As you all are aware, IOI 2018 is now over, and I felt the need to write a few lines about it, about my experience of it, and about my conclusions. I don't normally do that, but this was my last IOI and likely the end of my intense CP career.
So, the problems were absolutely great! Big up to the scientific committee. However, I'm sort of addicted to the codeblocks debugger which ruined the whole experience for me. As a matter of fact, the only reason for which codeblocks remained my primary editor was because its debugger was awesome and the only alternative of a better editor that I saw (better on the long run, including future real-life programming experience) would be vim which I knew is not even close to as friendly when it comes to user friendliness of debugging. I've also had competitions on a regular basis for 7 years and never had a time interval where I could say: well let's try something new cause we don't have anything useful to do (as I would always tell myself that it's better to train on thinking than on getting to know anything else — even the basis of relatively useful stuff). It was also the fact that I was very familiar with codeblocks after using it for soo long. Many would argue that it's my fault that I was ignorant, I even start to feel a bit of regret, as I could've started using another editor or try to learn to use the gdb. I just never thought it would be useful for my olympiad experience and that I will have my whole life to learn stuff, and better use this freedom time to think free, to not acquire any information and just to invent stuff by myself and just think. I'm in 2 minds about it: if I saw this coming, I would've definitely learnt how to use some other editor and/or how to use the gdb, but not being able to predict the future, it still seems that for my purpose, the strategy of just doing CP in the free time (instead of learning something new) was optimal.
Anyway, as what happened to me (and probably to several other participants) sucked at a whole new level, I genuinely want to advise you not to count on that debugger (there are alternatives, like not getting used to use a debugger all the time, or using gdb or who knows what other built-in debugger). I don't want anybody else to go through this. In Romania, in the county olympiad (the phase preceding the national olympiad), in my county at least, codeblocks is the only available editor (and windows the only available OS) so it's pretty common to use codeblocks here. As a matter of fact all the romanian team used it during IOI this year (and we were unequally affected). So my advise goes like: don't count on codeblocks' debugger (preferably, don't count on codeblocks at all, as it would randomly shut down and freeze whenever it wants when unstable), if you are ever going to work on a different environment (for example, if it works fine on your PC and you don't compete in onsite contests, it's probably fine).
Another thing that I've learnt the hard way in all my 3 IOIs is that after so much work and so much desire to achieve a certain goal, in the end, except for a momentary happiness or sadness, it's the experience that you're left with and that you should make the most from. I've had so much frustration and obsession behind that I couldn't enjoy the IOI in the beginning. Take advantage of the social opportunity, make from it something more than a random online competition with higher stake. I was pretty disappointed with this year's organization from many reasons. In many ways it was bad, but I believe the worst part on the long run is that we didn't have enough many opportunities to socialize, to meet new people. However, with enough effort you could still do that. Also, please don't let IOI destroy your self confidence or let it become a goal (happened to me after last IOI and it took months to get it back). It's good to want to do well, but frustration is not healthy and also leads to worse results. After 2 years, this year I learnt how to control my nerves and emotions, and if it weren't for the codeblocks, I would've achieved my goal (as a matter of fact, even under these circumstances, I was exactly 1 character away from gold). And although this is the ending, and is by no standards, a good one, I'll take the best out of it and remember the nice parts of IOI the feeling you have when being part of such a select event.
I'm considering making a blog about my whole CP path, going back to 8 years ago, if there are enough many people willing to know about it, but I hope this one blog to help people set their priorities straight. I used to think that people graduating and telling me stuff like "in 3 years from now, you'll just forget about olympiads and not care at all anymore" or "it's important that you got there" were just bullshitters, people who didn't try hard enough because they didn't care enough. I came to understand part of what they said. It's not like a successful or failed IOI won't stay in your memories, but the huge difference is that right after it, or during the years when you're still eligible for it, you may think about it regularly whereas after that you would just remember when you especially try to do so or someone else brings up the subject. And yes, making it there is a great achievement. Some of us had higher expectations than mere participation or a certain medal and most of those expectations were justified through hard work and previous results. Still, if you had any reasons to believe that you deserve more, then those reasons themselves are enough for you to be content with your knowledge.
Last but not least, don't forget that IOI is nothing more than 2 days of contest, 6 problems, with (usually) slightly higher quality than in the usual contest. So why consider those 2 days more important than all the other contests that you've competed in (say for example the selection contests, where you definitely did well if you got to IOI)? 6 problems can't and will never tell apart the brightest minds in an effective way. IOI probably will never decide to host 3 or 4 days of contest and till then there will always be a decent luck-dependent part of it, but you can minimize that part though training.
This is not a complaining/whining blog and I genuinely want people who have gotten to be frustrated to understand something that I couldn't for too long. I though I've put my life into this thing, and sort of did by training for so long, but I've done that out of passion and IOI only helped me to keep being motivated, but probably I would've done the same amount of work anyway, and it was a lovely ride and IOI is definitely not something worth being seen as a final purpose (not even when considering only CP, let alone life)