This month ‘Hackerrank” released a list of the Universities with the “best coders” in the world.
My initial glance gives the list at least some face validity, because University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign is ranked 14 in the world and third in the US schools. I would expect no less! (And where, indeed, are MIT, Stanford, and CMU in the list??? Probably busy starting companies and schmoozing with venture capitalists.)
Naturally the list is dominated by China and India, and their #1 is a school in Moscow, which is extremely plausible, too.
We can be sure that many of the entrants at UIUC and other US schools are from overseas, as well, definitely including India and China.
While these results tickle my school pride (and certainly bear out the proud history of UIUC), what the heck is this list based on, and what does it mean, if anything?
Hackerrank appears to be sort of a talent search and placement company, that entices young programmers to tackle programming problems as a competitive game. (Just like we did when I was in school….) These tests seem to be about the ability to write software and solve problems related to programming. As they say, this is an assessment of “coders”.
While I have written plenty of code in my life, my career actually depended on a lot of skills other than coding, including working in groups, understanding user needs, explaining ideas, and thinking about long term sustainability. And the fact is that only the tiniest fraction of code is written from scratch. Most coding is modifying (and fixing) existing code, which is kind of a different skill.
My point is that this kind of coding contest isn’t a measure of all the things a successful programmer needs to know.
That said, anyone who does well at these games has a lot of practical knowledge under their command, which is a good foundation.
It may be even more significant that these high scoring institutions have lots of strong coders, and a culture steeped in knowledge of software and problem solving. That is generally a key to the development of cool stuff. (Such as Mosaic.)