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Code Anthem Beta Review

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What is Code Anthem?


Are you tired of working for "Information Architects" who are full of hot air, but couldn't piece together a basic for loop to save themselves? Have you ever been passed up for a raise or a promotion, or even just independence, because your non-technical managers couldn't tell who was doing the real work?
At Code Anthem, we offer you a way to prove your programming skills with our labs and share your results. We rank you against other developers who've taken the test, so your score is meaningful.


Concept wise, it holds great promise. You're given five programming problems to solve and then you're rated against everyone who took the test. The online judge is similar to TopCoder but with less specific error information (more on this later).

I know it is in beta testing right now, but there are some serious issues that need to be resolved:

1. Zero Feedback on how you did aside from a numerical score

Well, which ones did I miss? What particularly did I miss? One possible scenario brought up in the feedback section was unit tests. It would be possible for your code to function correctly save for one test. Not to mention the instructions were vague on some of the problems I encountered:

i.e. "reverse a string word by word". Well what exactly does that mean? Ideally I could just reverse regularly since doing it piecemeal lands you at the exact same place as doing it the "regular way". How does the judge check this? The site says it's based on correctness, which to me, says end product is what is important.

2. Error messages are often incomplete

The site encourages working out the problems in your IDE before submitting. I had a few situations where I forgot to rename the parameters appropriately which results in a rejection. That's all fine and dandy, but the auto submit regardless after the first error message needs to be refined. Especially if it results in zero points because you had a lingering semicolon, misspelling, etc...

3. It is not clear what factors into your score

We know that the code does, but what about elapsed time? The how to page mentions it could take anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour, but is moot on whether or not that has an impact on your final score. There were several times during a test that something more urgent came up and I just left it idle. Not sure if I was dinged for that.

4. Adaptive questions?

I would like to know if I went "up" or "down" the difficulty chain after getting a new question. This could kill two birds with one stone since it would indicate whether or not you answered the previous problem correctly.

5. Lack of languages

This one probably shouldn't be on the list since it isn't "urgent", but considering that the only two lamnguages on the site currently are Java and C#, some diversity would be nice. The items above would need to be resolved before adding Python, C, or C++, taking into account how important feedback and error messages are in those languages.

Overall, I like the concept of the site. Unfortunately it falls into the same category as any online test or certification that isn't backed by a large corporation or other reputable entity: relevance and applicability. If Microsoft, Cisco, or CompTIA didn't back their respective certs, would anyone want to get them? Would employers see them as a positive addition to a prospective candidate? Probably not. Having that said, I'm looking forward to see what Code Anthem can accomplish.

4 Comments On This Entry

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11 August 2010 - 07:10 PM
Thank you for the review KYA, I will be sure to keep an eye on this.


13 August 2010 - 04:08 PM
i didnt like it very much, topcoder, uva, and spoj still win out.


13 August 2010 - 05:31 PM
I didn't particularly care for it. I got a 1/10 on Java on fairly simple questions. I don't understand what went into the score. Until some improvements are made into a better scoring system (if it is based on a normal distribution, show me the statistics), then it isn't something that seems to be worthwhile.


21 August 2010 - 01:16 AM
Yeah, I'm scratching my head over the scoring, too, I scored a perfect 0/10 on Java. Guess I've been wasting my time these past 6 years or so. With no explanation of what you did wrong, it's difficult to figure out what went haywire. I mean, I verified my solutions under Eclipse, why did Code Anthem no like them?

Now, it might be because it's beta after all, and I probably did lollygag too much, if indeed time is a factor (unknown, since FAQ is quiet on this). Still, the concept is intriguing and I look forward to trying again under a different user name. Given the pool of questions it might be too easy to game the system, so I'm not sure how accurate the scores really are, and ultimately what use they'd be to potential employers. I think I still prefer a white board and being able to explain my approach to live human beings. If the filter is going to be a 0-10 scale on an automated system, I guess I'm screwed.

Worth a second look though, I'm optimistic.
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