the late Marx - that, it is "around" the "E_c_o_n_o_m_i_c - S_u_p_e_r_s_t_r_u_c_t_u_r_e" that the Educational, Social, Scientific and others revolves! Lets see how the (smart) Russians use their talents and "computing skills" to address the world's social and economic woes!
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"It's The Economy Stupid!"
... just to use the Bill Clinton's Campaign Theme... so what if "Russia dominates computer-programming contest" in addition to the statement by the late Marx - that, it is "around" the "E_c_o_n_o_m_i_c - S_u_p_e_r_s_t_r_u_c_t_u_r_e" that the Educational, Social, Scientific and others revolves! Lets see how the (smart) Russians use their talents and "computing skills" to address the world's social and economic woes!
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
it says more about contests
It's a cultural thing. Contests are more important in some countries than in others. I can tell you for one thing, the best programmers at MIT, Caltech, or any other US university were PROBABLY NOT on their programming team.

I'd like to think that in the US, people feel they have better things to do with their time.

It's completely stupid to think that the best people in the US are any better or worse than elsewhere. Now this might be the case for the average joe programmer...

Now if we had an EATING contest, that would be different!
Posted by vizewl (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
it says more about contests
It's a cultural thing. Contests are more important in some countries than in others. I can tell you for one thing, the best programmers at MIT, Caltech, or any other US university were PROBABLY NOT on their programming team.

I'd like to think that in the US, people feel they have better things to do with their time.

It's completely stupid to think that the best people in the US are any better or worse than elsewhere. Now this might be the case for the average joe programmer...

Now if we had an EATING contest, that would be different!
Posted by vizewl (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The dominance of Russian, and to a lesser account, former East bloc schools in this contest is overwhelming: 60% of champions and 31 out of 100 top 10 finishes in the last 10 years are Russian schools with 10 separate universitys placing in the top ten. Russian schools represent less than 5% of total schools competing circa 10% of the final 100 schools. The answer is not "programming", it is the legacy of the Soviet mathematical education system that still lives on via inertia. What U.S. educators should be asking is what is wrong in the system of U.S. math education. Even the U.S./European teams tend to be dominated by immigrants from Asia or the FSU.
Posted by calripson (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Canadians are awful programmers, if it runs, then someone is running with it.

Russia is the best because they have a history in Moscow puzzle solving. How can you get to the part where it makes you feel good? When you solve it.
Posted by MusicalChairs (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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