Wednesday, March 12, 2014

No Google Code Jam for you!

The other day I made a #CoCPledge, I thought "Hey, Tech certainly has a diversity problem and if this can help, let's do it". Well, I don't really frequent conferences that much, so it was more of a "just in case" thing... Few minutes later, I noticed, there is no reason why this shouldn't apply to tournament on-sites. "Darn", I thought to myself, this certainly means I am not longer able to participate, attend or otherwise support a tournament that doesn't have a decent Code of conduct. If you have no idea why this is important, read this.

Well, "Not a big deal" - I thought - maybe this time the Code jam and TCO organizers will add a Code of Conduct. That's the time I noticed that I have no idea how to tell the tournament organizers to do that. The only way I could think of was to make two posts. One in topcoder's forums and one in the codejam mail list. Just asking, in all my pseudo-Socratic glory "will there be a CoC this time?".

As you can see if you head to those links, reception was...cold. In TC, I didn't get any official reply, although I did get a tweet showing slight interest:

In the case of codejam, it was worse, the codejam admin just replied with some jokes:


It is clear to me that competitive programming has the same diversity issues as programming as a whole. In fact, it may even be worse because the apparent proportion of guy coders vs. non-guy coders in competitive programming is humongous. We can speculate about the reasons for weeks, but there's no arguing this is a problem. If the likes of codejam and topcoder want more competitors, reaching to the other 50% of the population is a good step. Please note that the reason this 50% don't join has nothing to do with lack of affinity to coding or skill.

It reminds me of that other day in Topcoder arena chat before a SRM, when the guys started joking about how most topcoders don't have a girlfriend. (Note the assumption that we are all men and straight). And then the discussion devolved into some people "joking" about how girls are "stupid". I am going to argue that maybe, ... just maybe, that's the sort of thing limiting our progress towards a more inclusive competitive programming environment. We need to improve the environment and a simple first step is to show confirmation that it is safe and mature enough to have a CoC.

In the topcoder forum thread, I got replies regarding whether I noticed wrong conduct in the onsites. ... That's just not the point! I think the TCO onsite I attended was great and had great people (although my perception may have been partial and incomplete), but that just tells me that it wouldn't be difficult at all to have a CoC, if we are all decent people then that's no problem at all, right?


Everything indicates that I cannot support the Code jam this year. This means I won't participate in it, or make blog posts about it, and that includes my explanations and advances. You will not see something like this or this for codejam 2014.

It appears the same will happen about The Topcoder Open. Well, same deal, I will ignore the tournament. Also notice that this means I won't write any TCO editorials or contribute problems.

Please don't take this as a (god forbid) "boycott", it would only be a boycott if I expected tournaments to change because of missing my (quite irrelevant) "contributions". I am fairly sure the tournaments will be quite okay or maybe even better without me. And I am not asking anyone else to join me. This is more about keeping my promises. Just explaining why you won't see me involved in these tournaments as usual :)


Ivan Kazmenko said...

In fact, your contribution could be explaining why this is important to contest organizers.

Such a pledge without at least an effort to explain the cause does not look productive. You can not expect organizers to proactively and extensively research all the proposals they receive. Do provide some reasoning.


I am a long time follower of your blog, I would really love if you would not have made the pledge.

I also like the idea of having a code of conduct for onsite contests, but I really dont feel the necessity of making one. Can you please explain your point of reasoning here that why you feel that having a code of conduct is necessary. Most of the time, rules of competition are enough for code of conduct.

Thank you !!