Competition

Why I hate programming competitions [the broken link was removed] by Mike Vanier

Most aspects of Deming’s thinking seemed natural to me from the start. Some ideas have taken longer (it took me awhile to be won over to the harm caused by performance appraisals, for example). Competition is another area that I still struggle with. I have been moved greatly by my experience and the thoughts of people like Alfie Kohn (No Contest: The Case Against Competition). But I still hold more promise for some aspects of competition and I hold less concern than some about other aspects of competition. Still I agree that there is a good deal to learn about the dangers of competition which often creates havoc within a system.

As someone who loves programming and cares very deeply about teaching programming to undergraduates, I would like to express my opinions on why programming competitions are (for the most part) a bad thing, and on what I’d rather see in place of them that might serve the same end, but would more accurately reflect the bigger picture of what it means to be a good programmer.


Given my history such articles are good reinforcement to keep me from falling back into old ways of thinking. the articles provides a great summary:

My final object to programming competitions is that they represent the wrong way to think about programming. Programming is not a sport like tennis or basketball, where one player/team “wins” and another player/team “loses”. The free software and open source programmers of the world have shown the power of large groups of programmers working together to solve problems. In order to do this, the programmers involved have to develop all of the skills needed to write really good programs, not just the ability to write algorithms quickly. Design, documentation, maintainability, abstraction, etc. are all important. Therefore, my advice to programmers who want to improve their skill: skip the programming competitions and start a free software/open source project of your own. If you do that, you have a chance of becoming a truly good programmer, not just a glorified code-grinder.

That paragraph is the key to me. To me if that is remembered I am not sure that enjoying a programing competition (if it is something you would enjoy) is a problem. But the game (competition) should not be seen as anything close to an accurate model for how work should be done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.