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Idea for new forum

Jason Menard
Sheriff

Joined: Nov 09, 2000
Posts: 6450
Background:
-----------
If you hang out in the Jobs Discussion forum much, fairly often someone will come in asking what questions people get asked on job interviews. Invariably someone will mention some little programming/algorithmic problem they were given that flustered them at the time (being asked on the spot and all).
In a recent thread the following interview question was mentioned:

Given an unsigned 16 bit integer and unlimited memory, provide an alogorithm which will determine the bits that are set.

and the following solution was given:
convert the # to binary
create a character array to store the bit pattern.
parse through the array and print out the indexes of the '1's. That was it!

Not satisfied with that solution I ran off to quickly see how many different ways I would solve this without resorting to the IMHO less than satisfactory answer this gentleman was given by his interviewer. It got me thinking how many others might have done the same thing.
The Proposition:
----------------
A new forum, Other->Programming Diversions possibly, where people can present small programming challenges of varying difficulty, with the above as an example. Kind of a programatic Meaningless Drivel.
Problems of all difficulty levels should be encouraged. People would benefit not only by going through the exercises themselves, but seeing how others would solve the same problems.
Anyway, just a suggestion.
Jessica Sant
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 17, 2001
Posts: 4313

good suggestion! Only problem I could see with it -- is some less-than-honorable folks would post their homework assignments there in hopes of getting others to solve it.
Jason Menard
Sheriff

Joined: Nov 09, 2000
Posts: 6450
Yeah. I thought of that too. I guess it would have to be policed pretty well, but then so does MD. I think in many cases it will be obvious, often by who posted the question and their posting history.
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
I think homework assignments tend to be fairly obvious.


Associate Instructor - Hofstra University
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Dave Vick
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 10, 2001
Posts: 3244
I like the idea!! I also agree that the homework assignments are pretty obvious.


Dave
Jessica Sant
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 17, 2001
Posts: 4313

I think the new forum would help both the potential interviewer and the interviewee -- Give the interviewer some new questions to ask, as well as to force them to invent new ones. And will help intervewees practice a bit before going out.
I like it.
David Weitzman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 27, 2001
Posts: 1365
I had a good post (or so I'd like to believe) but UBB complained about an illegal html tag (perhaps the bitwise shift operator in a solution to the problem above I included) and IE didn't save the post for when I clicked the back button. Problems are solved with algorithms. Yes, we should have a forum for algorithm discussion.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Playing devil's advocate, aren't these questions appropriate for the general Java forums? Or is this similar to the Algorithms proposal?
personally, I'd love to see a large listing of Java (or language agnostic) technical questions, that can be used for interviews or just for fun.
--Mark
Jason Menard
Sheriff

Joined: Nov 09, 2000
Posts: 6450
I don't think these types of things would be specifically likely interview questions. The original concept was more for just a challenging diversion, yet one that educates as well. It's not necessarily what's the "best" way to solve a particular problem (although that should most certainly be discussed), but how would you solve a particular problem. The idea is to get people to think about these kind of things and exercise their problem solving skills. In addition people would gain insights by seeing how others would solve these problems.
While in essence we are discussing algorithms, I personally would avoid the term for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it can be an intimidating topic for many people. For another, algorithms don't come off as being an overly exciting topic of discussion, IMHO. By keeping the emphasis on the fun and challenging aspects of problem solving, I feel you would maximize participation and therefore maximize the educational value. So in other words, yes we are basically talking about algorithms, but how you package it can make a difference.
[ June 12, 2002: Message edited by: Jason Menard ]
David Weitzman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 27, 2001
Posts: 1365
Are algorithms not exciting for most people? Maybe I'm the exception rather than the rule. I figured anyone who enjoys programming and math (and I know there are plenty of these people around) would enjoy algorithms. If not, I'd be curious to know why.
One source of many interesting problems is topcoder. This could keep you busy for months (hell, years if you don't know enough about algorithms...). What is a contest if not "fun and challenging"? Maybe we need some sort of JavaRanch contest...
Jason Menard
Sheriff

Joined: Nov 09, 2000
Posts: 6450
Are algorithms not exciting for most people?
My college algorithms class left a bad taste in my mouth I think. The course was so insanely difficult that, if I remember correctly, it had a curve that gave scores between 30%-50% (or somewhere around there anyway) a C grade. The individual who taught the course designed his tests so that scores in the 50's and below were the norm rather than the exception. You leave that course feeling you only learned about half of what he was trying to teach. It was very demoralizing on the whole.
Michael Ernest
High Plains Drifter
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 25, 2000
Posts: 7292

I like the idea of a 'Programming Diversions' forum in Other, where all you brain-teaser freaks can hang out and frustrate each other beyond belief (in Java, naturally).
Naturally Jim Yingst should moderate. :roll:


Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.
- Robert Bresson
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
OK, got it now. I like it.
--Mark

PS I propose the bartender for any given week be the person who flooded the prior week's book giveaway forum with the most posts. :-)
Dave Van Even
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 19, 2001
Posts: 101
I'm all for it too
Could be an ideal place for all these 'How is this done (best)' questions too...
Dave
Mapraputa Is
Leverager of our synergies
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 26, 2000
Posts: 10065
Originally posted by Michael Ernest:
I like the idea of a 'Programming Diversions' forum in Other, where all you brain-teaser freaks can hang out and frustrate each other beyond belief (in Java, naturally).
Naturally Jim Yingst should moderate. :roll:

*Now* I like it! If Jim will be a moderator, I promise to move my focus of attention from MD to 'Programming Diversions'
If to speak about fun, there are a lot of good stuff on the I., Only one example: http://www.nyx.net/~gthompso/quine.htm
[ June 12, 2002: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]

Uncontrolled vocabularies
"I try my best to make *all* my posts nice, even when I feel upset" -- Philippe Maquet
Jim Yingst
Wanderer
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 30, 2000
Posts: 18671
I like the idea too. My only concern is how to define the forum relative to others - esp. a hypothetical Algorithms forum. I had forgotten about the Algorithms forum, partly because there didn't really seem to be that much interest overall (sorry David) - but I do still like the idea of making Performance into Performance and Algorithms. Now however if we add Programming Diversions, it seems there would be a lot of potential for crossover traffic between serious algorithm questions, and silly diversional things, with different people having different opinions on where a given post should be. (To be fair, that's the situation we have in lots of other forums anyway - but it would be nice to try to clarify first.) Would it make sense to try to group all algorithms together, whether serious or drivelous? Or would it make sense to group serious Algorithms with Performance, and Drivellous Algorithms on their own? I'm leaning towards the latter, but what do others think? (I don't see (Serious) Algorithms standing as a forum of its own, yet, but it could some day if given an opportunity to grow.)
For the title of the proposed forum - "Programming Diversions" works, certainly. Other possibilities that come to mind are:
Computational Drivel
Programmatic Drivel
Meaningless Programming
Hmmm... Jason's original title is the most straightforward I suppose; I just like the idea of making the analogy with MD more explicit. Maybe it's just me though...
[ June 12, 2002: Message edited by: Jim Yingst ]

"I'm not back." - Bill Harding, Twister
Mapraputa Is
Leverager of our synergies
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 26, 2000
Posts: 10065
I like Jason's idea about "packaging" algorithms with the fun and challenge. It seems that we do not have to design our own algorithms on daily basic, so the topic would mostly be an educational experience, a kind of mental gymnastics, or pure fun anyway...
Originally posted by Jason Menard:
While in essence we are discussing algorithms, I personally would avoid the term for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it can be an intimidating topic for many people. For another, algorithms don't come off as being an overly exciting topic of discussion, IMHO.

These are all valid arguments. But I noticed that people who are good at logical thinking tend to look down at not-so-serious stuff. If we used combined title like "Algorithms and Programming Diversions", we could keep both parts of audience (or, perhaps, disgust both )
A dedicated forum for "Meaningless Programming" wont get too much traffic, I am afraid. I personally would vote for one united forum. And this way we can make David happy too.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Jim Yingst:

Computational Drivel
Programmatic Drivel
Meaningless Programming

Aren't those terms really more a description of most of the companies created in the late 90's? :-p

--Mark
Matthew Phillips
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 09, 2001
Posts: 2676
This sounds like a fun forum idea. I agree with Jason and Map that fun is the key to a successful algorithms forum. It is such a dry topic that the challenges would improve the overal enjoyment of the forum. Maybe Mark would challenge us with some of the interview questions that he uses. (Sorry to put you on the spot Mark, but I have been looking forward to those.)


Matthew Phillips
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
I would be happy to. I've been meaning to write them down somwhere and this will motivate me. I've got a great starter, with a question from Fred Brooks. I've never used it, but I think it's a fabulous question and I'd like to get feedback on it, byt trying it out on the guinea pigs we keep here on the ranch, er, I mean, on my colleague here at the ranch. :-)
Of course, right now I'm in LA, Palm, Springs, and Las Vegas until the 24th. And then DC and NYC until about July 2nd, so I won't be posting much until I get back in July.
--Mark
PS Never fear putting me on the spot. I have strong views & opinions and the ability to back them up; but if no one ever challenges me on those positions, my ability will wither, and I'll just be full of hot air.
Jason Menard
Sheriff

Joined: Nov 09, 2000
Posts: 6450
We're still waiting!
Mapraputa Is
Leverager of our synergies
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 26, 2000
Posts: 10065
And we're stubborn!
(Disclaimer: I was implying it's a good thing)
Rob Ross
Bartender

Joined: Jan 07, 2002
Posts: 2205
This is a cool idea. I remember when Thomas Paul posed a simple question about generating random numbers and it got me off researching Knuth and Linear Congruential Random Number Generators!
thread was here
I'm amazed I could find that thread. Maybe our first challenge is to design a search algorithm for a web site that doesn't suck, AND doesn't crash the server :roll:


Rob
SCJP 1.4
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://aspose.com/file-tools
 
subject: Idea for new forum