Screenmancer Staff Arguing The Big Input?
No, Just Covering Tech News
Then Arguing About Big Input vs Small Input (;
As We Get Gear Up for



a Screenmancer Exclusive


Q & A with John Dethridge, Coder/Commentator


Also on Google+.
by Screenmancer Staff

LOS ANGELES, CA: Three days from now, Google’s Pro Coder John Dethridge will make his debut as Code Jam 2014’s Live Stream Commentator. So we thought we would catch up with him between his native Australia, which John left last week, and Google’s Mountain View Office. He will fly into Los Angeles for Code Jam pre-prep tomorrow, but for now, he was gracious enough to make time to share an insider look at the event on Aug. 15, Google’s Code Jam 2014, the Onsite Finals in West Los Angeles. A few quick facts about John, beside being from Down Under, he began his Google odyssey as an employee by competing in Code Jam for three years while he was still a student. On the last try, he interviewed for the Blue/Red/Yellow while at the Onsite Finals back in the day. Besides, coding, John has some alarmingly normal habits, “like hanging out with friends… Swimming.” But don’t let that patina of normalcy fool you, Dethridge is among the top coders worldwide and on the team of Googlers who “volunteer” their free work time to cook up these insanely difficult – though solvable within four hours (!) – code conundrums.

Here’s John with Screenmancer on The Large Input vs the Small Input, whether you can tell country of origin in someone’s code, and whether competitive coding will make ESPN any time soon:

Q: What’s the difference between the Big Input and the Small Input in layman’s terms?

So, mostly what it is, is these preliminary (challenges) are problems are difficult to solve, but you need more than a program that gets an answer. We care about getting answer, but (it has to be efficient.) The large input is testing that. Some problems, say as part of a Google Search, need to be fast. So it’s not good enough just to find the right answer.

Q: What about Google Search, how often is that algorithm updated?

I don’t work on Search myself, likely 100’s of updates per year. A whole team is dedicated to just that.

Q: Language of choice?

I use C++. When I was in school (laughs) [at age 8], I used Basic! Later I used some other things. At work and programming competitions, C++.

Q: What about C# (C Sharp)?

I’ve never used C#. Microsoft developed it, some use it.

Q: Have you ever seen any languages that just blew you away, unique coder-generated ones?

One of the interesting things is that we let people use whatever language they like. Very occasionally, in the early rounds, people use really esoteric languages – almost as joke – but it doesn’t work later when it gets harder. Some people will solve a problems in one of those languages. or every problem in a different language for fun. They are just having fun.

Q: Fun? That’s funny! How do you guys build these challenges – like the drummer one, somebody into bands?

Anyone at google can volunteer to join the Code Jam team – often people are thinking about algorithms. Like ‘How would I answer this?’ Then it has to be right for the (contest). If it is difficult enough, but not difficult enough, then ‘oh this would make a good problem.’ We want the problems to be unique, not to be something they have seen over and over again. Again, easy enough so you can solve it within the context of a four-hour competition.

Q: Who solves them first, or do you reverse engineer them, put a question to an answer?

Sometimes we’ll have an algorithm that we already have – then change the program in that way.

Q: Do you think coding will ever been seen as a big sport worldwide?

It’s a sensation already. Time will tell. There’s a lot of people interested in Computer Science, and people who are just enthusiasts in general, who think it is interesting. I don’t think it will be on ESPN any time soon…

Q: What do you do for hobbies, or are you always coding?

Nothing out of the ordinary. Spending time with friends. Board games and computer games. I enter program competitions myself. There’s one called Top Coder, also IPSC (Internet Problem Solving Contest). We look at other competitions, and see how different they are. We wouldn’t want to be a lot easier, or so difficult that nobody can solve the problems. We have an idea of how it is out there.

Q: How about the difference in styles between Australian coders v US coders v Russian coders? Or, why are there so many high rankers from Belarus and Russian Federation?

I can’t tell where someone is from, geographic region, just from reading their coding. That’s an open question. We have people entering, literally ten’s of thousands, from all over the world. So in the early stages, we have good coverage of most territories.

Q: Are there ever any straight up hackers with a digital red flag attached that you guys sweep up by accident?

No. Nothing like that.

Q: Do you recommend entrants be fluent in a few languages?

I think it is okay to be familiar and comfortable with just one. And use that through the whole competition. Generally as a software engineer, it is a good to know a few for your real job in programming.

Q: Okay. Two front-runners, last year’s Champion “mystic” and newcomer “Gennady.” What are the differences in their approach as coders to the Code Jam competition?

Uhm. That’s a good question. I’m not sure if there is a lot of difference in the way they code.
Gennady has only just finished high school. He did extremely well in high school competitions, and he has done really well in a lot of (open adult) competitions as well. Great to have him here for the Code Jam finals.
I don’t want to play favorites. A lot of these people in the final 26 have done really well in other competitions. So any of these people could win.
Some years people will finish (in record time), like every problem. Sometimes it happens, and then they just get to bask in the fact everybody is still working. Then they get go to a Google micro kitchen. Grab a snack, coffee or something. Just kind of sit back.
I fly out tomorrow (to LA). I’m really looking forward to it; seeing what they think of the problems we have put together for them.

The Onsite Finals will be held in Google’s West Los Angeles Offices on Aug. 15, and John Dethridge will be there for the Play-by-Play action.

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies (and technology)

[Or think of us as Second Screen-mancer as we watch live and watch the Live Stream.]

Thanks to the Google Team, Meghan, Emily, John, and the Competitors for making time for this series on Code Jam 2014.



Google’s Code Jam 2014? First in LA with Coder/Pro John Dethridge on Play-by-Play’s

a Screenmancer Exclusive

Google’s Code Jam 2014? First in LA with Coder/Pro John Dethridge on Play-by-Play’s

Also on Google+
by Screenmancer Staff


LOS ANGELES, CA: Hey, so, on Aug. 15th Google’s Code Jam comes to Los Angeles for the first time, with a past pro coder, Australian native John Dethridge now a Googler, as a commentator on the action. Also a first, having a guy on Play-by-Play – wait, you’re not excited enough.

If 26 sweaty guys cracking their mental knuckles doesn’t sound thrilling, imagine minds from 120+ countries, letting it rip in roughly 75 programming languages. The 26 count represents 25 finalists plus last year’s winner “mystic” already slotted in.

All this, and coding in Python to Ruby to C++, PHP, Java, but also LOLCODE and GolfScript, to DIY-code-ese. Emily Miller, Code Jam Program Manager, says it best. “What’s awesome about Code Jam is that you can use any language.”

As an insider tip, the Code Jam platform itself was built using Python and JavaScript on top of Google App Engine, they say.

There’s a “War Room,” adds Miller. “The War Room is for the Code Jam engineers who monitor the contest. The Code Jammers compete in a much larger competition room.” Those are the killer coders from all over the globe who will descend on Google’s West LA offices for the finals.

Back on March 11, Registration began, with a worldwide sweep of timestamps to allow as many different zones to accommodate night and day coder schedules. And 45,000 amateur and pro coders punched the clock. Friday, April 11, was the key Qualification Round. Next three sub-rounds to Round 2 on May 31, followed by the treacherous Round 3 on June 14.

Truth be told, after the Qualification Round, it was pretty much a killing field, according to one coder who got knocked out early. What happens is, the problems become less an audition/recruiting tool for Google, but more a hellacious sojourn into virtual head-scratching.

Take this year’s Deceitful War, the 4th problem in the Qualifying (read: easiest) Round. It starts out so harmless:

“Naomi and Ken sometimes play games together. Before they play, each of them get N-identical-looking blocks of wood with masses between 0.0kg and 1.0kg (exclusive). All of the blocks have different weights. There are lots of games they could play with those blocks, but they usually play something they call War…”

Normal people at this point might be wondering, ‘what color are the blocks?,’ or, ‘will there be a homicide involved?’ But Google’s crack coding team who writes these beauties – and by the way, they do this is their “free 20% time” (!) at work – has other ideas.

Google’s crack code creators introduce puzzling parameters like “Both blocks are destroyed in a fire,” for example. Hello, what?

You see why this competition is exciting?

For the same reason we want people who are seven ft. tall to play basketball, you are dealing with the Big Brains here, globally.

Last year’s winner from Belarus “mystic” is re-upped for the finals. (Photo: See guy with long hair, his back anyway.)

“Gennady,” a comet-shot prodigy who is only recently old enough (you have to be over 18) to actually attend the event. But it’s not like he is a newbie.

“Gennady.Korotkevich” is the guy’s official handle. He is currently ranked #3. After the 2013 3rd Online Round, he was ranked #1, and qualified for the Finals but wasn’t able to attend. He also qualified for the 2012 Finals

Now “Gennady” will make a run for the money right here in Los Angeles.

So many geniuses, so little time. Handles run the gamut from “radeye” to “zbrakitty;” Unfortunately moniker favorite “darthsausage” was eliminated. (But it shows the pop-techie creativity of these folks, in naming themselves alone.)

Although nobody from the US has ever won this thing – which Google took over from Top Coder in 2008 – this year one American has made it all the way to the big showdown.

With so much gray-cell power in the room, you wonder they don’t go hive-mind just for grins.

“At this level, we really don’t have any cheating,” Miller states, preemptively, while discussing the danger of having so many brilliant minds in such close proximity. (ESP not a factor, either, ps.)

Right now, those brilliant minds are trip planning for their stay in LA. Then it will be show time, The Onsite Finals. Whereby The 25+1 Finalists will download their respective code-related libraries (Windows or Linux), perch themselves at their guarded workstations and proceed to let fingers fly on complex algorithms, dynamic programming, and “real world situations” begging for code. Excited?

Emily Miller is. “This is the first year we are live-streaming. With John Dethridge doing the commentating. So Wish me luck!,” she jokes.

According to the Google Team working on Code Jam, “John (Dethridge) will also conduct interviews with the Signals and Chrome teams that work out of the Google LA office as a part of the live stream (to show the real-world applications of some of the coding magic). A second Googler, Christian Howard will be a second commentator.”

As for Google itself, the blurb begins with “Lights, Coding, Action!” on code dot google dot com. And lays down the basics with:

“The 2014 Code Jam World Finals are almost here! On August 15th, the reigning champion, Ivan Miatselski (mystic), will make his return to the Finals to face off against the top 25 Code Jammers in Los Angeles. The winner will walk away with $15,000 USD and automatic qualification for the 2015 Code Jam World Finals.”

Screenmancer will cover the Onsite Finals, give you an Advance Insider look with John Dethridge and friends next, plus we will put you in the hot seat with 25+1 of the best and brightest programmer/coders in the world on Aug. 15, Live from Google LA.

Catch all the “Lights, Coding, Action!” here – and wait, the color of those blocks? GOT IT! Blue. Red. Yellow. Googler colors, of course!

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SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies (and technology)

[Or think of us as Second Screen-mancer as we multi-platform the Live Stream for you.]

Thanks to the Google Team (Meghan, Emily, et al) for making time for this Exclusive Series on Code Jam 2014 here on Screenmancer..




Google’s Code Jam World Finals – 4-Hour Menace in Venice, A Boy Hero & 25 Killer Coders

a Screenmancer Exclusive

Google’s Code Jam World Finals 2014 – 4-Hour Menace in Venice, A Boy Hero & 25 Killer Coders

Also on Google+
by Screenmancer Staff

LOS ANGELES, CA: When 19-year-old Gennady Korotkevich, the Boy Wonder from Belarus, aced the 25 other best coders on the planet yesterday at Google’s LAX Office in Venice, Calif., for the 2014 Code Jam World Onsite Finals, it was… Jazz.

Even if you know nothing about the world of competitive coding, programming competitions, or what the heck ‘top coders’ are – this is a kid who showed up on the radar at the most difficult software programming challenges in the world at age 14.

Pronounced with a hard “G”, Gennady is a jeans-wearing, tennis playing, prodigy who “early” in his career as a boy genius made up his own motto. “Nothing is impossible; impossible itself says / I m possible/…” The slashes are an homage to coding symbols, and the world of problem-solving using C++, Python, PHP, Ruby, Java, actually any language of choice.

Last night, Friday Aug. 15th, the reality that Korotkevich has basically won the Triple Crown of Coding began to sink in. He won Top Coder, The Facebook Hacker’s Cup, and now the jewel in the crown, Google’s Code Jam World Finals.

Young ‘Gen-noddy’ is, undisputed, the best coder in the world – from any country, of any age, at this moment in the history of technology… and ‘he can’t even buy his own beer yet in the US,’ as one astute spectator pointed out yesterday.

Beer pales in comparison to the global peer cred Gennady racked up yesterday at Code Jam 2014. Our Code Hero was made all the more mythic by the roster of fellow geniuses that he bested in the A-F problem challenge with solutions for “Small” and “Large” inputs.

What the heck are small and large inputs? Imagine juggling three oranges, figuring the pattern; now imagine juggling 12 oranges, figuring the pattern – that’s the small input. Now imagine juggling a trillion oranges and judging the pattern – that’s the big input.

More interesting things happen at “a trillion,” of course. Obviously, you get beaucoup points for the large inputs.

Think of Google’s proprietary algorithm for Search, hundreds of millions of results must be returned in fractions of a second… that would be the big input, the Big Kahuna of efficiency and artistry in code writing.

Inputs aside, during the four-hour grueling code-a-thon known as Code Jam, Gennady knocked down last year’s King Coder “mystic,” Ivan Metelsky, smacked three Facebook-affiliated entrants down, dropped a couple Yandex (the Google of Russia) employees, whacked a great coder named Ivan Popelyshev (who does games, even came up with his own ‘bombermine’ for his Matroid Games) and one thin guy named “eatmore.” (‘eatmore’ is his fellow schoolmate in Russia.)

In the heat of brain-crunch coding, Gennady also took down “hos.lyric” who interned at Google last year before returning to school in Japan; trounced Romka (another ringer from Yandex), and even hip-checked a genius Chinese National/MIT Student into third place. And then there was 21 year old Fernando Fonseca from Brazil. “ffao” got a lot of heat from his home country, made the national news as the first-ever Brazilian to make the Google Code Jam finals.

Win. lose, or draw, you have to admire the efforts of all 26, some glazed and confused afterward, one guy in full “hoodie” gear, another with a huge multi-color pen sticking out of his mouth like a cigar. Another with two stuffed bunnies on his desk… don’t ask.

In truth, even our Boy Hero Korotkevich looked a little dead-eyed as he stood up from his chair at the end. “I’m still very excited,” he said, meaning ‘stressed,’ in a light Russian accent. “I don’t know,” he said, “how I did, it depends.” At this point “mystic” and “eatmore” still had a chance, with a handful of others, based on whether their high-scoring large inputs would prove correct and result in enough points to top Gennady.

By hour 5:35, after all the challenges had been expertly explained by the Googler Team of Igor and Bartholomew, themselves pro coders, the standings were that The Boy Wonder had even displaced his fellow student at ITMO into second.

1st Place: Gennady Korotkevich, Belarus, Student at ITMO $15,000
2nd Place: Evgenii Kapun, Russia, Student at ITMO $2,000
3rd Place: Yuzhou Gu, China, Student at MIT $1,000

What is ITMO you may ask? St Petersburg National Research University of IT, Mechanics and Optics, of course.

Think of it as the Olympic Training brain trust for Russian/Eastern EU Coders.

They actually have coaches and practice on challenges twice as long as the Code Jam 6-small, 6-larger inputer.

In 2013, ITMO killed it at ACM-ICPC World Finals (Collegiate level). If you look close, there’s Gennady Korotkevich hoisting the trophy, with an undisputed claim to bragging rights. (The only US University represented in the top 12 for ACM-ICPC was Carnegie Mellon at #11.)

The best part is how gracious everybody was, applauding Gennady Korotkevich, now King Coder. Ivan Metelsky, “mystic,” was especially cordial, almost as if he had just lost his concentration for a second, but given a second chance, he might prevail.

“My large input won’t work,” Ivan conceded before the final scores were announced. “I tested it. I know it won’t work, oh well.” In his real life, Ivan lives in New York where he does research for a hedge fund. Leave it to the Americans to harness such a fine mind for fun and games in Capitalism!

All in all, to a person in the Google LAX office in Venice, Calif., everyone put on a great show for the 26 foreign nationals flown in to compete. The Code Jam Team run by Emily Miller, the Live Stream Team with Christina, Matt, and friends, with commentators John Dethridge and Christian Howard, the support Googlers, with PR liaison Meghan Casserly in from Google HQ in Mountain View, plus Michael Moriarty, a Google Sourcer (read: HR) from Austin, Texas – they all rocked the Code Jam along with the famous 26 who will remember that day for the rest of their careers in software engineering.

Google’s Code Jam World Onsite Finals 2014 was a high-octane day of pure math meets dynamic programming meets “Gaussian reduction,” a couple “NP-hard” facets, with a few tree/node underlying structures throw in, topped off by a couple quadratic left turns – all cooked up by the very brilliant (possibly slightly sadistic) engineers at Google who write these mental zingers.

Don’t look confused – Carl Friedrich Gauss (of ‘Gaussian Elimination,’ the complex numbers concept) was a 19th century math prodigy who figured out some tricky stuff, “NP-hard” is a fancy computation complexity defining term for ‘non-deterministic polynominal-time hard’ meaning “at least as hard as any NP-problem.”* (Princeton’s website can help on math topics, also Stephan Wolfram’s excellent math blog.)

Or, look at it this way, we are all just a blur of vibrating atoms walking around in finite space, right? So don’t be intimidated by a little high-dollar mathematics, algorithmic doodling, or dynamic programming.

You have a year to study up for Google Code Jam 2015 – get cracking!

(Refer to Google and their tutorials, plus the coding site for women, for fun and practice.)

**Link for Brazilian announcement of their first ever coder entrant.
Code Jam I/O for Women
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SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies (and technology)

Thanks to the Google Team (Meghan, Emily, Christina, Matt, Christian, John, Igor, Bartholomew, Michael, Larry, Sergey (!), et al) for making time for this Exclusive Series on Code Jam 2014 here on Screenmancer..




Dork Forest DEW

a Screenmancer Exclusive


Into the Dork Forest

Also on Google+.
by Screenmancer Staff

LOS ANGELES, CA: You'd think Digital Entertainment World, the launch event from Feb. 18-20 in Century City, was all about Zen. Meaning, Engagement, Engagement in the Moment, and Being in the Moment for the purposes of monetization were the flash buzzwords.

What is the moment?

From EA Games COO Peter Moore, their Conversion Funnel is the top-down model of AEM High: Acquire, Engage, Monetize, with a funnel.

The most important thing they learned was from the music industry, from the Napster era, “don’t sue your consumer.” “It took Steve Jobs to come in and clean up that mess,” Moore said, alluding to iTunes.


Ninja Metrics won the start-up competition, in a close race with Social Rewards and WeBrand, followed by dealflicks, Daterz, Meograph, Borne Digital, Flipps, IROCKE, ChannelMeter, Affinity Influencing Systems, and Krush Mobile, which was reportedly DQ-ed because they raised $6 M USD according to Crunchbase. A top takeaway from the $74,000 (hosting and cash) prize contest is: Metrics, Metrics, Metrics.

Box CEO Aaron Levie put the metrics issue in play with “how about this for a pitch?”

Levie, whose company successfully ‘hid’ Beyonce’s album in the cloud and other neat tricks, offered the metric angle as a valuator in a comparison of Netflix versus HBO.

Both have big dollars, both have original content, HBO is a perennial awards contender, but.

To assess value he added the weight of their big data.

Netflix has a metadata Fort Knox that the NSA would admire; whereas HBO has workaday big data collection.

Levie suggested that total worth in a media company now must include the gleam of metadata.

Levie also vouched obliquely for the security of the cloud with the unnamed artist (Beyonce) hush-hush album drop.

The Secure Cloud mantra resounded from ABC to Amazon to Anvato CEO Alper Turgut to Ring Digital CEO Brain Ring to Ben Huang, Mediaroom Division of Ericsson.

Call it the Bitcoinization of Analytics, that information gathering known as metrics is basically an alternative currency.

Metadata is money; money is metadata.

VEVO CEO Rio Caraeff, the stylish bright minded c-level disrupter, offered this succinct definition of metadata in actionable big data terms.

Metadata is “the exhaust coming off all quantified human interactions.” In simpler terms, UGD (User Generated Data) is questionable, whereas Metadata does not lie – if you spent 9 hours going to 15 sites, logged in, watched a movie, clicked a widget, your engagement in all of those “moments” is not only exactly quantifiable, but actionable as a marketing tool.

But it is not called Marketing anymore. It is Community Management. And a legion of “Community Managers” become the consumer contact points for further collection of the luscious Big Data.

Ads can now be “baked in server-side in the cloud.”

Imagine these 7 Dwarf Steps from Disney/ABC: 1) Authorize Users (login). 2) Geolocate; 3) Identify Multicatalog Ingest (i.e.; did you come from ESPN or other site); 4) Check Clearances (do they have talent, music broadband/mobile usage OK’s); 5) Neilsen Ratings stats kick in; 6) Streams Transcoded; 7) Detection of Ad Placement.

All these mini-adjustments happen in a jiffy and pop on your mobile device.

Flash news? Tablets will be included in the Neilsen mix of ratings metrics by the end of 2014. Get ready to be spammed in any position: lean-in or lean-out devices.

So, Platform Heels, sexy platforms, equal Platform Deals.

“Nail the transition” was EA’s catchphrase last year for staying with the pace of change to mobile, and digital transactions vs other types of purchases.

Mobile is where IT is at, so to speak.

Next time you ask who put the App in the App store, consider the deal announced at DEW when Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg bought WhatsApp for either $16 or $19 BN USD according to hearsay or Reuters.

The New York Times wildly projects the service, which circumvents Telcos on messaging and telephony, will be worth “50 Times” that amount, more than the GPD of many developed countries. Apps are rainmakers in the internet space. Read: Mobile Apps.

UTA’s co-Founder Jeremy Zimmer flew the flag for Hollywood in the digital mix with “Can Originality and Innovation Save Hollywood?” as a keynote conversation.

Zimmer blithely detailed a few failures he has had in the space to spice things up, most notably 60 Frames.

60 Frames is the frame-rate in animation versus 20 frames per second in film.

At the same time deftly deflecting a wanton pitch from an audience member in the form of a question, Zimmer offered only this gem: “there’s not that much original talent out there.” Original talent is the implied moneyshot from all of those home-made videos uploaded on YouTube.

An unnamed internet “star” has been born with 25 M views in a matter of months, talent that UTA now represents.

Animators, CGI artists, creatives in digital can also now be repped with upped rates and all the trappings saved for actors/directors.

In other words, Below the Line is the new Above the Line in Hollywood.

Rumble Box’s Gee Yeung gave a comic relief Z Brush demo on rapid prototyping for character generation to a friendly crowd, those maxed out on acronyms, buzzblurbs, and metric mantras.

Yeung’s focus was “creating iconic characters” (think Angry Bird) for cash and content branding.

His 2-3 day modeling of a prototype Orc to the client sign-off is unheard of speed.

Yet the final modeling for use on games and other applications still requires cloth, hair, water artists as with traditional animation.

Regardless, Rumble Box was a moment of tactile from-ink indulgence.

In sum, hashtag DEW2014, included some fine speakers, from charismatic Jordan Berliant (Partner/Head of Music Management, The Collective) to the founder of Gumgum to Zane Valle (CEO Watchwith) to Jennifer Price, Head of Media and Entertainment from Twitter – even with the gouache of buzzwords.

For pros and insiders, the line in the silicon was clearly drawn between Creatives and Metric-mania.

How SEO can you go?

To the point of diminishing creative returns until the “authentic voice” is watered down like a hotel cocktail.

For consumers, it is time to rope off of your PII (Personally Important Information) and build your metric avatar accordingly. Big business is watching and weighing your bit part in the Big Data.

For the curious, download Z Brush’s sister app Sculptris for free, and visit the Lego store to view the 3D viewer that allows imaging in virtual space from an icon on the box.

And get ready for the 4K world of transcoded streams heading at you from that plasma screen, or “second screen” of choice, coming at you in 2014.

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies (and technology)

[Or think of us as Second Screen-mancer… in keeping with the Ron Burgundy-esque world of tech jargon.]

FULL DISCLOSURE: was comped in as attendee outside the StartUp Competition, so Thanks DEW very much.