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back to article Chinese coders beat all-comers

Does China have the best hackers in the world? Well, new stats from code sprint site Interview Street would seem to indicate that they certainly dominate the global rankings when it comes to programming skills. The Bangalore-based web company provides a platform for coders to measure their abilities in a series of pre-assigned …

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Dueling Headlines

"Chinese coders beat all-comers" vs "Over half of IT hires in Asia are duds".

Since I don't know which article to believe, I'll go with neither.

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Re: Dueling Headlines

HEHE :D

Good notice!

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Re: Dueling Headlines

The question is whether people are duds because they are rotten coders, or because they lack other skills. I have had some very good students from China (really top of the class), but receive many applications for PhD positions written in such poor English I would not dream of accepting them, however good their coding skills. Being a good IT worker requires more than just coding skills. Besides, there is a huge pool of recruits in China, so even if the top ones beat our top ones, there is plenty of space for duds down below.

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Re: Dueling Headlines

Completely agree. Some years ago I worked for a large company that had a bit of a developer shortage, and they experimented with importing some development staff from India on contract. To be fair, some of them were excellent - wide range of skills (and good with people, not just code). But a lot of them, whilst excellent coders (Masters degree in coding etc) were absolutely rubbish as *developers*. Given a very detailed spec they could quickly and effectively write good code - but point them at a problem and say 'sort it' and they were hopeless. They had been trained in the skills of coding, and were extremely competent, but often didn't actually have the wider aptitude for investigating problems, identifying possible solutions, and taking those solutions through to some technical resolution.

Whilst there are occasions when what is needed is some shit-hot coder who can do amazing things, despite a total lack of inter-personal skills and hygiene, for many businesses what is needed is a problem-solver who can develop solutions to real-life business issues that are 'fit for purpose'.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Dueling Headlines

I'd go with both... since such a large populace will have a few gems, but I found it more like 80% dud hires in China when it came to graduates.

a friend out there told me he no longer hires graduates, as it takes 2 years to train them...

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Re: Dueling Headlines

a friend out there told me he no longer hires graduates, as it takes 2 years to train them...

... and that's different from the UK how?

I work alongside a small in-house marketing department and 2 graduates we've had recently haven't even really known how to turn a computer on and were pretty much terrified of anything outside Word. Now, granted, these are marketing bods, you'd not expect them to be IT geniuses ... but they were straight out of Uni, in the 21st century, I'd expect them to at least have some degree of competence (and confidence) around computers!

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Re: Dueling Headlines

Makes sense if they have the highest highs and the lowest lows, but yeah.

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Holmes

Re: Dueling Headlines

China != Asia.

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Boffin

Re: Dueling Headlines

No, no, Muckminded, the desired reading of these two superficially contradictory rubricks is that «we» should be very, very afraid of those dastardly Chinese, who receive «obscene amounts of money» to attack «us» («grim reading», indeed !), while at the same time retaining feelings of innate (racial ?) superiority, as, according to Mr Muncaster, «16 per cent» of new recruits to the IT sector in China were regarded as «bad». Note that this figure of 16 % does not appear in the Hudson Report itself (http://hudson.hk/Portals/HK/documents/Hudson%20Report%20%28HK%29/2012/Hudson_Report_Q2_2012-Asia.pdf), which states that 13 % were regarded as «bad», 51 % as «average», and 36 % as «good». Aside from his, alas, rather typical sloppiness with figures, Mr Muncaster's claim that «over half of new recruits in China and Singapore are duds» can only be made if the two categories «bad» and «average» are conflated to one called «duds». Is it customary to regard an «average» employee as a dud ? That the question is never posed how many recruits to the IT sector in countries like the UK or the US would be regarded by their employers as «duds» according to the above standards is par for the course....

Henri

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Northrop Grumman report

"According to a recent high profile report by US defence contractor Northrop Grumman, the Chinese government ploughs obscene amounts of money into university technology programs covering areas such as information warfare - money western states couldn't hope to match."

Umm... let's see.... remove name of highly independent, impartial company, quick nationality change here and here and.. TADA !

"According to a recent high profile report ..., the US government ploughs obscene amounts of money into university technology programs covering areas such as information warfare - money eastern states couldn't hope to match."

The Chinese version. Works for other countries too - collect the whole set - hours of endless fun changing the direction the finger points in.

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Another explanation

Interview Street is a site for people wanting a new job. Maybe developers in Western countries are happy with their current job? Or prefer to pick and choose who they work for by targeting applications to specific companies? Whereas the Chinese coders are all just desperate to get another job, any job, anywhere, just so long as it's outside the glorious freedom-loving People's Republic of China.

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FAIL

Numbers

Duh of course they are going to have more better programmers from just a numbers standpoint. Don't they have more people in than the rest of the world combined?

So you figure 1 out of 10 programmers is really good or whatever the numbers are these days they are easily going to be ahead of the rest!

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Boffin

Re: Numbers

According to a quick google*, China has approximately 1.3 billion people. World population is approximately 7.0 billion. That means China has roughly 19% of the world population.

If we assume all else to be equal, China's numbers would give them roughly 19% of the top x spots, or about 4 of the top 20. Since they have 14 spots, we can conclude that variables other than population are at play. My guess is on training and knowledge of and incentive to compete on the given site.

*Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

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Trollface

Pah!

That site's not for real hackers! They don't even have a VBScript parser!

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Any indication of how the membership of Interview Street is split between Chinese and others? It might well be that having 14 chinese coders in the top 20 is not an indication of anything... could be a bit like saying that 95% of hyves.nl users speak Dutch...

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Demographics

Nothing on the site, but you can filter the leaderboard for country. Unfiltered, there are 6,368 members on the leaderboard. Filtering for the countries in the top 20:

China: 213 (~3.3%)

USA: 1036 (~16.3% !!)

Russia: 63 (~1%)

Argentia: 12 (~0.2%)

Brazil: 37 (~0.6%)

NB: #8 listed "N/A" as country, but filtering on N/A failed to produce coherent results. Neither did "UK" - but that was not in the top 20 anyway.

As a side note, I think they should ask the best hackers to work on their leaderboard. It shouldn't take several seconds to filter a mere 6,368 records.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Demographics

Looks surprising, but check around the half-way point of your filtered results. USA has a long tail of users that subscribed but didn't actually get around to solving anything (compared to China)

I would suggest this says something cultural about finishing something you started, maybe a majority of USA subscribers got bored more quickly and went and did something else so your numbers are misleading

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Re: Demographics

Number of solutions isn't the right metric to use to detemine the validity of the data. Number of submissions is more appropriate. Unfortunately their leaderboard doesn't allow custom sorting so mining that information would mean wading through their interminably slow interface, something I don't care to do at 4 in the morning*.

As the site is apparently for evaluating prospective employees, I'd say finishing what you start or sticking it through a trial is very relevant. These numbers may not solve your particular problem, but they are relevant to the purpose of that site, and they do answer the question originally posed by this thread.

*Yes, I'm from the USA, what's that you say about finishing something you started? ; )

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Demographics

I suspect the reason the UK is not in the top is we don't use the site maybe???

I've never heard of it until now..

I don't know about other UK programmers, but I don't do coding tests for a job, I will discuss problems and my method to solve them, but coding tests? no...

Too many times have they either been wrong or even for a different language to the job, that I just walk away now..

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Meh

It's a bit strange then that the number of crap Chinese coders I've had to work with vastly outnumbers (raw numbers or percentage-wise) any other nationality other than Indian. I've also worked with Russians, Ukranians, Poles, Ausies, Canadians, Brits, Irish, Scottish, German, French, Spanish, Yanks, even Mexicans.

But I'm willing to believe that if they're any good at all the Chinese govt immediately hires them to hack into NATO defense contractors and I never get to deal with them at all.

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Coat

Tell me about the Mexicans then. Are they crappier than the others you worked with?

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Anonymous Coward

..one way street

anyone can hack/attack pre-existing code/tools or technology. especially with access to the source.

show me the creativity - can these same people actually MAKE products? I doubt it. its a different mindset and skillset.

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Facepalm

Re: ..one way street

Re-read the article and check out the site. It's not about security hacking, but about software hacking -- writing a quick and efficient application to solve a given problem. The problems are pretty standard programming puzzles: string manipulation, mathlogic, etc. One was a variant of the traveling salesman problem.

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Re: ..one way street

AC inadvertently raises a good point though. This use of "hacker" to mean either "programmer" or, well, "hacker" dependent on context is terribly confusing. Eric Bloody Raymond has a lot to answer for

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Flame

Re: ..one way street

Agreed, get one of them to design software that's powerful, elegant, reliable, maintainable and easy to use.

And then get them to organise a team of many programmers to implement it.

Then get them to document it.

THEN see whether an entirely different team of developers can maintain it/interface with it.

Generally any interface designed by a "programmer/hacker" looks like the dog vomited on the cat.

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Anonymous Coward

Mixing causality with correlation

I have to completely disagree with what the article is suggesting. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure China has a lot of great coders but to somehow suggest they are dominating the world and to start pointing fingers about funding and education in the west is misleading.

Talented western coders will be busy in western jobs or happy doing their own thing. Much smaller numbers of top western coders would be bothered to complete online tests.

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WTF?

Good coders = hackers?

I love the instant association this article makes between people good at coding, and cyber-terrorism.

Firstly I would think they are pretty different skill sets, and secondly.... What?

The commies are coming... No leaderboard is safe.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Good coders = hackers?

Coder == Hacker

Hacker != Cracker | Script Kiddie | Criminal

Hacker is a word that has been misused by the media and given a new meaning

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Good coders = hackers?

You'll find no respect from me to any programmers calling themselves hackers.

Misuse or not, if you're in the industry, at least get it right.

And if you have any self respect and you can't or haven't actually hacked anything, don't call yourself a hacker or attend hackathons or hack days.

It's basically saying you're a neophyte.

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JDX
Gold badge

More corroborating data

TopCoder is one of the biggest programming competition hosts and you can see some rankings here:

http://community.topcoder.com/tc?module=AlgoRank

http://community.topcoder.com/stat?c=country_avg_rating

I've been to the finals of their annual tournament and the dominance of non-western competitors is dramatic. However, E. Europe is giving China a very strong fight. That's why I tend to hire Ukrainian or similar offshore coders rather than Indian.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: More corroborating data

That's not corroborating data. TopCoder's top country is Russia which doesn't feature that much in the InterviewStreet results, likewise Poland is 3rd in TopCoder but barely features in InterviewStreet.

Pick your own site, pick your conclusion...

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Anonymous Coward

When in China...

and I was trying to solve unusual tech issues, Googling for assistance and inspiration is frequently blocked. Probably often by mistake as the Great Firewall is scattershot. You just don't know. Plus the Google cache - which speeds up searches and usefully finds moved items, is completely unavailable. Frustration gradually built up until - relief! - I was back in the West again.

Any great Chinese coder/developer who experience full freedom of information on a trip to the West will want to emigrate there.

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Ru

So, does Project Euler keep any demographics?

Cos they've been about for a while, and do a reasonable job of exercising computer sciency sorts of skills.

"Interview Street" would appear to have a rather small selection of the World's coders. Not very statistically relevant, I'd say... good for a headline, but not much more.

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FAIL

Of course, it could just be ...

Of course it could just be that no-one over here has heard of Interview Street, and that even if they had, they wouldn't be spending enough time on it to rank up in the tests, as they don't value what looks like a pretty faddy and high-effort way to try to get a job.

An article a few cm away on the front page says half of IT hires in Asia suck.

And you know what "self-selecting samples" are in stats, right? They're useless, that's what they are.

And this story is based on an Interview Street press release, right?

Too many signs pointing to bullshit for my liking.

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Unhappy

Queued

Submitted my awesome code an hour and a half ago and still queued for testing :(. Do they mark these things manually or what?!

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FAIL

I Call It Mil-Industry-Complex BullCrap

Yes, hardware from Huawei might be good enough, but on other fields I cannot see anything genuinely Chinese-developed.

ChinaSQL ? No.

ChinUx ? Nope.

ChinaWriter ? Nada

ChicomBrowser ? Nope. (but they have ChinaFlavoirIE.exe)

All they currently achieve is creating a funny shell around internet explorer and relabel it as their own browser. Hardly an achievement.

Exactly the same is with India - Norway is more of an Software Superpower than India.

So - Northrop-GrummFAIL.

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Flame

But Shurely Good For PORK-Barreling

In Washington.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Creating great coders is fine......

But if you have to specify down to the if/then level what the solution is supposed to do, you may as well code it yourself. There's a lot more to most development jobs than just bashing out code these days. Perhaps if Communist Party didn't fear the kind education system that produces people who can think/act/design/create for themselves.

The duelling headlines comment above is spot on, if a little harsh (some them can think/act/design/create for themselves but the Chinese education system isn't geared towards that).

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Well

A friend working security at a US Government facility would agree. Then again, 99% of their attempted break-ins originate from one country. He didn't say which one, but I believe it rhymes with "whina".

Just sayin'.

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Anonymous Coward

Best kind of investment

Beats channelling obscene amounts of money into stupid bailouts or weapons programmes (F-35 anyone?)

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Anonymous Coward

Speculate all you want.

I'm in Hong Kong, granted not the tech capital of China, but in my 4 working years here as a developer / producer that is in the recruiter seat. I have not seen a single good developer or programmer, local or expat.

In my 12 years in the UK however, the ratio of good vs bad devs I have MET is approximately 5:1.

The difference is that those who can sort of code in the UK tends to end up in IT but never call themselves a coder, whereas here they think they're superstars just because they can make a website or a mobile app (badly I might add)

Not too sure why Phil always post stuff about China IT, but you're looking at the wrong place, nothing interesting here at all, nor will there be for the forseeable future. Manpower here is cheaper than the cheapest computer you can possibly make useful so most bussinesses don't even know what IT means nor do they find the need to.

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Joke

Re: Speculate all you want.

I should mod you down for being politically incorrect ! Fsck the truth.

Besides, it hurts the business interest of some weapons makers. How irresponsible of you !

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Paris Hilton

Anyone notice...

The top three programmers have percentages of 50/45/30%. I can get a thousand pennies and start throwing them into a crowd. Eventually, I'll hit someone in the eye. Looks like the best one (in the top 20) is actually #15 from russia with a percentage of 76%.

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