just a dreamer (staticentropy) wrote in topcoder,
just a dreamer

The anthropology of TopCoder, my final project, and you

[If you saw this on the TC forums, this is almost exactly the same thing, since I am too lazy to write another version.]

This term, I am taking a class called "Anthropology of Computing", which is an exploration of the social, cultural and personal forces behind computation in all its forms -- automata, AI, cyberspace, and so on. I missed a session of class due to the ACM World Finals (and will miss another one for the TCO), and so my professor suggested that I take the opportunity to do a final paper on some aspect of programming competitions.

But, of course, this being an anthropology course, the paper is not meant to be a straight description of TopCoder, or the ICPC, or even a compare and contrast exercise; it should deal with the people behind it. This is where you (yes, you, the reader of this post) come in.

I'd like to interview people involved with TopCoder and with other programming competitions, to get some sort of insight as to how I want to structure this paper, and what sort of point I actually want to make :) But I don't want to be intrusive or anything, so if you're reading this and want to help me pass, you can opt in by e-mailing me at antimatter AT mit DOT edu (replacing the obvious bits). I'm afraid that I can't offer any sort of incentive to make this worth your time, but hopefully I can appeal to your sense of goodwill and charity.

Obligatory disclaimers:

  1. All interview text may be taken and quoted in my paper, which will, in all likelihood, only be read by me and my professor, where it will then get a barely-passing grade and then never be seen again. I'll try to keep from quoting people out of context. (Of course, if people want me to post the paper when I'm done, I'd probably be okay with that, too.)

  2. If too many people want to be interviewed (as unlikely as that sounds), then I probably won't have enough time to follow up with everyone. Preference will be given to:

    • TopCoder admins, since they're on the other side of things
    • TCO semifinalists, since I'll be able to interview them in person next week (if they'll let me)
    • ICPC finalists, because I'd like to be able to compare the ICPC and TopCoder somehow
    • Women, because they are such a minority in programming competitions in general
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