ahmed_aly's blog

By ahmed_aly, 9 years ago, In English,
I've noticed in the last few Codeforces contests that almost all problem statements are very long and contain a lot of useless parts.
For example in this problem, the first 4 paragraphs are completely useless, which is about 40% of the problem description.
I don't see any fun in reading a lot of useless parts, and I used to read and understand everything carefully because it could contain something important.
Why should I waste the contest time in reading and understanding useless parts?
I wish to see smaller and more direct description in the next contests.

What do you think about this?
 
 
 
 
  • Vote: I like it
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  • Vote: I do not like it

9 years ago, # |
  Vote: I like it +2 Vote: I do not like it
I think, problemsetters should find a balance between direct description (which is also no so interesting, 'cause from my point of view, it's quite interesting to understand - what is meant under the problem, what is hidden and what is important) and making too overloaded and heavy statements. It's very complicated question, to my mind
9 years ago, # |
  Vote: I like it +5 Vote: I do not like it
It is a kind of tradition and I personally like it.
  • 9 years ago, # ^ |
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    I'm with you that the problem statement should contain a story, but not very long one.
    • 9 years ago, # ^ |
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      I think that story and real statement should be mixed. It isn't good when 40% of text is absolutely useless.
9 years ago, # |
  Vote: I like it -9 Vote: I do not like it
This is a commonplace in olympiad informatics. Skill to find important details in text is part of problem.
9 years ago, # |
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I think problem writers prepare us to real life :)
In my current job I usually spend 90% of time to just understand matter of problem, and only about 10% of working time to solve it.
9 years ago, # |
  Vote: I like it +13 Vote: I do not like it
I believe problem "Beavermuncher-0xFF" is really bad example

in this problem the first 4 paragraphs are marked by italic and you may guess that they are unuseful

even you may not guess about unuseful parts you spend no more than one minute for read all statement and after that you may divide statement for useful and unuseful parts easily
9 years ago, # |
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How about this one? If somebody just reads the output section, the above story is almost useless...
  • 9 years ago, # ^ |
      Vote: I like it +5 Vote: I do not like it
    of course, you may skip some parts of statement at your own risk but I believe you will spend no more than one minute for reading statement

    it is possible to change statement for "given prime n and integer m, n < m, write YES if m is next prime after n otherwise write NO" but in this case statement is really dry, ungraceful and boring
    • 9 years ago, # ^ |
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      So I suggest avoiding this by giving a new name to the objective :-) In case they are forced to read the problem statement to find out what the objective is. Of course it would make the problem statement a bit lengthy but in this case I think it's still acceptable.
    • 9 years ago, # ^ |
      Rev. 2   Vote: I like it +19 Vote: I do not like it

      I totally prefer such statements though.

      There was a contest where each statement was two-five lines long, and I loved it.

       

      And also I have never seen an interesting background story in the problem statement. Usually they are pretty rediculous. And I'm not into that kind of humor which is usually used in the problem statements.

      So if someones made a contest with no stories whatsoever, I would be very happy :)

       

      • 9 years ago, # ^ |
          Vote: I like it -15 Vote: I do not like it
        no two minds think alike

        I got too much messages like this: "wow, I love this contest! stories was interesting indeed!"

        and I believe that any big story is not a trouble while problemsolving
        • 9 years ago, # ^ |
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          I think a big story could be a trouble and it could confuse someone, specially if the problem statement is not in his native language.
    • 9 years ago, # ^ |
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      I agree with you that giving a story can make problem solving fun, but yours were somewhat very long for most competitors. This is because competitors always have to solve many problems as quick as possible. If a long non-essential statement disturbed to understand the statement correctly, competitors will feel it really unnecessary.
      At least, I think a story part should be short enough.
    • 9 years ago, # ^ |
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      In my opinion, good examples of good problems, which have funny and not long storie, are TC problems about John and Brus, aren't they?
9 years ago, # |
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I agree. Long story would be fun if it adds something to the description of the problem. Reading such long stories, at times you repeat early paragraphs thinking may be you missed something, and then finding out it was all gibberish in relation to the problem, is very irritating.  
9 years ago, # |
Rev. 2   Vote: I like it +8 Vote: I do not like it
I agree with you. I wish that each problem statement contains no more than 256 words.
9 years ago, # |
  Vote: I like it +5 Vote: I do not like it
I like story like Beavermuncher-0xFF because it's funny. As for me it's more interesting to use Beavermuncher(i don't understand how it sounds in English, but боброжуй in Russian sounds very funny), then to count some numbers.

Sorry for my poor English.
  • 9 years ago, # ^ |
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    After some years in olympic programming, you will ignore all invaluable data in problem statements.
    All statements are read again after a competition ;)
    • 9 years ago, # ^ |
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      Yes, probably you're right. But this doesn't conflict what I said. -)
9 years ago, # |
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Okay, check that! :D
  • 9 years ago, # ^ |
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    I think this would need days to read, read, read..., think and then solve =D
9 years ago, # |
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Quote from last Open Cup:

Vladislav Isenbaev is a two-time champion of Ural, vice champion of TopCoder Open 2009, and absolute champion of ACM ICPC 2009. In the time you will spend reading this problem statement Vladislav would have solved a problem. Maybe, even two. . .