1-gon's blog

By 1-gon, history, 2 months ago, In English

North American ICPC participants were all ready to go to Orlando, Florida for a week-long event including NAPC (North America Programming Camp) and NAC (North America Championship), which will decide the 2021 World Finalists from North America. With less than a week's notice, and after all travel plans were arranged by the teams, the following announcement was made.

Dear NAC — NAPC Participant,

Due to the surge in COVID-19 cases across the country and, in particular, the region surrounding the event location, the 2021 North America Programming Camp (NAPC) and North America Championship (NAC) events will be conducted virtually. Registration fees paid by NAPC teams will be refunded. The health of our participants, university partners, and all of our communities is always our top priority.

Though conducted virtually, the NAPC-NAC will take place in the same timeframe (8-15 Aug.) with largely the same schedule as originally scheduled. We will finalize these details in the coming days and share them with you as soon as possible. In the meantime, we ask that you continue to fully reserve this week in your schedule so you can attend all required events. The organizers and trainers are working to make sure the remote NAPC-NAC provides excellent training and great competition.

In addition to great training and competition, the NAPC-NAC will include opportunities for interacting with sponsors, including networking events and a career fair. If you are a contestant, please make sure to upload your resume to your user profile at https://icpc.global no later than 6 Aug. ICPC and UCF would like to extend thanks to the event sponsors: National Security Agency (NSA), Universal Parks & Resorts, Orange County, L3Harris, Florida High Tech Corridor, Northrup Grumman, the Royal Bank of Canada, JetBrains, AWS Educate, IBM Quantum, Deviation Games, and Two Sigma.

We appreciate your understanding in these challenging times.

Here are some challenges NAC participants face as a result of this late announcement:

  • Flights to Orlando were already purchased by nearly all teams where they face a quick decision of whether to cancel flights or to go anyway either due to lack of alternative housing, or hopes of meeting contestants unofficially.
  • A week is a long commitment for many people, such as those working a full time job after graduation. Must they take a week of vacation time to attend required zoom meetings?
  • The contest format is uncertain with extremely little time to prepare. Is it suddenly changing to 3 computers per team and any practice expecting the traditional format was wasted?

This is a very frustrating change of plans to everyone involved to say the least. What is your opinion about this announcement? How are your plans affected if you are involved in this event? Let's discuss in the comments.

 
 
 
 
  • Vote: I like it
  • +274
  • Vote: I do not like it

»
2 months ago, # |
  Vote: I like it +58 Vote: I do not like it

Our team has been practicing with 1 computer 5 hour format since May, and some teams apparently were opting to compete for this contest online for a few months now so they were probably still practicing 3 computers for some time. The sudden ruleset change will make the standings interesting for sure. We still don't even know what the length of the contest will be.

  • »
    »
    2 months ago, # ^ |
      Vote: I like it 0 Vote: I do not like it

    Note that, we ( online teams ) got the email saying that we will be able to compete online on July 18. Before that personally I was too demotivated to do much practicewise. After that i didnt do much either, but that s a different story.

»
2 months ago, # |
  Vote: I like it +99 Vote: I do not like it

My tickets were non refundable :(((((

  • »
    »
    2 months ago, # ^ |
      Vote: I like it +81 Vote: I do not like it

    Want to come anyway? The unofficial in person gang here would love to have you! I'll be flying in on the 8th from Seattle.

»
2 months ago, # |
  Vote: I like it +51 Vote: I do not like it

I've been doing cp for 4 years and met nobody on Codeforces irl, oh well...

»
2 months ago, # |
  Vote: I like it +161 Vote: I do not like it

I am in no position to judge whether that is right or wrong, but that definitely sucks for you and all contestants :(

»
2 months ago, # |
  Vote: I like it +51 Vote: I do not like it

It's really sad that I won't be able to meet up my teammates this summer (nooo 1-gon). I took the last week of my internship off to attend this competition, so it's a little frustrating that this notice comes so late, when I'm unable to make many changes to my schedule. Luckily I managed to get credit back for my flights, but I know there are many others who weren't as lucky.

»
2 months ago, # |
  Vote: I like it +15 Vote: I do not like it

Tried my best to keep emotion out of this, all we can do is focus on the facts and try to come up with an objectively better situation and be honest with how this decision has hurt us.

As a bit of background for those not on the NA ICPC IO server, we first got a hint that the event was cancelled from an email sent to a volunteer, who was luckily the girlfriend of a competing student, and he was able to share that with us. This was sometime last week (Wednesday or Thursday). However, from that, we still had no official announcement, and were only let know this Monday at about 430 CDT.

How this affects us can be broken down into a few different ways, including travel and togetherness, preparation and training for the future, and what to do now, which I'll try to cover.

Travel and togetherness: So, as a team, we really work better together. Twice now we've flown a member back to Milwaukee, where the others of us are, in order to be together for the competitions. This works with our school as they may pay for the flights, but we need a full week notice plus to make anything work, as the process must be finished a week before the flights and it is not a one day process. We still have a team member who will need to fly into Milwaukee so we can be on top of our game, and at this point it will likely be out of our pockets. On top of that, we have 6 people in the NAC and NAPC at MSoE (Kotlinaughts in NAC, CinCity in the NAPC) who now all wish to still be together and travel to Milwaukee, but have no hotels, dorms, or anything ready. At this point, my apartment may be hosting 3 or 4 more people for the entirety of camp since I'm the only person who lives within walking distance of school, and people don't want daily 1 hour drives each way from practice, and don't want virtual because that simply does not help anyone as a team as well as in-person. You may say, why not just do it virtually? To be honest, we could, but we know we would be worse. It's a massive hardship when we've been practicing for a 5 hour, one computer competition, and we don't need that. I don't think we should be asked to entirely change our approach with 6 days to go to the start of the event.

Preparation: Like I mentioned before, we've been practicing for a 5 hour, 1 person event. We have set up an effective structure to feed our top member for difficult problems, and myself for mid-level difficulty ones. Now, we need to entirely switch how we're going to do this competition, since that will not be happening, and the ICPC really did not make it clear that virtual was still a serious consideration. Maybe that's on us, but we're going to practice what we think will happen, and with the official pages splitting between onsite and remote contestants, we felt in-person would happen.

What we do now: I mean, what can we do? A teammate of mine and a few others have echoed the sentiment of a strike of the NAC, which I unfortunately support. We do not deserve to be pushed around on short notice, and many of the teams will suffer greatly from the short turnaround to a 3 person, 3.5 hour competition. The teams that were already preparing for this style will have a serious advantage, and if the NAC goes on as scheduled I hope that the ICPC chooses to keep the two divisions of previously on-site and always planned online separate. I feel that the already online teams will have a disparate advantage in preparation. The ICPC could choose to reschedule for mid-September, which would give a month for new plans and be done in a place where vaccinations are high. A teammate of mine stated the Madison, Wisconsin would be a great choice: essentially a college town that has a serious university and team, while being largely vaccinated and prepared for any events that may happen. In the future, create a document stating how they will respond to any required cancellation or online competition. This would help teams be better prepared should this happen again, and would make sure that we would have an idea of what will happen instead. Combined with pre-set cancellation deadlines, I feel that this would be really effective, and help avoid much of the pain felt by everyone involved here.

Closing words: If enough teams will support it, we could strike. I would gladly organize it, I am terribly unhappy with this situation and trying to organize our replacement plans with so little time to work with my university. We deserve a situation where we can perform our best, this is a national championship with World Finals qualification on the line. Until we get conditions we find satisfactory, we could not participate and send a statement that this is bullshit that will not be tolerated. Message me on Codeforces (sylvyrfysh) or Discord (sylvyrfysh#4380) or respond in this thread with your Team name (I won't share them unless you want) if you would participate in this please, I feel it would at least send a statement if we have serious support. We deserve better.

»
2 months ago, # |
  Vote: I like it +2 Vote: I do not like it

I feel that the risk of covid was not even close to high enough to warrant a cancelation, and that the organizers don't put as much weight on the event as I (and probably most others) do. And I wish that there was more communication with contestants discussing our opinion or ways to compromise, maybe we could have been in a better situation. Given that even the coaches received very limited information about what was going on, it's clear that there is a real disconnect between the people making decisions and the ones that the decisions affect.

Even after I heard the rumors of cancellation, I thought it was impossible because of how thoroughly it messes up contestant plans. My team is losing hundreds of dollars from non-refundable plane tickets and other reservations, and this money all comes either from our pockets or from the fundraising efforts of the really small programming club that I've been leading for the last few years with almost no support from our department or faculty members. And I know that many other people are in similar or worse situations than me.

But honestly the unexpected randomized 'contest registration fee' increase is just an excuse for me to complain. I have no right to complain about the thing that makes me feel most frustrated. I was so excited when I managed to qualify for the camp, because I've never really been able to meet anyone doing CP seriously despite having done so many online competitions. And as my last year of undergrad has just ended, it's unlikely that I'll get a great chance in the future. So I was really grateful to ICPC for giving the chance to meet all of you. And then as the anticipated moment comes, in the blink of an eye, it feels like it's been taken away. So in the end I just want to complain about not being given something. Maybe we can still get some of the experience virtually. At least we can try to connect over the discord and we will be doing the contests at similar times, so maybe there will be some chances to meet and talk about problems and get to know each other. It's not the same. But maybe it at least can be better than not having qualified in the first place. I don't know. I'm sad.

  • »
    »
    2 months ago, # ^ |
      Vote: I like it +106 Vote: I do not like it

    Just to clear up this notion that COVID is "not that bad right now": the daily new case count in Florida is currently just as high it was at the peak last December. Most of these cases are probably the Delta variant, for which it's known that the vaccine only provides incomplete protection. Maybe you don't think the risk is that high, but I'm 100% sure many many coaches and contestants do.

    • »
      »
      »
      2 months ago, # ^ |
      Rev. 2   Vote: I like it -16 Vote: I do not like it

      I didn't say the phrase you quoted (In fact, I don't even agree with it). I know that this is very charged subject and that people have wildly varying opinions about it. I'm sure some other contestants are glad that it was cancelled.

      • »
        »
        »
        »
        2 months ago, # ^ |
          Vote: I like it +35 Vote: I do not like it

        Sure, the phrase you used was "the risk of covid is not even close to high enough to warrant a cancellation"; if this isn't close to high enough, I don't know what is.

        • »
          »
          »
          »
          »
          2 months ago, # ^ |
          Rev. 2   Vote: I like it -42 Vote: I do not like it

          {edit: removed content} Rather than talking about this, we should be talking about upvoting 1-gon

    • »
      »
      »
      6 weeks ago, # ^ |
        Vote: I like it +31 Vote: I do not like it

      Another issue is that there are insane laws in Florida preventing a university (e.g. UCF) from requiring students to be vaccinated. Since the event is being run by UCF, that meant that ICPC could not require vaccinations to participate. So I think ICPC was stuck between a rock and a hard place on this one.

»
2 months ago, # |
  Vote: I like it +37 Vote: I do not like it

bump...

»
2 months ago, # |
  Vote: I like it +89 Vote: I do not like it

I think this decision is silly, so I'm just going to Orlando anyway, and you all are welcome to join me if you're cool taking the organizational aspect into your own hands. I certainly understand that it's more annoying/expensive for contestants to do this themselves, but you're welcome to join me there for NAP Camp. We'll do contests on laptops in some nice quiet area of the hotel in the worst case (if we can't get a lab to do them in in person), and I think most importantly we will have the opportunity to meet each other and discuss new cool ideas.

I would imagine teams would want to still do NAC back somewhere that they are more comfortable, but that's your call.

I feel that having experience competing near other teams and near your teammates is important in training for world finals and other contests. There's a certain degree of stress that you'll feel at World Finals that can throw you off if you're not ready for it.

So far we have one non-ucf team planning to join us. If anyone else is interested (or any coaches/lecturers who are willing to come in person still), please let me know in a Codeforces message with your discord username.

»
2 months ago, # |
  Vote: I like it +14 Vote: I do not like it

As an ICPC participant myself, I must express my discomfort with sudden changes, we're seeing a lot of them for Indian Regionals as well. Good luck to every participant!

»
2 months ago, # |
  Vote: I like it +26 Vote: I do not like it

Until last year I used to be very excited about ICPC (Asia West) regionals. But now ICPC regionals are around in a week, and I don't even feel like preparing for it. Not even quoting cheating as an excuse, but last-minute updates from ICPC are becoming very frustrating.

»
3 weeks ago, # |
  Vote: I like it -11 Vote: I do not like it

It's like our relatives giving weird surprises.