In praise of tweaking

Last spring I wrote an article for interactions magazine, the official magazine of SIGCHI, the ACM’s Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction. My paper was about the MATLAB Online Programming Contest, which I’ve mentioned in this space a few times. You can’t get the article from the interactions website without an ACM membership, but my copyright release form allows me to put a copy here, which I’ve finally gotten around to doing. So here you go. As seen in the May/June 2004 issue of interactions, In Praise of Tweaking: A Wiki-like Programming Contest (PDF).

On first hearing how the Wikipedia site works, people are often scornful, incredulous, or simply dismissive. It can’t possibly work. How could it? Similarly, the MATLAB online programming contest is built upon an almost paradoxical premise: that a contest can be collaborative. Against all expectation, the back and forth drama of leaps and tweaks turns MATLAB programming into an entertaining spectator sport…