Kaggle: people, we’ve gamified progress

Updated: Oct 8, 2020

Kaggle Competition Master? That has a nice ring to it, I say.


It’s never enough for engineers like Andrey Lukyanenko, they tend to be a people that always strive for perfection: “Grand master would be better!”


He tells me the way it’s calculated. It’s one big competition and when the period ends, there are a certain number of people awarded each of the gold, silver and bronze medal tiers.


“It normally depends on the number of people who take part in the competition.”


He received 2 gold and 1 silver to be awarded competition master.


I find it interesting to note the award tiers have continued the Olympian tradition of medals - the award for expertise in sport - because they symbolically transfer the same degree of kudos; the engineers like Andrey perform mostly thankless, countless hours to train themselves (and their models), working normal jobs (he’s a data scientist) to solve problems unpaid.


I ask what it would take to become the Grand Champion; “5 gold medals, with at least one won in solo”.


What’s prevented you from this glorious title?


“I haven’t pursued it yet, to be honest because I thought I wouldn’t be prepared - so I didn’t spend a lot of time taking part.”


His normal 40 hour work week is sandwiched by coding before breakfast then rushing home to continue gratuitous work in the evenings.

“It’s a really interesting and unique competition and I thought I wanted to take part in it!”


Over 2-3 months, the length of competition, he *only* accrued about 200 hours.


“I spend time on Kaggle in the morning, after the job, on the weekends. A lot of free time goes towards these competitions.”


Do you win anything?


“Money goes to the top several places, I think the host of the competition decides. Perhaps somewhere between the top three and top ten places are paid.”


“Sometimes the prize pool is $5,000, sometimes 100,000.”


Assuming the prize pool is 100K and, say, the top ten split it, that’s an hourly wage of $50. Bear in mind that these victors are probably putting in more than Andrey’s “only 200 hours” and there are huge numbers of people that enter this competition, to leave unpaid.


What is your main motivation?


“I think there are several reasons. One of them is that there are currently a lot of people who want to be a data scientist, or who already are, so for success you need to be better than a lot of people.”


True.


Kaggle is one way you can prove these skills. To demonstrate that you can work consistently on one problem and dedicate the time to solving it.”