Facebook has announced its 2012 Hacker Cup, a global computer programming competition. The event will serve as an important recruiting tool to attract great coders to the company, which is constantly battling for fresh engineering talent with other tech giants. In each round, competitors will try to solve complex algorithmic problems as quickly and accurately as possible. Finalists are flown to Facebook HQ, with the winner named the world’s best hacker. Hopefully, the event will go smoother than last year, where instructions were vague and scattered, leading to confusion and frustration.
Programmers looking to claim the bragging rights and token $5,000 grand prize can register here. The competition’s 3 preliminary rounds and the finals will be held throughout January. Here’s some sample questions from last year’s competition, and a review of the finals.
Sure, many of the world’s best programmers already have comfy jobs or are too busy running startups to compete, so the winner might not be “the best”. Still, this is a great way for independent hackers, and especially those from outside the US, to make a name for themselves. Personally, I think some other tech companies should put up their best talent and try to steal the show from Facebook. Imagine the story if Google or Microsoft won the Hacker Cup.
With Silicon Valley in a talent crunch, tech companies are doing whatever it takes to instill the idea that they are serious but open minded engineering companies. Facebook has been especially aggressive in trying to portray itself as a place where independent thinkers can build highly visible and influential products without the bureaucracy that plagues bigger companies like Google. Last month it began listing the address of its new headquarters as “1 Hacker Way”, and brought young teams from 14 colleges to Palo Alto to compete in a hackathon. Google has retaliated with big cash counteroffers to stop employees from signing with Facebook.
Though procedures were smoothed out for the finals, Facebook’s first Hacker Cup in 2011 may have done more to hurt the company’s image than help. A Quora thread by Andrew Brown details how competitors weren’t sure of answer submission time limits or format. The Hacker Cup system also buckled under the massive traffic, causing competitors to miss submission deadlines.
Expect Facebook to be better prepared this year, and use the competition to sift out engineering talent from beyond the elite universities where it recruits directly.