The Arabnet Development Tournament – Year 2

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Last Saturday, October 26, ArabNet started the 2nd year of the development tournament.
The first round started in Lebanon at the Beirut Digital District. The venue was packed with about 100 competitors/attendees.
Lebanon Challenge is part of a regional championship where hundreds of developers compete for the ranks of top coders of the Arab region.
Last year Lebanon took first place by a considerable margin where 2 developers from Grind took leading positions and helped Lebanon make the win! (click here for details)

The competition was scheduled for 10:30am but many came in early to prepare for the job fair, the code labs, whereas some competitors were simply too stressed out to wait at home!
The event launched with a brief speech by Omar Christidis, founder of Arabnet, and a word from the Minister of Telecom, Nicolas Sehnaoui.

The minister talked about Lebanon’s latest achievements in the telecom sector over the last year, marking it as the most improved country by the ICT (click here for details), and offered to invite the winners to a dinner!

Telecom Minister speech
Telecom Minister speech

The minister also did a tour around the place & job fair to talk with some of the companies to get to know them and their services better.

Roy Naufal with Minister Nicola Sehnaoui
Roy Naufal with Minister Nicola Sehnaoui

Grind was one of the companies participating in the job fair recruiting developers and spreading word of its expanding business.

grind website development
Grind’s logo on display

Donald Derek Haddad (founder of preso.ly) and I, Roy Naufal (Grind’s CTO), winners of last year in Beirut and Dubai, were named ambassadors of the tournament.
We primarily helped new participants prepare for the event with their numerous questions days before the event (through Google Hangout) all the way till the event ended.

We could not officially participate in the competition this year since Arabnet wanted give new developers chances to win.
Donald did a code lab session, primarily about node.js, called the “Javascript Revolution”.

Donald giving the workshop
Donald at the code lab

I spent most the time at our stand, meeting developers, and helping participants prepare in between rounds.
But I also decided to take part in the challenges (unofficially competing) primarily as a self-challenge and to have a first hand review of how it is in comparison to last year.

The competition began at around 10:30am with the first round (and ended around 5:30pm).

As usual, round 1 was about speed.
The requirement was to do an expenses management application with extra points for advanced search/filtering, statistics and graphs.
This round was 1 hour.
I was the first to finish the round with about 20 minutes left, so I took advantage of having breakfast before everyone bombarded the food stands since I didn’t have time in the morning.
I found the speed round a bit easier than what we had last year in the national and regional challenge (it had a bit less to do).

Roy Naufal coding
Roy Naufal coding

After each round, there was about 2 hours of break with food and drinks being served.

Everyone gathered around, discussing things, how the round went, what to expect next, getting to meet, checking out the job fair, etc.
It was a really nice atmosphere….
but, the stress was there, since after the completion of the round, 50% of participants would be eliminated.

After the results were announced, only about 40 people remained!

Round 2 was a bit less straightforward and trickier.
Competitors were given an Excel file of ~12,000 records of natural disasters throughout the world and they were asked to do something ‘creative and interactive’ with it.
It was a 1.5 hour round. The first 10-20 mins that everyone had puzzled faces…all thinking what could someone do with a bunch of statistics?
Eventually many interesting ideas came up … many faced issues importing the data into their databases as its size was quite larger than the default settings, so it was crashing their dbs and they had to do it through iterations.
Some created games, others trivia questions, others reporting and mapping, etc. Someone even made a game that goes like “Who do you hate most? where does he live? Nuke the country!”
I personally did a risk factor calculator based on probability of disaster from the statistics, along with a trivia game where you have to guess which country is more likely to have a disaster.
The idea was a bit boring maybe, but still interesting…the main thing was to calculate the risk probability of each country and then turn that into a game.

I found this round quite interesting and challenging … developers needed to come up with a concept real quick, then make it work, and make sure it looked nice!

IMG_5624_resize
Coders coding …

The end of this round was even more stressful as only 14 developers would remain for round 3.
In round 1, it was easy to tell if you did well or not, but in this round, no one had a clue what others did and how their ideas/creations compared to the others.

After another break, with primary discussions being “what did you do?” and many “my database crashed trying to import all those records”, the results were announced.
The remaining 14 were chosen and the last round started.

Round 3, the last, asked us to do an interface where the user chooses one of the MENA countries, then the app would get the top played songs in this country from last.fm‘s online radio API along with the album pictures.
The user can then click on a song name and play its video directly from Youtube.
It’s actually a small & fun app.
The main trick was to research and understand the API documentations of last.fm and youtube, and then learn how to use them to make the app work (with of course, some nice design) in the given timeframe.
This round was 2.5 hours.
Many were able to do what is required, the final differentiating points were on how usable the app is, how well it is designed, and how smooth it worked.
I found this round relatively easy, specially with the couple of the tips given to us.
I had never worked with either of the APIs but managed to finished this round in barely 1 hour.
I think the tips shouldn’t have been given and maybe adding few extra bonus point requirements could have made things more challenging.

You can check what I did by clicking here.

Round 3 challenge
Round 3 challenge

After the round was over, the next break was nothing but stress for all developers as they awaited the final results.
The room got packed and the winners were announced:

Andre Abi Haidar;
Abdo Achkar;
Hasan Arous;
Ahmad Mousawi

The Winners
The Winners

The winners received cash prizes, and will be representing Lebanon at the grande finale during the ArabNet Digital Summit 2014.

I was very pleased with the result since I encouraged Andy (Andre) to participate, and he turned out to be the winner.
My scores were not part of the general scoring so they weren’t officially ranked to leave room for new developers to win each year.
But, as a self-challenge,I was quite happy on how I stood in the competition and that I had one of the highest scores in each round (with a full score in round 3).
I also met many new interesting people.

Summary:
great job Arabnet,
looking forward for next year’s event!

 

 

The question papers:
(thanks to Roc Khalil for sending me these since I forgot mine!)

Developer tournament challenge round 1
Developer tournament challenge round 2

Developer tournament challenge round 3

 

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