Julie JCH Ryan, D.Sc. wrote:

Other students chimed in on the argument positing that the programming challenge was an inaccurate measure of student programming capability because the contestant was not allowed to do research on the internet during the challenge. Another said the problem was that the challenge was too long and required contestants to have memorized too much.

Formal contests are always inaccurate abstractions of the real world. As you raise the value of the contest, this inevitably pressures contestants to "game the system" and target the artificial artifacts of the game rules instead of the real world. Whether this has happened to the ACM Programming contest is a subjective opinion. IMHO, a closed-book contest is no longer very relevant to the real world, where Google is always just seconds away.

This is particularly interesting to me because I just had a doctoral student come to me with an idea for dissertation research that included an hypothesis that organizations at SEI 1 were better able to estimate software development time and costs than organizations at SEI 5. He didn't seem to grasp the implications to quality, security, life cycle maintenance, etc.

Or it could be that the student is positing that the methods mandated in the SEI are a grand waste of time, which would be an interesting hypothesis to test. Certainly the successes of open source development models make a mockery of some of the previously thought hard rules of Brooks' "Mythical Man Month", and I dare say that traditional software engineering methods deserve questioning.


Crispin Cowan, Ph.D.  http://immunix.com/~crispin/
CTO, Immunix          http://immunix.com

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