Recently a friend of mines introduced me to the world of pure programming competitions on TopCoder. I'm not really the fight-at-all-costs type, but I've to say that I like the idea. I tend most often to see the battle (in chess, or in karate, or now in programming) as a fight against imperfection more than as fight against someone else, but I regretfully discovered that looking at standings to see where I ended up is an important part.
May be indeed that in addition to a fight against imperfection there is a component that is the fight against all others, a fight for distinction (but never a fight against someone specific; even in chess I don't see my opponent as an enemy, and this is probably one of the reasons for which I'm not that good).
Anyway I found myself much weaker than I would have expected ... I need to get better at coding (deep inside I know I'm #1 hehehe).
There are parts of TopCoder that I don't like but still it looks to me a wonderful system and a pretty cool way to exercise. It's not like real coding, of course, but I think it's good. A lot of the emphasis is on the speed, but write incorrect code and you are simply out, as you should deserve.
Also it's funny the challenge part where you are allowed to kick out opponents by proving their solution is incorrect (I don't think this happens often, the submitted code will go through a more serious test anyway so there's just no point in submitting a wrong solution - unless you happen to have a fake account and kick it out from a real account to gain points).
I don't like there's no premium for readability and hence the top solutions are sometimes snippets that would get your ass fired being me the one in charge of quality control, but it would be difficult to place an objective measure for readability (readability depends on the reader, probably it's just that I'm too dumb to understand those programs).
Oh... I would have loved to be surprised on another aspect, but it didn't happen. As one could probably guess there is almost no girl even there. It's because of the fight or because of programming ?