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TCO marathon points from sponsored matches | Reply
Two days ago, TopCoder announced that there would be points given not only for top placement in the 3 regular rounds and for lightning rounds, but also for certain sponsored matches. Though the number of points one can earn per sponsored matches is smaller than in regular ones [https://tco17.topcoder.com/marathon/rules/], I don't think it's a good idea to mix "fun matches" and "non-fun matches" for TCO qualification. In the 10+ years history of TCO marathon track qualification was always based on fun problems only.

To understand things a bit better, I do have a few questions about this latest change to the rules.

Was TopCoder community / CAB involved in making this last minute change?

If not eligible to a certain sponsored match, am I still eligible for qualifying to TCO through regular matches? In the previous years, after the last regular marathon qualification round was over we did know who would qualify for the onsite tournament. Now, qualification might be affected by some last minute sponsored match where some of the regular marathon folks might not be eligible.

Looking at problem statement / description of the current sponsored matches it seems that they can be very different from regular fun marathon matches. Some sponsored matches are based on previous matches, one of the matches I checked allows teams to participate and is not rated.

I do understand that the points give for sponsored matches vs regular rounds is very low and there is a chance that it might not even change the final qualification result. But if that's the case why not keep things simple, fair and consistent and just give points for fun marathon matches?
Re: TCO marathon points from sponsored matches (response to post by blackmath) | Reply
Although I might be one of the competitors who will earn few extra points from sponsored matches, I totally agree with blackmath.

I understand that it is extremely important to bring more competitors to sponsored matches, but I am not sure if this will help.
And may have the opposite effect on TCO matches, pushing away people who can't or simply don't want to participate in sponsored matches.
Re: TCO marathon points from sponsored matches (response to post by wleite) | Reply
Great points raised by all, and thank you btw :) Check out our feedback below:

1. In the 10+ years history of TCO marathon track qualification was always based on fun problems only.
> We've had sponsored matches a few times before. We agree it's not the norm, however it's something we'd like to introduce and will slowly increase over the next year or so. Change is good!

2. If not eligible to a certain sponsored match, am I still eligible for qualifying to TCO through regular matches?
> All topcoder members are eligible for the sponsored matches. Just like most of our contests :)

3. In the previous years, after the last regular marathon qualification round was over we did know who would qualify for the onsite tournament. Now, qualification might be affected by some last minute sponsored match where some of the regular marathon folks might not be eligible.
>This will be expected, however; we don't anticipate more than 2-3 sponsored marathon matches to be completed in advance of the end of the qualifying round (July 31, 2017.)

4. Looking at problem statement / description of the current sponsored matches it seems that they can be very different from regular fun marathon matches.
Agreed, each sponsored match is unique.

5. Some sponsored matches are based on previous matches, one of the matches I checked allows teams to participate and is not rated.
> Some matches are planned as part of series, and we market these as part of series from the beginning. Only a few allow teams, but this is not normal for the sponsored matches and is more of a unique circumstance.
Re: TCO marathon points from sponsored matches (response to post by rsial2) | Reply
Thanks for your reply.

> All topcoder members are eligible for the sponsored matches. Just like most of our contests :)


No, terms and conditions are very different.

From https://www.topcoder.com/community/how-it-works/terms/:

Except with respect to "Fun Challenges", you hereby assign, grant and transfer and agree to assign, grant and transfer to us all right and title in and to any and all Submissions made by you in connection with a Competition for which you are paid a cash prize or other good and valuable compensation [...]

So basically, opposed to fun challenges (regular qualification rounds) a sponsored match is like doing freelance work for TopCoder. To join a sponsored match, one needs to be able to perform services as an independent contractor. This can be forbidden by one's employer, or prohibited by law in the country one is living (e.g. because of one's current visa status). For example, H1B visa holders are not allowed to do such freelancing work. Also, many employers including big tech companies sponsoring TCO do not allow their full-time employees to do such work for other companies.
Re: TCO marathon points from sponsored matches (response to post by blackmath) | Reply
Thanks, please check out my feedback below:

So basically, opposed to fun challenges (regular qualification rounds) a sponsored match is like doing freelance work for TopCoder.
> Topcoder is a community for learning AND participating in contests with prizes. A sponsored match is the same thing as a design or development contest; you compete and earn a ranking, you get a prize. This has and always will be a huge differentiator for Topcoder. Check out some of our other contests where you can earn a prize: https://www.topcoder.com/challenges

To join a sponsored match, one needs to be able to perform services as an independent contractor. This can be forbidden by one's employer, or prohibited by law in the country one is living (e.g. because of one's current visa status).
> Confirmed, and our community is very large and diverse. I invite you to participate in one of our challenges :)

For example, H1B visa holders are not allowed to do such freelancing work. Also, many employers including big tech companies sponsoring TCO do not allow their full-time employees to do such work for other companies.
> I understand this can occur, but this is very much an edge case and not an issue for the majority of our members.
Re: TCO marathon points from sponsored matches (response to post by rsial2) | Reply
Do you have any data on how many of the more than 1 million TopCoder members are affected?

I don't. But I have met many past finalists in person and my guess would be that at least 30% of the last years' finalists, including at least one past TCO marathon champion, are not eligible to participate in sponsored matches.
Re: TCO marathon points from sponsored matches (response to post by blackmath) | Reply
We want to make sure your opinion is heard, so if you could change this, what would you like to see added? Please keep in mind that sponsored matches are here to stay.
Re: TCO marathon points from sponsored matches (response to post by rsial2) | Reply
Thanks. Having participated in TCO marathon rounds for the last 10 years I do appreciate TopCoder admins listening to the feedback of the community, in particular trying to keep the competition fair for everyone.

1. If you really wanna boost participation in sponsored matches I suggest to change next year's qualification mode as follows.
- top 10 from regular ("fun") qualification rounds qualifies
- top 2 from sponsored matches qualifies
- final of 12
This would imho really be an additional motivation for some more people to give sponsored matches a try. Exact distribution of points, finalists between fun / sponsored track would require some more thought.

2. For this year, I suggest to just revert the rules to what they were a week ago. I do understand TopCoder's business reason and the idea to increase participation in sponsored matches. Still, there is good money to be earned in sponsored matches anyway. I have no doubt this already motivates the right people to join sponsored matches. Meanwhile, collect more feedback from TopCoder community and CAB and decide on what would be a fair solution (not having the glitches described in my first post) for next year that makes TopCoder community happy but also makes sense for TopCoder from a business perspective.
Re: TCO marathon points from sponsored matches (response to post by blackmath) | Reply
Thanks. We have an internal meeting scheduled on 04/13 to discuss this. I'll keep ya posted on the outcome!
Re: TCO marathon points from sponsored matches (response to post by rsial2) | Reply
The rules currently state "The highest scoring competitors [among those eligible] who meet a predefined score threshold [to be uniquely defined for each problem] will be awarded points based on the following table."

There are already 2 sponsored matches with can award TCO'17 points under way, but it's not clear to me what is the threshold for getting any TCO'17 points for any of them. Although I made a submission in one of them, the lack of any information about this (arbitrary) threshold discourages me from competing further in these matches. I mean, I'd like to be able to estimate how much work/time is needed to get any TCO'17 points from these matches, and I can't do that when there's an unknown arbitrary scoring threshold.

And I hope you're not thinking to choose the threshold after the match is over!

Other than that, do I understand correctly that all the contestants that obtain a score above the threshold will get _some_ TCO'17 points? (the rules seem to say that all ranks 6+ get 3 TCO'17 points, as long as the score is above the threshold).
Re: TCO marathon points from sponsored matches (response to post by mugurelionut) | Reply
Thanks, I've asked the TCO manager to respond to your question.
Re: TCO marathon points from sponsored matches (response to post by rsial2) | Reply
I just want to add to the excellent points blackmath raised:
1. There is at least one finalist in last year's TCO final which would be affected by the "can't perform freelance work", so this is not a hypothetical point, this would actually be discriminatory based on visa status and/or place of employment.
2. Right, now you are awarding 3 points for 6th+ place in a sponsored match. Basically, you are awarding 3 points for just participating in the match. More concretely, any submission (no matter the quality) will score you 3 points. This is crazy. EDIT: I just saw the 'threshold' requirement, but still, I think that getting over the threshold will be far easier than being in the top 5 let' say.
3. From what I gather, the main flavor of the track is still Fun matches (aka Discrete Optimization), as opposed to sponsored matches (aka Machine Learning). Meaning, the final will feature a 'Fun' problem, not a 'sponsored' one. Meaning, anyone who qualifies for the final based on the sponsored matches, will get slaughtered in the final since the two types of problems (Fun and Sponsored) require different skillsets (there is an overlap for sure, but it's not a large one).
Re: TCO marathon points from sponsored matches (response to post by CatalinT) | Reply
Hey CatalinT, thanks for the feedback. I would ask that you refrain from using "discriminatory" in this scenario -- because adding sponsored matches to the TCO is by no means discriminating against anyone.

All, we are taking your feedback very seriously and will provide an update as soon as we've regrouped internally.

I would like to take a moment to remind everyone of the Topcoder Forums Code of Conduct (https://www.topcoder.com/community/topcoder-forums-code-of-conduct/), specifically:
1. Respect the process and the final results. Disputing competition rules or results does not belong in the forums.
2. Be constructive and facilitate meaningful discussions. Do not be a troll.
Re: TCO marathon points from sponsored matches (response to post by rsial2) | Reply
>> ...this is very much an edge case and not an issue for the majority of our members.

Out of 1,100,000+ registered Topcoder members (sorry, can't find the exact number right now), 7024 have ever participated in a rated Marathon match. This is about 0.6% of the community. It's perfectly safe to say that any concern related to Marathon track is very much an edge case and not an issue for the majority of the members.

The same line of reasoning can be applied to Algorithm track, which has 70k rated members in the same tool (6%), Design track (591 member), Development track (1473 members)...

But then, majority of Topcoder members haven't participated in any competitions, I'd say they don't have any issues at all :-)
Re: TCO marathon points from sponsored matches (response to post by rsial2) | Reply
I apologize for the usage of 'discriminate' and the 'crazy'.

Still:
1) Adding something (Sponsored matches) in which not everyone can compete (see my point and blackmath's) does constitute a clear disadvantage to those competitors that can't participate.

The addition of the Sponsored matches themselves is not the culprit; the fact that not everyone can compete in them is the problem. Maybe 'discriminate' was not the best term, but clearly, this unfairly penalizes certain competitors for things outside of their control.

2) Giving out points for meeting a certain threshold and not for the placements is problematic since scoring in the top 5 will most likely be significantly harder than going above a certain threshold. Additionally, how can you know the threshold before seeing the competition results? This would involve making a guess along the lines of "we think that getting 80% accuracy is going to be hard, let's put the threshold at that level" which is a subjective evaluation, as opposed to giving out points solely by the ranking.
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