over-competitiveness = wasted talent

i dont mean youre wasting your talent if you compete too much.

yesterday i wrote a computer language in 25 minutes. its not much of a computer language; it has 4 commands with 2 parameters each. it doesnt have a recursive parser. it does demonstrate parsing, interpreting, output, math, variable setting, and variable reference. (an additional line posted elsewhere demonstrates compiling.)

competition can be useful– without having written this thing, i probably wouldnt think you could create a competition to create a programming language in an hour or two, or that such a competition could yield anything very interesting. but i think it has potential.

then i realized, that maximizing the usefulness of that competition would come down to how the thing was judged– i dont just mean that the most impressive entry would get first place; i mean that the criteria that put one entry at the top might not reflect the strength or merit of other entries. this isnt just about whether the other entries get a fair enough shake– its about getting the most out of discovering what people can do. each entry may have unique characteristics that dont get it to the top, but are still valuable. multiple axes (both pre-chosen and ad hoc) should allow at the very least, honorable mentions to showcase ideas that are unique and have potential.

otherwise the point of the competition– to reveal talent– would be inefficiently (even mostly) squandered: most of the talent you were looking for would go to waste. now how often do we do that sort of thing in daily life? i figure we are wasting at least half the talent out there, not on the fact that we sort it, but in the method and lack of sophistication in how we evaluate it. sometimes we are too caught up in “whats best” to appreciate that “best” often means a variety of (different) things, and a single measure will only do if we are happy to evaluate things poorly. wed do better to go from “whats best?” to “whats best for what?” and from there to “whats best for… what else?”




4 thoughts on “over-competitiveness = wasted talent

  1. I think to some extent, it can also be a matter of application. Some things certainly make poor programming practice, as they bloat code without adding anything useful. Programming tends to revolve around application, so there are definitely some axes that can be used. At the same time, someone with bloated code might be thinking about the problem in a different way and – with some helpful insights – be able to clear up their mess and make something useful with it. It’s sort of like cooking. There are many ways to cook with different flavors and spices, but there is certainly such a thing as “bad cooking”, even if that means going to the extent of burning the food to ash.

    The approaches people use can sometimes be better suited to other tasks. That doesn’t mean people can’t create a language, but I’d be more interested in the kinds of Grammar people wanted more than How they decided to implement it in some other bizarre language. This isn’t an axe for the competition, but it would go to show people’s creativity and imagination. Python didn’t earn any awards for list comprehension, but people love that structure. I find it convenient but often unreadable. Different strokes for different folks. That said, perhaps in a competition, people should get honorable mention for aiming for a useful syntax, even if their implementation of their parser was poor.


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