Hello folks... long time no talk.
I am at the 2006 TopCoder Open in Las Vegas. The Java Posse was invited to attend the conference and record our podcast here live. Well, semi-live. We still have to mix audio and upload. The recording part is live, however - which come to think of it is always live. I am also here on official Apple business doing recruiting for the online Apple Store.
This competition is crazy. There are two tracks of the competition, component design and algorithms. The design competition has a much longer lead time - several months before the finals, so the "finals" are really just design review and appeals. The algorithms competition is a total pressure cooker. The competitors have an hour to code up solutions to a set of tough problems while the audience watches. At the end, they have a "challenge phase" where they get to bang on eachothers' code and steal (or lose) more points. Then a system test runs on the code and the winner is determined.
These folks are really hard-core. Impressive.