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Google's Code Jam 2014? First in LA with Coder/Pro John Dethridge on Play-by-Play's

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by Screenmancer Staff

LOS ANGELES, CA: Hey, so, on Aug. 15th Google's Code Jam comes to Los Angeles for the first time, with a past pro coder, Australian native John Dethridge now a Googler, as a commentator on the action. Also a first, having a guy on Play-by-Play - wait, you're not excited enough.

If 26 sweaty guys cracking their mental knuckles doesn't sound thrilling, imagine minds from 120+ countries, letting it rip in roughly 75 programming languages. The 26 count represents 25 finalists plus last year's winner "mystic" already slotted in.

All this, and coding in Python to Ruby to C++, PHP, Java, but also LOLCODE and GolfScript, to DIY-code-ese. Emily Miller, Code Jam Program Manager, says it best. "What's awesome about Code Jam is that you can use any language."

As an insider tip, the Code Jam platform itself was built using Python and JavaScript on top of Google App Engine, they say.

There's a "War Room," adds Miller. "The War Room is for the Code Jam engineers who monitor the contest. The Code Jammers compete in a much larger competition room." Those are the killer coders from all over the globe who will descend on Google's West LA offices for the finals.

Back on March 11, Registration began, with a worldwide sweep of timestamps to allow as many different zones to accommodate night and day coder schedules. And 45,000 amateur and pro coders punched the clock. Friday, April 11, was the key Qualification Round. Next three sub-rounds to Round 2 on May 31, followed by the treacherous Round 3 on June 14.

Truth be told, after the Qualification Round, it was pretty much a killing field, according to one coder who got knocked out early. What happens is, the problems become less an audition/recruiting tool for Google, but more a hellacious sojourn into virtual head-scratching.

Take this year's Deceitful War, the 4th problem in the Qualifying (read: easiest) Round. It starts out so harmless:

"Naomi and Ken sometimes play games together. Before they play, each of them get N-identical-looking blocks of wood with masses between 0.0kg and 1.0kg (exclusive). All of the blocks have different weights. There are lots of games they could play with those blocks, but they usually play something they call War..."

Normal people at this point might be wondering, 'what color are the blocks?,' or, 'will there be a homicide involved?' But Google's crack coding team who writes these beauties - and by the way, they do this is their "free 20% time" (!) at work - has other ideas.

Google's crack code creators introduce puzzling parameters like "Both blocks are destroyed in a fire," for example. Hello, what?

You see why this competition is exciting?

For the same reason we want people who are seven ft. tall to play basketball, you are dealing with the Big Brains here, globally.

Last year's winner from Belarus "mystic" is re-upped for the finals. (Photo: See guy with long hair, his back anyway.)

"Gennady," a comet-shot prodigy who is only recently old enough (you have to be over 18) to actually attend the event. But it's not like he is a newbie.

"Gennady.Korotkevich" is the guy's official handle. He is currently ranked #3. After the 2013 3rd Online Round, he was ranked #1, and qualified for the Finals but wasn't able to attend. He also qualified for the 2012 Finals

Now "Gennady" will make a run for the money right here in Los Angeles.

So many geniuses, so little time. Handles run the gamut from "radeye" to "zbrakitty;" Unfortunately moniker favorite "darthsausage" was eliminated. (But it shows the pop-techie creativity of these folks, in naming themselves alone.)

Although nobody from the US has ever won this thing - which Google took over from Top Coder in 2008 - this year one American has made it all the way to the big showdown.

With so much gray-cell power in the room, you wonder they don't go hive-mind just for grins.

"At this level, we really don't have any cheating," Miller states, preemptively, while discussing the danger of having so many brilliant minds in such close proximity. (ESP not a factor, either, ps.)

Right now, those brilliant minds are trip planning for their stay in LA. Then it will be show time, The Onsite Finals. Whereby The 25+1 Finalists will download their respective code-related libraries (Windows or Linux), perch themselves at their guarded workstations and proceed to let fingers fly on complex algorithms, dynamic programming, and "real world situations" begging for code. Excited?

Emily Miller is. "This is the first year we are live-streaming. With John Dethridge doing the commentating. So Wish me luck!," she jokes.

According to the Google Team working on Code Jam, "John (Dethridge) will also conduct interviews with the Signals and Chrome teams that work out of the Google LA office as a part of the live stream (to show the real-world applications of some of the coding magic). A second Googler, Christian Howard will be a second commentator."

As for Google itself, the blurb begins with "Lights, Coding, Action!" on code dot google dot com. And lays down the basics with:

"The 2014 Code Jam World Finals are almost here! On August 15th, the reigning champion, Ivan Miatselski (mystic), will make his return to the Finals to face off against the top 25 Code Jammers in Los Angeles. The winner will walk away with $15,000 USD and automatic qualification for the 2015 Code Jam World Finals."

Screenmancer will cover the Onsite Finals, give you an Advance Insider look with John Dethridge and friends next, plus we will put you in the hot seat with 25+1 of the best and brightest programmer/coders in the world on Aug. 15, Live from Google LA.

Catch all the "Lights, Coding, Action!" here - and wait, the color of those blocks? GOT IT! Blue. Red. Yellow. Googler colors, of course!

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[Or think of us as Second Screen-mancer as we multi-platform the Live Stream for you.]

Thanks to the Google Team (Meghan, Emily, et al) for making time for this Exclusive Series on Code Jam 2014 here on Screenmancer..




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