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Over-Optimizing for Performance
Recently on the csharp subreddit, the post C# 9.0 records: immutable classes linked to a surprisingly controversial article discussing how C# 9.0's records are, underneath it all, immutable classes. The comments are full of back-&-forth over whether one should use records for ease or structs for performance. The pro-struct argument revolved around the belief that performance should always be a developer's #1 priority, and anything less was the realm of the laggard. Here is a real-world example that shows with stark clarity why that kind of thinking is wrong. Consider the following scenario:
You're working on a game with dozens, maybe hundreds of people on the team; you don't know because when you were cross with facilities about them removing all the fluorescents, you got accused of being against the new energy saving initiative. Now you swim in a malevolent ocean of darkness that on some very late nights alone in the office, you swear is actively trying to consume you.
The team that preceded you inherited an engine that is older than OOP, when source repositories were stacks of 8-inch floppies, and it looked as if Jefferson Starship was going to take over the world. One year ago they bequeathed upon the company this nightmare of broken, undocumented GOTO spaghetti & anti-patterns. You're convinced this was their sadistic revenge for all getting fired post-acquisition.
Management denied your request to get headcount for an additional technical artist, but helpfully supplied you with an overly nervous intern. After several weeks working alongside them, you're beginning to suspect they're pursuing something other than a liberal arts degree.
Despite the many getting started guides you spent countless evenings writing, the endless brownbags nobody attended, and the daily dozen emails you forward to oppressively inquisitive artists comprised of a single passive-aggressive sentence suggesting they scroll down to the part that begins FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: RE: WE BROKE TOOL NEED WORKAROUND ASAP ...
...yes, despite all of that, the engineering team still spent days tracking down why the game kept crashing with Error 107221: У вас ошибка after re-re-re-re-re-throwing an ex_exception when it couldn't (and should never even try to) load a 16K-textured floor mat.
Despite your many attempts to politely excuse yourself, one blissfully unaware artist exhausts 48 minutes of your lunch break explaining how the Pitchfork review for the latest "dope slab" of this TikTok-Instagram-naphouse artist you never heard of was just sooooo unfair.
And then in their hurry to finish up & catch the 2:30 PM bus home, they forget to toggle Compress To CXIFF (Custom Extended Interchange File Format), set the Compression slider 5/6ths of the way between -3 & -2, look to their left, look to their right, click Export As .MA 0.9.3alpha7, and make absolutely, positively, 100% SURE not to be working in prod. And THAT is how the game explodicated.
You know better than anyone the intermediate file format the main game loop passes to Game.dll, memory mapping it as a reverse top-middle Endian binary structure.
You know for 381 of the parameter fields what their 2-7 character names probably mean.
YOU know which 147 fields always have to be included, but with a null value, and that the field ah_xlut must ALWAYS be set to 0 unless it's Thursday, in which case that blackbox from hell requires its internal string equivalent: TRUE.
YOU know that the two tech artists & one rapidly aging intern that report to you would totally overhaul tooling so artists would never "happen" again, but there just aren't enough winters, springs, summers, falls, July 4ths, Christmas breaks, Presidents Days, and wedding anniversaries in a year to properly do so.
And so somehow you do. A blurry evening or two here. A 3:00 AM there. Sometimes just a solitary lunch hour.
Your dog no longer recognizes you.
You miss your wife calling to say she's finally cleaning out the hall closet and if you want to keep this box of old cards & something in plastic that says Underground Sea Beta 9.8 Grade, you better call her back immediately.
And your Aunt Midge, who doesn't understand how SMS works, bombards you one evening: your father is... no longer with us... they found him... 1 week ago... in an abandoned Piggly Wiggly... by an old culvert... split up... he was then... laid down to rest... sent to St. Peter's... and your father... he's in a better place now... don't worry... it's totally okay... we decided we will all go... up to the mountain
You call your sister in a panic and, after a tidal wave of confusion & soul-rending anxiety, learn it was just Hoboken Wireless sending the messages out of order. This causes you to rapidly cycle.
On your bipolar's upswing, you find yourself more productive than you've ever been. Your mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention. It's like your brain is on 200mg of pure grade Adderall.
Your fingers ablaze with records, clean inheritance, beautiful pattern matching, bountiful expression syntax, aircraft carriers of green text that generate the most outstanding CHM for an internal tool the world has ever seen. Readable. PERFECTLY SOLID.
After much effort, you gaze upon the completed GUI of your magnum opus with the kind of pride you imagine one would feel if they hadn't missed the birth of their son. Clean, customer-grade WPF; tooltips for every control; sanity checks left & right; support for plugins & light scripting. It's even integrated with source control!
THOSE GODDAMNED ARTISTS CAN'T FAIL. YOUR PIPELINE TOOL WON'T LET THEM.
All they have to do is drag content into the application window, select an options template or use the one your tool suggests after content analysis, change a few options, click Export, and wait for 3-5 minutes to generate Game.dll-compatible binary.
Your optimism shines through the commit summary, your test plan giddy & carefree. With great anticipation, you await code review.
A week goes by. Then two. Then three. Nothing. The repeated pinging of engineers, unanswered.
Two months in you've begun to lose hope. Three months, the pangs of defeat. Four months, you write a blog post about how fatalism isn't an emotion or outlook, but the TRANSCENDENCE of their sum. Two years pass by. You are become apathy, destroyer of wills.
December 23rd, 2022: the annual Winter Holidays 2-hour work event. The bar is open, the Kokanee & Schmidt's flowing (max: 2 drink tickets). The mood a year-high ambivalent; the social distancing: acceptable. They even have Pabst Blue Ribbon, a beer so good it won an award once.
Standing beside you are your direct reports, Dave "Macroman" Thorgletop and wide-eyed The Intern, the 3 of you forming a triumvirate of who gives a shit. Dave is droning on & on about a recent family trip to Myrtle Beach. You pick up something something "can you believe that's when my daughter Beth scooped up a dead jellyfish? Ain't that something? A dead jellyfish," and "they even had a Ron Jons!"
You barely hear him, lost as you are in thought: "I wishIhad 2 days of vacation." You stare down ruefully at your tallboy.
From the corner of your eye you spot Milbert, index finger pointed upward, face a look of pure excitement.
"Did I tell you about my OpenWinamp project? It's up on SourceForge", he says as he strides over. It's unsettling how fast this man is.
Dave snickers. The Intern keeps staring wide-eyed. You position yourself somewhat close to the studio's 3 young receptionists, hoping they serve as a kind of ritual circle of protection.
It works... kind of. Milbert is now standing uncomfortably close to The Intern, Dave nowhere to be seen.
From across the room you distinctly hear "Think about it, the 1st-person UI could be Lua-driven Electron."
The Intern clearly understands that words are being spoken to them, but does not comprehend their meaning.
You briefly feel sorry for the sacrificial lamb.
You slide across the wall, putting even more distance between you & boredom made man. That's when you spot him, arrogantly aloof in the corner: Glen Glengerry. Core engineering's most senior developer.
Working his way up from a 16-year old game tester making $4.35 an hour plus free Dr. Shasta, to pulling in a cool $120K just 27-years later, plus benefits & Topo Chicos. His coding style guides catechism, his Slack pronouncements ex cathedra; he might as well be CTO.
You feel lucky your team is embedded with the artists. You may have sat through their meetings wondering why the hell you should care about color theory, artistic consistency, & debates about whether HSL or CMYK was the superior color space (spoiler: it's HSL), you were independent and to them, a fucking code wizard, man.
And there he stands, this pseudo-legend, so close you could throw a stapler at him. Thinning grey-blonde tendrils hanging down from his CodeWarrior hat, white tee with This Guy VIMs on the back, tucked into light blue jeans. He's staring out into the lobby at everything and yet... nothing all at.
Maybe it's the 4.8% ABV. Maybe it's the years of crushing down anger into a singularity, waiting for it to undergo rapid fiery expansion, a Big Bang of righteous fury. Maybe it's those sandals with white socks. Maybe it's all three. But whatever it is, it's as if God himself compels you to march over & give him a piece of your mind, seniority be damned.
"Listen, you big dumb bastard..."
That... is maybe a little too aggressive. But Glen Glengerry barely reacts. Pulling a flask out of his back pocket, he doesn't look over as he passes it to you.
Ugh. Apple Pucker.
"I thought bringing in your own alcohol was against company policy", wiping sticky green sludge from your lips. He turns with a look of pure disdain & snorts.
"You think they're going to tell ME what I can & can't bring in?" He grabs the flask back, taking a big swig.
For what feels like an eternity, you both stand in silence. You swallow, speaking softly. "None of you even looked at my code. I worked very, very hard on that. My performance review for that year simply read 'recommend performance improvement plan." The words need no further context.
"I know", Glen² replies. "That was me."
Now you're not a weak man, and maybe in some other circumstance you would have punched him in the goddamn lip. But you feel nothing, just a hollowness inside. "Why?", you ask, wondering if the answer would even matter.
"Because you don't use Bulgarian notation. Because your method names aren't lower camel case. Because good code doesn't require comments. Because you use classes & records over more performant structs, pointlessly burdening the heapstack. BECAUSE. YOUR CODE. IS. SHIT."
You clinch your fists so tightly the knuckles whiten.
He looks away from you, taking another sip of green goo. "You're not a coder. You're an artist masquerading as one" he speaks, as if it were fact.
The only thing artistic about you is the ability to create user-friendly internal tooling using nothing but a UI framework, broken down garbage nobody wants to touch, & sheer willpower. If your son's life depended on you getting accepted into art instruction school, you couldn't even draw a turtle.
He doesn't pause. "I'll champion ruthless micro-optimization until the day I die. But buddy, I'm going to let you in on a little secret: you aren't here to improve workflow. You're here to LOOK like you're doing something NOBODY else can."
He goes on. "What do you think those artists are going to do when they have to stare at a progress bar for 4, 5 minutes? They're going to complain your tool is slow."
"Sure, it may take them 20, 30 minutes to do it the old way, there'll be an error, and either they'll stare at it for 30 minutes before adding that missing semi-colon or they'll come get you. And you'll fix it. And 1 week later, they won't remember how. And you'll stay employed. And every. Body. Wins."
A little bit of the pride, the caring, wells back up inside from somewhere long forgotten.
"You don't think we should care about rapid application development & KISS, quickly getting things out that help our team, instead devoting ourselves to shaving off ticks here & there? What do you think artists are going to do with those 4 minutes you talk about?
You don't stop. "I'll tell you what they'll do. They'll 9GAG for 20 minutes straight. They'll listen to podcasts about dialectical materialism vis-a-vis the neo-feudalism that is a natural extension of the modern world's capitalist prison. They'll Reddit."
His silence gives you the bravery to push the limits.
"Christ, man. Are you only in it for the $120K..."
He corrects you: "...$123K."
"...only in it for the $123K/year? The free snacks from the microkitchen? The adulation? Have you no sense of comraderie?? No desire to push us to something better?! No integrity?!!!"
His eyes sharply narrow, face creases in anger. You clearly have overstepped your bounds.
"You thinkIdon't have integrity? No sense of teamwork? I'm only in it for the cold cash? You think I don't care about you all?", he roars.
A light volley of small green flecks land on your face.
"Why do you think they made a 16-year old tester the lead developer of a 1993 Doom clone?! Because my code was clean & painless to work with?! Because I made coding look easy?! No! IT WAS BECAUSE I WAS A GOD TO THEM.
And from a God, a PANTHEON. We built monuments to over-engineering! We crafted that of 7 weeks onboarding, that of immortal bugs, demonic hosts spawned by legion from the very loins of a fix. It took 2 years before a developer could BEGIN to feel confident they knew what they were doing. And by that time, they were one of US!
You think the team we laid off November '19 was fired because they were bad at their jobs? NO! It was because they worked themselves out of one. They didn't leave us a broken pipeline. They left an internal Wiki, a wealth of tools & example projects, and a completely transparent code base.
We couldn't have THAT, now could we? No, we couldn't. So we got rid of it. ALL OF IT. Poof. Gone. Just like that. Before anyone even knew a THING."
He leans forward, so close his psoriasis almost touches yours. With an intensity that borders on frightening, he whispers "You think they left us Game.dll? I fucking *MADE** Game.dll."*
The words hit hard like a freight train.
And without another word, he turns & leaves. You're left there, alone, coworkers milling about, with only one thought.
Were one to get a hobby, should it be cocaine?
It's these kinds of situations that make me believe there are far more important considerations than a ruthless dedication to performance, even in the game industry as my real-world scenario so clearly demonstrates.
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Seekers Beyond the Shroud is a Solo modern day occult RPG, written by Alex T. for Blackoath Entertainment. I first stumbled upon it on Kickstarter in October of 2019, and immediately backed it. There are few deliberately designed Solo RPG's, and its promise of solo rules, robust system, and setting was irresistible. I received my print copy this summer, but haven't had a chance until recently to play it. Now that I have, I wanted to do a quick review of the game, based on both my reading of it as well as the couple of sessions I've been able to play. While most of the review will be discussing the book itself, I'll include some notes on my play experience in spoilers. Layout and Design The book itself is solid. The cover image is cool and evocative--and the art in general is very well done. I only backed at the softcover level, but it's a solid and well designed layout. Actually, better than some of the recent games I've bought from more established companies. Setting It's modern day London. Your character has gone through some traumatic and horrifying experience that awakened them to the greater supernatural world. After much searching, you have come to the Omphalos, a secret town populated by mystics, monsters, and other...things. There, you begin your journey of both personal enlightenment and personal power. Character Creation Seekers uses the 6 classic attributes--Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, and Charisma, with Will replacing Wisdom. The scale is from 1-20, with all starting at 10. You then get an additional 20 points to further customize your character. I ended up putting my points into Dexterity, Will, Intelligence, and Charisma. I figured Will and Intelligence are key to any aspiring wizard, and--desiring to do something different than a rogue bad ass--I was hoping that Dexterity and Charisma would give me options to solve issues with something other than direct violence. This would become an issue later on. Next, you have "Secondary Attributes"--Hit Points (Con x10) or Sanity (Int x10) and the like. Then, you have Skills. They're pretty much what you would expect, a mix of combat and non-combat. You have 250 points to spend on the skills, but are limited to no more than 50 in any skill at creation. Some skills have a base value derived from your attributes (for example, One-Handed Melee starts with a value equal to your Str+Dex, while Persuade starts with a value equal to your Charisma X2), while other skills--the mystical ones--begin at 0 and can only be increased through gameplay. If you use a skill 5 times, you can make a Skill-Up roll. If you roll above the current value (i.e.: fail), you add 1 point to the skill. Given that I had a decent Dex, my combat skills were decent to begin with. I wanted to play an "ordinary joe" kind of character, so I spend my points on skills like Technology, Linguistics, and Persuade. I finally caved to my min/maxing tendencies though, and ended up boosting Parry and Sneak as high as I could, with a smattering of points in other combat skills. I had quite a few in the mid-40's, so my "mild mannered accountant" was surprisingly dangerous. Or so I thought. Backgrounds After the basics are done, you roll a d10 for your Background. Each provides and in-depth backstory for your character, and details the traumatic and often horrific moment that set you on the path of magic. Each also provides various penalties and bonuses that further modify your character. I rolled the "Near Death Experience"--my PC was a workaholic who almost dies of a heart attack. While "dead," he encounter a horrific spirit that he just barely managed to evade. Upon waking, he through aside his career and sought out some explanation for what he had seen. He has a bonus to Psychic Combat--which is used in the Astral Plane--but a penalty to his Constitution and Charisma. I had left my Con at 10, so it dropped to 9, and my Hit Points also dropped from 100 to 90. I wasn't worried though, as I had intended to be more sneaky and charming than tough. He said foreshadowingly. Combat Combat is relatively simple. As you approach a foe, you make an Initiative roll on a d20. Each foe has a static Initiative value; if you beat it, you go first and if not, then they do. If you beat them on the first turn, you have a chance to surprise or avoid them entirely. All combat rolls are done by the player. If an enemy attacks, you need to make a defensive roll (Parry, Dodge, or Find Cover) to avoid their attack, and you make your offensive roll (like One Handed Melee) to hit them. Certain foes are Veterans, and apply penalties to these rolls. Different types of weapons do different amounts of damage--like 2d10+10 for a pistol. In the intro adventure, the PC gains a "talent" that grants them a flat +25 to their damage from then on. Most foes have roughly 100-130 Hit Points, so even with the player bonus, it can take quite a few rounds to get through even minor enemies. The Mystical World The next few sections are some of the most interesting, describing the Astral World, Magic, Summoning and Binding Spirits, and the like. I haven't had a chance to really dig into this aspect of the game, however. The Omphalos and Scenarios The core of the game is the Omphalos, a hub of trade, commerce, knowledge and intrigue. Here the PC can buy and sell gear, learn new knowledge, encounter the strange denizens of this world, and get missions for various factions. There are four listed in the book, each with their own agendas and philosophy. Each has constant need for "foot soldiers" to do various unsavory tasks for them, and as you gain Favor with each, they provide various bonuses and spells and other benefits. >! So, I finished the intro scenario, had some knowledge of the greater world, and had been introduced to the Omphalos. Time for the first "real" adventure! First, I roll on the Emphalos Daily Event table and got "quiet day"--things are calm today, and prices are low. I have only a few obols (the currency of the magical realm), so any discount is nice. Then I roll for Encounters, and get "pickpocket." There's no roll to avoid this, so my PC loses 100 obols. This is more than I have, so I am no broke. Desperate for work, I see who is hiring. There are 4 factions, and each might have a represented in town that day, based on a roll of 7+ on a D10. I roll for each, and only one is present, the Causa Scientiae a particularly rational and Order focused faction. I then roll for the Scenario--I get "recover." One of their artifacts has fallen into mortal hands and is in a museum. They want me to recover it for them. Given the setup, there will only be mortal guards--which is nice--and they don't want me to kill anyone. In fact, each guard I kill will cost me the possible Favor reward with the faction. Works for me--I don't want to kill anyone either.!< I could refuse job, but risk losing Favor with them. Given that they are the only ones hiring today, I'm loathe to refuse. Plus the job seems up my alley--no magics needed (and I have none), and I should avoid all combat. Since other types of mission are "kill everything on site" or "kill everything and cast a really tough ritual" I figure I'm unlikely to get a better mission. Next I go to the scenario design. There are a number of possible locations, and each has a unique setup, Events, and Discoveries. This is probably my favorite part of the game. I roll some dice, get a list of rooms and locations, and then create a simple map for my explorations. I know given the setup that the artifact in question will be discovered in the 16th room. But, a roleplayer is gonna roleplay, so I decide my PC will make a beeline for the Archives, assuming that the object surely must be there. And, if not, it will have the necessary paperwork showing where the object is. Each room has unique odds for three different types of encounters--Enemies, Events, and Discoveries. I begin at the Entrance, and have no enemies but an Event reveals Drug Fueled Goons--apparently the guards here are all high as hell, and have a bonus of 20 to their Hit Points, but a -10 to combat. So, tougher to kill, but easier to hit and avoid. The next room I enter is the Lobby, and there's a guard present. The guard rules state that they will attack on site. I could use an alternate rule that lets you talk past human-type foes but, well, I am breaking in and they are all drugged the hell up, so I stick with the basic rules. Still, I try to avoid them but fail in my starting initiative roll. The battle begins, and the dice are on my side. It's a running gun battle, but I'm able to kill the guard. When he's wounded, he calls for backup, and the dice gods are still smiling at me, and I make it through that battle without any injuries. I'm upset at my failure to avoid combat--and losing Favor with my client--but after some nasty battles in the intro adventure, I start to think I'm getting things sorted out. I continue exploring and even manage to successfully sneak past a guard. As I'm exploring one of the administration offices, I run into another one. This time I can't avoid him, and another fight ensues. This time, the dice don't roll so well. He quickly gets the better of me, and I end up taking a lot damage. And with only 90 Hit Points, it's far more than I'm comfortable with. I decide to run. To run away, you need to roll a D20 and, like initiative, and beat their Dexterity but even still they get a free attack on you. Not that it matters, as I fail to disengage. After two rounds spent trying to run away, my PC is shot dead on some secretaries desk and my game came to a close. Concluding Thoughts Seekers Beyond the Shroud is a very interesting game. Obviously, a ton of thought, love, and work has been poured into this game. And there is a lot I love about it--the world, the discussions on magic and spirits, the mission setup system--all top notch. But, there are some things that didn't quite work for me.
Skill resolution. The binary pass/fail doesn't really interest me, particularly for a Solo game. This is purely a personal preference, however.
Skill improvement. 5 usage of skills or 5 combats (for combat skills) to have the chance to increase a skill by 1%? Character progression seems like it would be glacial. Not that I would know, since...
Combat is brutal, and tedious. Not only does even simple combat take several rounds (each requiring an Initiative Roll, a defense roll, an offense roll, and various damage rolls), but they are fairly generic without a chance to meaningfully do anything different or interesting. Also, while the game embraces an "old school" philosophy that not all fights should be fought, this runs counter to both the Scenario design (where "kill all foes" is a pretty common goal), and the System itself. Combat is assumed, after all, and avoiding it requires two separate rolls, neither of which will have a more than 50% chance, at best, of success. And failing either results in combat which requires sheer luck to disengage from.
The Scenario and the system felt...disjointed. This is another purely subjective point, I'll concede, but I didn't like how I had to "dungeon crawl" my way through the Museum. I like the idea of a museum unknowingly having a mystical artifact and my ex-accountant having to figure out how to steal it, without killing anyone. I'd love to do a solo game where I need to assemble a crew to try and help me (can I trust them?), try to locate where the artifact is, do some recon, plan the heist, try to get and get out without drawing attention. Sounds like a fun heist game that could at any moment fall apart. Walking around room by room killing guards didn't seem to do the setup justice.
Failure. Failure needs to be part of any game system, because otherwise it's not really a "game." And death is the ultimate failure, which gives combat meaning. But there has to be a middle ground between "you can't fail" and "oh, you didn't roll significantly better than average for the past 8 dice rolls, so your character is dead and the game is over." I don't know how to square this particular circle.
I'll probably give the game another shot. But, instead of playing an average guy awakening to a wider world, I'll probably go with a more "badass" character and hope he can survive the first few missions. In Seekers, knowing ancient languages is nice, but real mages know how to use a Glock. TLDR Seekers Beyond the Shroud is an interesting Solo RPG of modern occult shenanigans. it has a lot of very interesting and fun mechanics to bring the game to life, but suffers from some bad editing (make sure you play through the intro scenario or you WILL miss a key "PC Bonus") and an unforgiving system. Still, worth checking out for any Solo gamer interested in more contemporary game.
So excited Can't sleep Options plus leverage Love when autistic leverage an absolutely null awareness of risk reward the righteous. Join me in Sueing @RobinHoodClassAction in your spare time. They are dirty they do shady unethical things like counter party risk against the other platform they also own. While not allowing. You to enter it exit a position Ah or PM but I.digress. make a separate piece for that later. Heheem Step 1. Use abuse worthless broker the aforementioned. With as much leverage as will not set off there risk assessment team. For example voldemortTicker U an then E plus C . We are not allowed to say . Makes mods bum bums sore. They reject your script off rip. Once theta decayed on calls an price fell below 93 cents. You could purchase an even better write options for 1 dollar an 10 cents, expiring in as little as one week for 1 dollar. That's right trade 100 shares for 1 dollar. So naturally I grabbed 250 for the 20th of this month. An then more for the next 2 consecutive months out. I had to pay 10 dollars per contract bc, I have no patients but not relevant. Step 2. Make sure there is an event of non tech analysis origins that will move price one way or the other. *note this doesn't even necessarily have to be in your favor direction. You don't have to be insane or extra and look for a binary outcome like myself. Honestly I was aggrevated an looking for a way to be pretty after multiple PDT suspension the 3rd wasn't even my fault. Anyways you sell for as little as one dollar more than you payed then you double down. Till you get. Txt saying we are closing your position or deposit funds. Example of event . Us in 2019 decided to limit the supply of yellow cakes from foreign power. Global demand is constant or increasing. Step 3. I like the added insurance of volatility of using a Mico cap. 300m or less. Fellow NPC an employees at the scam or company will decide my fate. Not some nasty market maker killing momentum to collect HTB an weekend. Margin. Nor hedge funds that positions by the Quarter. Who buy or sell side institutions catching a hair across the ass. My outcome is bc you worthless NPC panic sold or brave heart avingers assemble hold the linens held the Line!!!!!!! In Unison- So yes why you Wana rinse an repeat. They have all these bogus Greek letters that destroy your position based on price time an baloney. It's better to take a little piece an start mixing a bigger pie An you can do long short . Straddle or strangle her while you hit her from the back. Rule of thumb price of contract falls more than 20% in one day and your not the one purchasing get rid of it. Give that opportunity to the next man live to fight another day. I totally forgot what I was saying maybe some one in the comments will sumorize for me. Last point about scaling. It helps you find instead of picking a top or a bottom. Just increasing the time you have until you push the buy buttons does miracles. Already holding a few is like getting your mourning fix no fomo sickness no chasing. Yolo with finesse ya savages an buy my #stonk cheaper than. I did your welcome NPC
Retard Bot Update 2: What is there to show for six months of work?
What is there to show? Not shit, that's why I made this pretty 4K desktop background instead: 4K On the real: I've been developing this project like 6 months now, what's up? Where's that video update I promised, showing off the Bot Builder? Is an end in sight? Yes sort of. I back-tested 6 months of data at over 21% on a net SPY-neutral, six month span of time (with similar results on a 16 year span) including 2 bear, 2 bull, 2 crab months. But that's not good enough to be sure / reliable. I had gotten so focused on keeping the project pretty and making a video update that I was putting off major, breaking changes that I needed to make. The best quant fund ever made, the Medallion fund, was once capable of roughly 60% per year consistently, but in Retard Bot's case 1.5% compounded weekly. "But I make 60% on one yolo" sure whatever, can you do it again every year, with 100% of your capital, where failure means losing everything? If you could, you'd be loading your Lambo onto your Yacht right now instead of reading this autistic shit.
The End Goal
1.5% compounded weekly average is $25K -> $57M in 10 years, securing a fairly comfortable retirement for your wife's boyfriend. It's a stupidly ambitious goal. My strategy to pull it off is actually pretty simple. If you look at charts for the best performing stocks over the past 10 years, you'll find that good companies move in the same general trajectory more often than they don't. This means the stock market moves with momentum. I developed a simple equation to conservatively predict good companies movements one week into the future by hand, and made 100%+ returns 3 weeks in a row. Doing the math took time, and I realized a computer could do much more complex math, on every stock, much more efficiently, so I developed a bot and it did 100% for 3 consecutive weeks, buying calls in a bull-market. See the problem there? The returns were good but they were based on a biased model. The model would pick the most efficient plays on the market if it didn't take a severe downturn. But if it did, the strategy would stop working. I needed to extrapolate my strategy into a multi-model approach that could profit on momentum during all different types of market movement. And so I bought 16 years of option chain data and started studying the concept of momentum based quantitative analysis. As I spent more and more weeks thinking about it, I identified more aspects of the problem and more ways to solve it. But no matter how I might think to design algorithms to fundamentally achieve a quantitative approach, I knew that my arbitrary weights and variables and values and decisions could not possibly be the best ones.
Why Retard Bot Might Work
So I approached the problem from all angles, every conceivable way to glean reliably useful quantitative information about a stock's movement and combine it all into a single outcome of trade decisions, and every variable, every decision, every model was a fluid variable that machine learning, via the process of Evolution could randomly mutate until perfection. And in doing so, I had to fundamentally avoid any method of testing my results that could be based on a bias. For example, just because a strategy back-tests at 40% consistent yearly returns on the past 16 years of market movement doesn't mean it would do so for the next 16 years, since the market could completely end its bull-run and spend the next 16 years falling. Improbable, but for a strategy outcome that can be trusted to perform consistently, we have to assume nothing. So that's how Retard Bot works. It assumes absolutely nothing about anything that can't be proven as a fundamental, statistical truth. It uses rigorous machine learning to develop fundamental concepts into reliable, fine tuned decision layers that make models which are controlled by a market-environment-aware Genius layer that allocates resources accordingly, and ultimately through a very complex 18 step process of iterative ML produces a top contender through the process of Evolution, avoiding all possible bias. And then it starts over and does it again, and again, continuing for eternity, recording improved models when it discovers them.
The Current Development Phase
Or... That's how it would work, in theory, if my program wasn't severely limited by the inadequate infrastructure I built it with. When I bought 16 years of data, 2TB compressed to its most efficient binary representation, I thought I could use a traditional database like MongoDB to store and load the option chains. It's way too slow. So here's where I've ended up this past week: It was time to rip off the bandaid and rebuild some performance infrastructure (the database and decision stack) that was seriously holding me back from testing the project properly. Using MongoDB, which has to pack and unpack data up and down the 7 layer OSI model, it took an hour to test one model for one year. I need to test millions of models for 16 years, thousands of times over. I knew how to do that, so instead of focusing on keeping things stable so I could show you guys some pretty graphs n shit, I broke down the beast and started rebuilding with a pure memory caching approach that will load the options chains thousands of times faster than MongoDB queries. And instead of running one model, one decision layer at a time on the CPU, the new GPU accelerated decision stack design will let me run hundreds of decision layers on millions of models in a handful of milliseconds. Many, many orders of magnitude better performance, and I can finally make the project as powerful as it was supposed to be. I'm confident that with these upgrades, I'll be able to hit the goal of 60% consistent returns per year. I'll work this goddamn problem for a year if I have to. I have, in the process of trying to become an entrepreneur, planned project after project and given up half way through when it got too hard, or a partner quit, or someone else launched something better. I will not give up on this one, if it takes the rest of the year or five more. But I don't think it'll come to that. Even with the 20% I've already achieved, if I can demonstrate that in live trading, that's already really good, so there's not really any risk of real failure at this point. But I will, regardless, finish developing the vision I have for Retard Bot and Bidrate Renaissance before I'm satisfied.
NOTE: I'm pasting this guide from where I originally found it, over on Studentloandefaulters. It was originally pasted there from someone who found it after the original was deleted.
Student Loan Default: The Guide (reuploaded)
📷 The original guide that was recently deleted here:https://www.reddit.com/studentloandefaulters/comments/cg1fd7/student_loan_default_a_guide/ I take no credit for this post, just happened to have it saved in a document and thought I'd be doing an injustice by not sharing this information once I saw the original post was missing! All credit goes to the original author, and without further ado... Student Loan Default: A Guide I’ve been wanting to write this for a long time, and seeing that person be in $500,000 of debt and no one really helping him on studentloans, I felt it was time to summarize everything I’ve learned. While there is great information on this sub, it is not centralized. It requires some digging. I hope now to bring all of it to the surface. Definitions: Strategic Default: When a borrower realizes that he or she can spend less money by not paying a loan. The borrower waits out the statute of limitations and then either settles or waits the debt out. Shills: People who are paid to prevent the spread of student loan default information Statute of Limitations: The number of years your state requires before a debt can no longer be collected. Cosigner: The poor person who is just as legally required to pay your loans as you are Foreign Earned Income Tax Exclusion: A tax rule that states any US citizen can earn up to about $100,000 a year in another country and report their US taxes as 0. Fraudulent Transfer: When a party tries to move assets to someone else in order to avoid a lien on their property. Lien: Essentially when the government slaps a bill onto your property forcing you to pay off a debt before you can sell the property. Income Based Repayment (IBR): Federal loans can be paid with 15% of your discretionary income (money earned after taxes) instead of a higher, unpayable amount Aggregate Student Loan Limit: The total amount a student can take out before the federal government or a private lender stops authorizing new loans Wage Garnishment: When a court forces your employer to take out a certain percentage of your paycheck to pay back a debt Bank Levy: When the government or a court takes all of the money directly out of your bank account to pay a debt Private Loans: Loans that originate from anyone but the federal government. These loans have a statute of limitations and less power but higher interest rates. Federal Loans: These loans have no statute of limitations, the government can collect anything you earn to get these back, and they come with IBR which is manageable Sallie Mae: The worst private lender on the market. They only offer deferment for four short years. Forbearance: A period where you do not have to pay your student loans, but interest accrues. Deferment: A period where you do not have to pay your student loans, but interest does not accrue. Credit Score: A number that tells people how responsible of a borrower you are. Student Loan Tax Bomb: After you have paid for 10 - 25 years on your federal loans, you are forgiven the rest. That is considered income by the IRS. You then add this “income” to your regular income for the year and pay the tax. It can be over $10,000. Insolvency: When you are unable to pay your debts. This works well for defusing the student loan tax bomb. Public Service Loan Forgiveness: If you work for 10 years at a government job, you can get your entire federal student loan balance forgiven. In 2019, the feds are making it near impossible to collect. This could change. A note on cosigners before we begin: Look, your cosigner is probably going to be very mad at you. Prepare for your relationship to be strained. You need to try and get them on the same page as you, and I do offer a tactic here to at least shift all of the financial burden off of your cosigner below. If you decide to do any of these tactics without getting your cosigner off the hook, there could be more risk involved if you or your cosigners have a lot of assets. Strategy Student loan default is a strategy. And to have a good strategy, one must plan as much as possible. You have to know all of your options. While strategy is your overall game plan, tactics are the individual options you have to get your strategy accomplished. Below are the tactics that you can employ to beat the student loan companies. Tactics Paying Your Loans: [low risk] In the rare chance you have anywhere between $1,000 to $20,000 in federal student loans and you have completed your bachelor’s degree, you should probably just pay the damn loans. All you have to do is set up an auto debit and forget about it. It will be about 15% of your income. You really want to try and avoid consolidating if you can, because it will count against some of your IBR payments. You would also lose your grace period if you did this. At the end of 10 to 25 years, you will be forgiven all of the loan amount you did not pay. That forgiven amount is considered income by the IRS, so you will be put into a higher tax bracket. I would get an accountant when this comes. In your case, your tax bomb will be low enough where you could probably just pay it. If you want to really shake things up though, you are welcome to try either the Asset Creation Tactic or the Madlad Method below. Here is more information on Income Based Repayment: https://www.studentdebtrelief.us/repayment-plans/income-based-repayment-plan/ Default Private IBR Federal (Staying Put): [low risk] The standard strategy here on studentloandefaulters. As mentioned above, for the federal loans, it’s best to just IBR and automatically debit your bank account each month and forget about it. For the private loans, this is where the game begins. Your overall plan here is to default, wait out the statute of limitations in your home state, and either settle the debt for less than 30% or just hope they leave you alone and you don’t pay at all. From this moment on, whatever you would have paid for your private monthly bill, sock that money away. Once you go past 120 days of no payments, you are in default. This is where the phone calls come in. They will start to harass you. They will call your work, your cell phone, your cosigner, etc relentlessly. Most likely, they’ll start doing this before you get to default. As they call you, you can either just give them the cold shoulder or start immediately acting like you do not own the debt. Never admit that you own the debt. Tell them you think they are crazy and have the wrong person. Inform your cosigner to do the same. Once your loans are sold to a collection agency, wait until they call you and ask for verification of the debt. If they do not provide it, you won. Chances are, they will be able to verify it, so just make sure you never admit to the debt on the phone or make a payment. If you make a payment, you’ll reset the statute of limitations. Do not give them five dollars, two dollars, a penny. If they do sue you, show up for court. Get a lawyer if you can afford it. You have to show up to court, or they win automatically. Even if you don’t have a lawyer in court, you need to make them verify the debt. You could still lose here. If you do lose in court, go to my tactic of “The Cat and Mouse Game.” They are playing a numbers game, and if you are harder to sue than John Smith down the street, they may prey on him or her instead of you. Now, there are four states in the United States that do not have wage garnishment: Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas. You could move there, and if you have barely any assets, you are considered judgement proof. This means you’re not worth the time to be sued, because you have nothing to take and cannot be garnished. Moving is hard, though, so that’s a personal decision. Also, from what I understand, if you do move to these states, you can switch your statute of limitations over to their states which may be less time until you cannot be sued anymore. If you do lose and just want to stop here, you could get your bank levied and you could be slapped with up to a 25% wage garnishment until paid in full Clarification: a lot of people do not ever get garnished, and bank levies are rare (they are non-existent on federal loans). Do not let this freak you out!. I repeat this is super rare and not likely to happen. Anyways, you have options at this point. If it does happen, try another tactic like leave the country or cat and mouse below. Default Private Default Federal: [medium risk] Some of the wilder people have attempted to default on both federal and private loans in order to do a cash settlement. The same strategy above in Default Private IBR Federal applies, but realize that the US government could just step in and do an administrative garnish on you eventually. If you were living some sort of cash existence, you could potentially avoid them and then write them a money order and settle for 30% or something. This way, you avoid the tax bomb and would probably pay a lot less interest overall. If you do this and it works, I would love to hear about it. Cat and Mouse: [medium risk] So, you want to avoid getting sued or you lost a judgement? You don’t have to sit back and take it. u/nowaysalliemae has successfully avoided being sued by essentially going on the run. You see, to be sued successfully, they need to know where you work. If you get sued, move to another state, and switch jobs, they have to do the entire process over again! This means find you, verify the debt, sue you, etc. You can essentially do this until your statute of limitations runs out. And then, you dispute the debt on your credit score. They take it off at that point, and you just saved a lot of money. I decided to put this as medium risk, because moving around a lot would require some luck. Especially since you would need to work wherever you go, there are a lot of moving parts here. I think it is totally doable, and if you are an adventurous personality type, it could be a lot of fun. This only works for the private student loan side, because the US government has a lot more power. You would still IBR your federal loans on this tactic. For more information, go through nowaysalliemae's post history. Leave the Country: [medium risk] What if you want to avoid all of this altogether? Do you want a reset button on your life? You can just leave the country and start over. Seriously. Your credit score does not follow you across countries. The federal government cannot garnish your paycheck if you work internationally. You are not a criminal doing this. Furthermore, there is something called the Foreign Earned Income Tax Exclusion. Since you will still IBR your federal loans on this plan, as long as you make less than $100,000 in another country, your US income is zero. This means you just got a free education while you make money in another country. Once you pay zero for 25 years, you will have to defuse your student tax bomb. Tactic Below. Private companies do not stand a chance here. There are countries in the commonwealth such as Australia and Canada that are more willing to take you in if you meet certain requirements. You could teach English at a bunch of places. You could apply for residency at these places or be a perpetual tourist. A perpetual tourist is someone who essentially moves to a new country, goes to a neighboring country for a weekend, and then goes back to that new country they are trying to start a new life in*. This in no means you have to go back to the U.S. Ever. For example, you want to live in Panama forever, every 90 days, you take a weekend trip to Nicaragua. You come back to Panama after the weekend is over and get another 90 day pass. Rinse and repeat. This gives you another 90 days in your country of choice. If you make money on the internet, this strategy would work pretty well. You can just be a perpetual tourist or marry someone in another country and start a new life. This will not be a good fit for everyone, but there’s something exciting about this. If you are young, single, and restless, this could be the adventure of a lifetime. Here's more info on being a perpetual traveler and the FEIE: https://www.escapeartist.com/blog/perpetual-traveler-us-tax-code/ Suspend Payment Without More Debt: [low risk] So recently, it has been brought to my attention that there is a community college, Luna Community College (in Las Vegas, NM), that has tuition so low you could go half time all year for about 684 dollars. They have a small amount of associate's degrees. If you just want to stop paying without taking any more loans, this would be the way to do it. You could do this for many years. Luna Community College's tuition matrix: https://luna.edu/tuition_matrix Convert Private Loans to Federal: [low risk] From this point on, these are my special tactics I’ve been thinking about. They might work really well for some people. So, you have a bunch of federal loans and a good amount of private loans. You don’t want to fight debt collectors or move around. Try this. This plan only works if you have a bachelor’s degree though. Anyways, there is a special loan offered by the US Federal Government called the Graduate Plus Loan. This loan is incredible, because there is no aggregate student loan limit. In other words, you can borrow as much money as you want here. Even a million dollars no questions asked. All you need is no delinquency or default on your credit report. If you do have these things, you can get a cosigner in on the plan. They won’t ever be responsible anyways because you will defuse the tax bomb at the end. This works to your advantage, because you could go back to school at the graduate level, get a diploma mill master’s degree online, use your room and board payment to start paying off your private loans ASAP. Just make sure you are doing whatever your school considers half time enrollment in order to avoid student loan payments while doing this. Once you’ve gone to school long enough and converted all of your private loans to grad plus loans, you could just go on an IBR plan. This will at least make your life manageable. You would have to defuse your student tax bomb once this is over. Tactic below. Convert Federal Loans to Private: [medium risk] So, what if you wanted to go the opposite way? Maybe you want to convert all of your federal loans to private ones, default, and then leave the country? Hey, maybe there are reasons you want to hurry up the settlement process. You could essentially do the same strategy as above, but instead just borrow from Sallie Mae, Wells Fargo, etc until all of your federal loans are paid off. Then, either cat and mouse or leave the country. I don’t think a lot of people would find a use for this, but hey who knows? Asset Creation Method: [high risk] What if you wanted to not just pay off your loans but get ahead in life? Maybe you feel like using your student loan debt to your advantage. Thanks to the work done by u/BinaryAlgorithm, you could really come out on top here. Remember those Grad Plus loans we were talking about? Well, there’s nothing stopping you from continually borrowing all year on these loans, investing the room and board, and acting as if you do not have the debt in the first place. While I had originally said that rental property does not count as income, I cannot find any documentation proving this. You can still invest this money however you want, and you just defuse the tax bomb at the end (if anyone can find that documentation, please let me know). I did find that rental properties offer a lot of ways to reduce your adjusted gross income (management fees, advertising, etc), and these could reduce your income closer to zero. We’re not done here. Moreover, you could get a job that qualifies for Public Student Loan Forgiveness, enjoy your investments, and then pay for the 10 years. Be sure to convert all loans to federal before starting this tactic. I only put this as high risk, because the whole plan falls apart if Grad Plus loans get capped. Will they? Probably not, because those are the loans doctors and lawyers take out to go to their professional schools. It would take an act of congress to change the way the law stands now, but still, you should know that. This plan spans decades, so a lot can change. Also, having this many installment loans may lower your credit score over a multitude of years, but based on what everyone has found out here, it's not by much. For more information, go to this subreddit's search bar and type in "aggregate" and go look at BinaryAlgorithm's two posts on the subject. Defusing the Student Tax Bomb: [low risk] So lucky for you, I talked to an actual lawyer and an actual IRS agent about this. This is completely legal and doable. Okay, so you were a good person and paid your IBR for 25-30 years. What now? Well, you’re about to be hit hard with a tax bomb. All of that money that is now forgiven counts as income on your taxes. This could mean a bill in the tens of thousands if you combined this with any of the other methods here—or just borrowed a lot to begin with. Luckily for us, there is something called insolvency. This means you are unable to pay your debts, and there is a really simple formula for whether or not you are insolvent. As long as you have more liabilities than assets at the time of student loan forgiveness, you are considered insolvent. In other words, right before you are about to be forgiven, like year 24 out of 25, you would take out a loan on something. All you would need to do is buy a house, buy a car, or buy something with a huge price tag. As long as your liabilities are way higher than your assets (like aim for 100K or something more), you are considered insolvent and you don’t have to pay any of the tax bomb. Boom. The IRS agent said this is fine. The lawyer said this is fine. I cannot believe this is fine. Where could you get the money to borrow for a house? Check Asset Creation method above. You could always sell the asset after the tax bomb is dealt with. For more information on defusing the student loan tax bomb: https://lawyerist.com/defusing-student-loan-interest-tax-bomb/ Getting Your Cosigner Off the Hook: So 90% of us have cosigners based on some statistic I read. These people are going to pissed at you, because they get harassed. If you have a lot of time to plan your strategy out, you can simply convert all of your private loans to federal ones. They are no longer responsible. The plan is above. Check out “Convert Private Loans to Federal.” Furthermore, if you are attempting to go the default route with private loans, you could potentially get your cosigner off the hook by refinancing your student loans without the cosigner. After you refinance, you could just default then. You would need good credit and meet certain requirements for this. Also, if you plan on defaulting, you might want to get your cosigner to transfer their assets to their spouse or someone trustworthy. Even though liens are rare, this could give you some peace of mind. As long as about 3-5 years go by, this is no longer considered a fraudulent transfer. Your state will have certain rules about this. If you are from Florida, apparently houses are untouchable there. You will need a lawyer to plan the asset transfer. At the same time, you may not be able to get your cosigner off the hook. Make peace with that. Student loans are brutal, so all you can really do is educate yourself and your cosigner and hope you come out on top. Madlad Method: [high risk] Now, here comes my personal plan. This is what I’m doing, because I want to live a life on my terms and not really work for anyone my entire life. I’m also not a normal person, so this will probably appear crazy to some or most of you. So at this point, if you understand all of the methods before you, you are a powerful player in the student loan circus. You can do anything from fight the man to maliciously comply and bankrupt the system while becoming upper-middle class. I don’t really care for any of that. I want to go to a tropical paradise and make music for 20 years, so here is my interpretation of everything. I have some federal loans and private loans. I net about 25K a year through the Grad Plus loans, and I work about 4 hours a week in the online classroom. I take that federal loan money, and I sock away a few hundred every month to save up for my private loan settlement in about five years. Since I save 300 every month, I’ll have about 18K in 5 years when I go into default. I will settle ASAP. At the same time, I will continue to go to diploma mill universities, get master's degree after master’s degree, and move to a Latin American country where the cost of living is even lower. This way, my 25K a year puts me in the upper class of that country. I can live where I want and really do whatever I damn well please for as long as the Grad Plus loans are around. As an added bonus, I will already be starting a new life in another country where I can make connections and maybe even get married. I studied linguistics, so I know how to teach English. I can do that if I want a source of income anywhere. So there is my plan, and honestly, one day we might get someone in office who just wipes out all of this debt anyways. If that’s the case, I can just play the waiting game until all of this is over. Here are the rules on adverse credit history and Grad Plus loans: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/sites/default/files/plus-adverse-credit.pdf Final Thoughts: Defaulting on student loans is not immoral or a sin. It is a business decision. Everyone else gets bailouts, why should student borrowers be any different? You’re going to have to ignore the people who tell you why they think you should be a good little slave and pay your loans. Those people are not your friends. Those people are not on your side. Some of the best advice I ever received in life was you have to do what’s best for you. Also, if you have anything you would like to add to this or would like to challenge, please let me know. I want this to be as accurate as possible. I will be looking at this perpetually to make sure there are no errors. Take care. Good luck. You can do this.
Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Swaps* (*But Were Afraid To Ask)
Hello, dummies It's your old pal, Fuzzy. As I'm sure you've all noticed, a lot of the stuff that gets posted here is - to put it delicately - fucking ridiculous. More backwards-ass shit gets posted to wallstreetbets than you'd see on a Westboro Baptist community message board. I mean, I had a look at the daily thread yesterday and..... yeesh. I know, I know. We all make like the divine Laura Dern circa 1992 on the daily and stick our hands deep into this steaming heap of shit to find the nuggets of valuable and/or hilarious information within (thanks for reading, BTW). I agree. I love it just the way it is too. That's what makes WSB great. What I'm getting at is that a lot of the stuff that gets posted here - notwithstanding it being funny or interesting - is just... wrong. Like, fucking your cousin wrong. And to be clear, I mean the fucking your *first* cousin kinda wrong, before my Southerners in the back get all het up (simmer down, Billy Ray - I know Mabel's twice removed on your grand-sister's side). Truly, I try to let it slide. Idomybit to try and put you on the right path. Most of the time, I sleep easy no matter how badly I've seen someone explain what a bank liquidity crisis is. But out of all of those tens of thousands of misguided, autistic attempts at understanding the world of high finance, one thing gets so consistently - so *emphatically* - fucked up and misunderstood by you retards that last night I felt obligated at the end of a long work day to pull together this edition of Finance with Fuzzy just for you. It's so serious I'm not even going to make a u/pokimane gag. Have you guessed what it is yet? Here's a clue. It's in the title of the post. That's right, friends. Today in the neighborhood we're going to talk all about hedging in financial markets - spots, swaps, collars, forwards, CDS, synthetic CDOs, all that fun shit. Don't worry; I'm going to explain what all the scary words mean and how they impact your OTM RH positions along the way. We're going to break it down like this. (1) "What's a hedge, Fuzzy?" (2) Common Hedging Strategies and (3) All About ISDAs and Credit Default Swaps. Before we begin. For the nerds and JV traders in the back (and anyone else who needs to hear this up front) - I am simplifying these descriptions for the purposes of this post. I am also obviously not going to try and cover every exotic form of hedge under the sun or give a detailed summation of what caused the financial crisis. If you are interested in something specific ask a question, but don't try and impress me with your Investopedia skills or technical points I didn't cover; I will just be forced to flex my years of IRL experience on you in the comments and you'll look like a big dummy. TL;DR? Fuck you. There is no TL;DR. You've come this far already. What's a few more paragraphs? Put down the Cheetos and try to concentrate for the next 5-7 minutes. You'll learn something, and I promise I'll be gentle. Ready? Let's get started. 1.The Tao of Risk: Hedging as a Way of Life The simplest way to characterize what a hedge 'is' is to imagine every action having a binary outcome. One is bad, one is good. Red lines, green lines; uppie, downie. With me so far? Good. A 'hedge' is simply the employment of a strategy to mitigate the effect of your action having the wrong binary outcome. You wanted X, but you got Z! Frowny face. A hedge strategy introduces a third outcome. If you hedged against the possibility of Z happening, then you can wind up with Y instead. Not as good as X, but not as bad as Z. The technical definition I like to give my idiot juniors is as follows: Utilization of a defensive strategy to mitigate risk, at a fraction of the cost to capital of the risk itself. Congratulations. You just finished Hedging 101. "But Fuzzy, that's easy! I just sold a naked call against my 95% OTM put! I'm adequately hedged!". Spoiler alert: you're not (although good work on executing a collar, which I describe below). What I'm talking about here is what would be referred to as a 'perfect hedge'; a binary outcome where downside is totally mitigated by a risk management strategy. That's not how it works IRL. Pay attention; this is the tricky part. You can't take a single position and conclude that you're adequately hedged because risks are fluid, not static. So you need to constantly adjust your position in order to maximize the value of the hedge and insure your position. You also need to consider exposure to more than one category of risk. There are micro (specific exposure) risks, and macro (trend exposure) risks, and both need to factor into the hedge calculus. That's why, in the real world, the value of hedging depends entirely on the design of the hedging strategy itself. Here, when we say "value" of the hedge, we're not talking about cash money - we're talking about the intrinsic value of the hedge relative to the the risk profile of your underlying exposure. To achieve this, people hedge dynamically. In wallstreetbets terms, this means that as the value of your position changes, you need to change your hedges too. The idea is to efficiently and continuously distribute and rebalance risk across different states and periods, taking value from states in which the marginal cost of the hedge is low and putting it back into states where marginal cost of the hedge is high, until the shadow value of your underlying exposure is equalized across your positions. The punchline, I guess, is that one static position is a hedge in the same way that the finger paintings you make for your wife's boyfriend are art - it's technically correct, but you're only playing yourself by believing it. Anyway. Obviously doing this as a small potatoes trader is hard but it's worth taking into account. Enough basic shit. So how does this work in markets? 2. A Hedging Taxonomy The best place to start here is a practical question. What does a business need to hedge against? Think about the specific risk that an individual business faces. These are legion, so I'm just going to list a few of the key ones that apply to most corporates. (1) You have commodity risk for the shit you buy or the shit you use. (2) You have currency risk for the money you borrow. (3) You have rate risk on the debt you carry. (4) You have offtake risk for the shit you sell. Complicated, right? To help address the many and varied ways that shit can go wrong in a sophisticated market, smart operators like yours truly have devised a whole bundle of different instruments which can help you manage the risk. I might write about some of the more complicated ones in a later post if people are interested (CDO/CLOs, strip/stack hedges and bond swaps with option toggles come to mind) but let's stick to the basics for now. (i) Swaps A swap is one of the most common forms of hedge instrument, and they're used by pretty much everyone that can afford them. The language is complicated but the concept isn't, so pay attention and you'll be fine. This is the most important part of this section so it'll be the longest one. Swaps are derivative contracts with two counterparties (before you ask, you can't trade 'em on an exchange - they're OTC instruments only). They're used to exchange one cash flow for another cash flow of equal expected value; doing this allows you to take speculative positions on certain financial prices or to alter the cash flows of existing assets or liabilities within a business. "Wait, Fuzz; slow down! What do you mean sets of cash flows?". Fear not, little autist. Ol' Fuzz has you covered. The cash flows I'm talking about are referred to in swap-land as 'legs'. One leg is fixed - a set payment that's the same every time it gets paid - and the other is variable - it fluctuates (typically indexed off the price of the underlying risk that you are speculating on / protecting against). You set it up at the start so that they're notionally equal and the two legs net off; so at open, the swap is a zero NPV instrument. Here's where the fun starts. If the price that you based the variable leg of the swap on changes, the value of the swap will shift; the party on the wrong side of the move ponies up via the variable payment. It's a zero sum game. I'll give you an example using the most vanilla swap around; an interest rate trade. Here's how it works. You borrow money from a bank, and they charge you a rate of interest. You lock the rate up front, because you're smart like that. But then - quelle surprise! - the rate gets better after you borrow. Now you're bagholding to the tune of, I don't know, 5 bps. Doesn't sound like much but on a billion dollar loan that's a lot of money (a classic example of the kind of 'small, deep hole' that's terrible for profits). Now, if you had a swap contract on the rate before you entered the trade, you're set; if the rate goes down, you get a payment under the swap. If it goes up, whatever payment you're making to the bank is netted off by the fact that you're borrowing at a sub-market rate. Win-win! Or, at least, Lose Less / Lose Less. That's the name of the game in hedging. There are many different kinds of swaps, some of which are pretty exotic; but they're all different variations on the same theme. If your business has exposure to something which fluctuates in price, you trade swaps to hedge against the fluctuation. The valuation of swaps is also super interesting but I guarantee you that 99% of you won't understand it so I'm not going to try and explain it here although I encourage you to google it if you're interested. Because they're OTC, none of them are filed publicly. Someeeeeetimes you see an ISDA (dsicussed below) but the confirms themselves (the individual swaps) are not filed. You can usually read about the hedging strategy in a 10-K, though. For what it's worth, most modern credit agreements ban speculative hedging. Top tip: This is occasionally something worth checking in credit agreements when you invest in businesses that are debt issuers - being able to do this increases the risk profile significantly and is particularly important in times of economic volatility (ctrl+f "non-speculative" in the credit agreement to be sure). (ii) Forwards A forward is a contract made today for the future delivery of an asset at a pre-agreed price. That's it. "But Fuzzy! That sounds just like a futures contract!". I know. Confusing, right? Just like a futures trade, forwards are generally used in commodity or forex land to protect against price fluctuations. The differences between forwards and futures are small but significant. I'm not going to go into super boring detail because I don't think many of you are commodities traders but it is still an important thing to understand even if you're just an RH jockey, so stick with me. Just like swaps, forwards are OTC contracts - they're not publicly traded. This is distinct from futures, which are traded on exchanges (see The Ballad Of Big Dick Vick for some more color on this). In a forward, no money changes hands until the maturity date of the contract when delivery and receipt are carried out; price and quantity are locked in from day 1. As you now know having read about BDV, futures are marked to market daily, and normally people close them out with synthetic settlement using an inverse position. They're also liquid, and that makes them easier to unwind or close out in case shit goes sideways. People use forwards when they absolutely have to get rid of the thing they made (or take delivery of the thing they need). If you're a miner, or a farmer, you use this shit to make sure that at the end of the production cycle, you can get rid of the shit you made (and you won't get fucked by someone taking cash settlement over delivery). If you're a buyer, you use them to guarantee that you'll get whatever the shit is that you'll need at a price agreed in advance. Because they're OTC, you can also exactly tailor them to the requirements of your particular circumstances. These contracts are incredibly byzantine (and there are even crazier synthetic forwards you can see in money markets for the true degenerate fund managers). In my experience, only Texan oilfield magnates, commodities traders, and the weirdo forex crowd fuck with them. I (i) do not own a 10 gallon hat or a novelty size belt buckle (ii) do not wake up in the middle of the night freaking out about the price of pork fat and (iii) love greenbacks too much to care about other countries' monopoly money, so I don't fuck with them. (iii) Collars No, not the kind your wife is encouraging you to wear try out to 'spice things up' in the bedroom during quarantine. Collars are actually the hedging strategy most applicable to WSB. Collars deal with options! Hooray! To execute a basic collar (also called a wrapper by tea-drinking Brits and people from the Antipodes), you buy an out of the money put while simultaneously writing a covered call on the same equity. The put protects your position against price drops and writing the call produces income that offsets the put premium. Doing this limits your tendies (you can only profit up to the strike price of the call) but also writes down your risk. If you screen large volume trades with a VOL/OI of more than 3 or 4x (and they're not bullshit biotech stocks), you can sometimes see these being constructed in real time as hedge funds protect themselves on their shorts. (3) All About ISDAs, CDS and Synthetic CDOs You may have heard about the mythical ISDA. Much like an indenture (discussed in my post on $F), it's a magic legal machine that lets you build swaps via trade confirms with a willing counterparty. They are very complicated legal documents and you need to be a true expert to fuck with them. Fortunately, I am, so I do. They're made of two parts; a Master (which is a form agreement that's always the same) and a Schedule (which amends the Master to include your specific terms). They are also the engine behind just about every major credit crunch of the last 10+ years. First - a brief explainer. An ISDA is a not in and of itself a hedge - it's an umbrella contract that governs the terms of your swaps, which you use to construct your hedge position. You can trade commodities, forex, rates, whatever, all under the same ISDA. Let me explain. Remember when we talked about swaps? Right. So. You can trade swaps on just about anything. In the late 90s and early 2000s, people had the smart idea of using other people's debt and or credit ratings as the variable leg of swap documentation. These are called credit default swaps. I was actually starting out at a bank during this time and, I gotta tell you, the only thing I can compare people's enthusiasm for this shit to was that moment in your early teens when you discover jerking off. Except, unlike your bathroom bound shame sessions to Mom's Sears catalogue, every single person you know felt that way too; and they're all doing it at once. It was a fiscal circlejerk of epic proportions, and the financial crisis was the inevitable bukkake finish. WSB autism is absolutely no comparison for the enthusiasm people had during this time for lighting each other's money on fire. Here's how it works. You pick a company. Any company. Maybe even your own! And then you write a swap. In the swap, you define "Credit Event" with respect to that company's debt as the variable leg . And you write in... whatever you want. A ratings downgrade, default under the docs, failure to meet a leverage ratio or FCCR for a certain testing period... whatever. Now, this started out as a hedge position, just like we discussed above. The purest of intentions, of course. But then people realized - if bad shit happens, you make money. And banks... don't like calling in loans or forcing bankruptcies. Can you smell what the moral hazard is cooking? Enter synthetic CDOs. CDOs are basically pools of asset backed securities that invest in debt (loans or bonds). They've been around for a minute but they got famous in the 2000s because a shitload of them containing subprime mortgage debt went belly up in 2008. This got a lot of publicity because a lot of sad looking rednecks got foreclosed on and were interviewed on CNBC. "OH!", the people cried. "Look at those big bad bankers buying up subprime loans! They caused this!". Wrong answer, America. The debt wasn't the problem. What a lot of people don't realize is that the real meat of the problem was not in regular way CDOs investing in bundles of shit mortgage debts in synthetic CDOs investing in CDS predicated on that debt. They're synthetic because they don't have a stake in the actual underlying debt; just the instruments riding on the coattails. The reason these are so popular (and remain so) is that smart structured attorneys and bankers like your faithful correspondent realized that an even more profitable and efficient way of building high yield products with limited downside was investing in instruments that profit from failure of debt and in instruments that rely on that debt and then hedging that exposure with other CDS instruments in paired trades, and on and on up the chain. The problem with doing this was that everyone wound up exposed to everybody else's books as a result, and when one went tits up, everybody did. Hence, recession, Basel III, etc. Thanks, Obama. Heavy investment in CDS can also have a warping effect on the price of debt (something else that happened during the pre-financial crisis years and is starting to happen again now). This happens in three different ways. (1) Investors who previously were long on the debt hedge their position by selling CDS protection on the underlying, putting downward pressure on the debt price. (2) Investors who previously shorted the debt switch to buying CDS protection because the relatively illiquid debt (partic. when its a bond) trades at a discount below par compared to the CDS. The resulting reduction in short selling puts upward pressure on the bond price. (3) The delta in price and actual value of the debt tempts some investors to become NBTs (neg basis traders) who long the debt and purchase CDS protection. If traders can't take leverage, nothing happens to the price of the debt. If basis traders can take leverage (which is nearly always the case because they're holding a hedged position), they can push up or depress the debt price, goosing swap premiums etc. Anyway. Enough technical details. I could keep going. This is a fascinating topic that is very poorly understood and explained, mainly because the people that caused it all still work on the street and use the same tactics today (it's also terribly taught at business schools because none of the teachers were actually around to see how this played out live). But it relates to the topic of today's lesson, so I thought I'd include it here. Work depending, I'll be back next week with a covenant breakdown. Most upvoted ticker gets the post. *EDIT 1\* In a total blowout, $PLAY won. So it's D&B time next week. Post will drop Monday at market open.
TLDR: FOLO out of $100,500 in potential profit. Learned to let my winners run and BUD trade as example! Hey all. First of all, I just want to throw out a disclaimer that I am by no mean an experienced, professional trader. In fact, I made my first option trade a little over a year ago and only started to take this seriously about 6 months ago. I recently hit a milestone in my pursuit of trading as a career so I decided that I would share some of the experiences I’ve gained in hope that maybe someone that’s looking to pursue this seriously can take from my limited experience to not make the same mistakes I made. It’s been a rough 2020 and hopefully by helping each other we’ll pull through this horrible year together. I don’t know how some of you guys are but to me the fear of losing out (FOLO) on a trade that you’re in is actually worse than the fear of missing out (FOMO) on a trade that you’ve missed due to a ridiculous run. The single most haunting FOLO trade I was involved in was during the week that TSLA had its crazy melt up in February 2020. The TSLA trade: Robinhood Trading History Trading Journal TSLA200207C900 Trade Flow TSLA200207C900 Chart I woke up to a notification from Robinhood that TSLA made a 10% pre-market run the morning of Monday, February 3, 2020. So the FOMO in me scrambled to login to Robinhood and scrolled through the option chain for a cheap weekly option. Decided on the $900 strike expiring that Friday and bought 10 option contracts at .11 per contract with a net debit of $110. The rest is pretty murky from memory but I remember within a matter of minutes, the option value went up to .29, then .35 then it quickly pulled back to .28 back to .25 and I frantically sold my option contracts for .23 which netted me a $230 credit. I made $120 in a matter of minutes and I was damn proud of myself. I spent the next few hours watching the stock run up and up and up by then I didn’t want to get back in because I needed to get ready for work and wouldn’t be able to monitor the action to sell it at the “right price”. I didn’t want to spend more money on another FOLO trade and risk it running back down and losing all the money that I had just made. So I begrudgingly got ready for work that evening. The next day, TSLA ran all the way past $900 to make all time high and I was stuck at work feeling like a dumbass. That option contract in particular ended that Tuesday trading day at 100.5 per contract or in theory I would have made $100,500. In theory and hindsight is always 20/20**.** What I learned from this trade was that FOLO is real and you’ll never be able to sell at the top. In hindsight, I could have just set a GTC sell price and be content with the profit I made or not. Months later, once I started to take trading more seriously: I listened to podcasts, read all the market wizards books, read the story of Jesse Livermore, watched various trading YouTube channels and compiled all of that experience together to apply them to my trades. The single most pivotal idea that I gathered from all of these experiences was that trading decisions should not be based on a single binary decision to buy or sell but rather it should be framed around the idea of “how do I extract the most value from this particular trade” (Let your winners run). I use this idea every day to help me structure most of my trades that I also track obsessively to help me make decisions that would optimize profit potential while limiting the risk of FOLO. This leads me to the BUD trade The BUD trade: TOS BUD Trade History Trading Journal BUD200918C55 Trade Flow This is the trade where I applied what I learned to manage the trade from beginning to end. However, at the very end I still managed a fumble and lost out on a potential gain of approximately $3300 had I followed my trading plan.
The opening trade was simple, I was looking for any companies that would benefit most from COVID yet still hadn’t recovered like most of the other companies at the time. I chose BUD because of these criterias and the strike price was about what it was trading at prior to COVID. Note: I was still learning and had not really learned to make trading decisions based on the Greeks. The trade was purely speculative along with the strike. However, I did start to track certain data for every at the point the trade is made for future analysis.
Early June most companies had major run ups and BUD was also one of the companies that benefited. Price improvement was up about 14% which consequently led the option prices to rise to about 2.5 - 3. However, I did not want to close out the trade and miss out on subsequent run-ups. I didn’t want to just sell half. I wanted to be in the entire trade the entire time without sacrificing too much profit gained. So, I sold the 60 strike to essentially convert my original call to a debit spread while at the same time I was able to collect $2180 which was approximately $630 in profit. This allowed me to stay in the trade and should BUD continue its run I would still have a maximum profit potential of 5000 remaining to collect.
By July BUD was ranging around $53 and so I decided to buy back the September 60 strike and sell the August 55 strike which converted my original trade to a Calendar spread. This allowed me to net an additional $700 in profit.
Mid July, I saw that BUD was still trading under $55 so I decided to sell 5 contracts of Credit Spread to capitalize on the lack of movement. The worst thing that could have happened was that it would skyrocket and I would have lost $600 from the original trade overall. Thankfully, it didn’t and I was able to buy the credit spread back for $10. Which yielded an additional $150 in profit.
Finally by the expiration date BUD was trading around $55 and I had to close out the trade or risk assignment on my short strike in August. I waited the entire day and frantically sold the calendar spread to essentially close out the entire trade which yielded an additional $1700.
Where I messed up was that I should have bought back the August 55 short strike and sold the September 60 strike for a small $150 additional profit. This would have converted the trade back to a 55/60 debit spread. In addition, this would have allowed me to remain in the trade for at least a couple of more weeks in case of a run up and I would still be able to collect the full remaining $5000. Last I checked, the debit spread would have sold for $3.75 which would have yielded $3750 instead of the $1700 from closing the trade as a calendar spread.
Another step for those that really want to stay til the end is to convert the debit spread into a credit spread to gain a larger profit if you believe that BUD will pull back under $60.
So, hopefully my experience helps those that are still learning to trade like I am. I know trading isn’t easy and it's all fun and game when we see people post massive gains on their YOLO trades. Just remember, for every trade with massive gains, there’s someone on the other side experiencing the same frustration for his/her massive losses. Good luck, everyone.
This post draws on my personal experiences and challenges over the past term at school, which I entered with hardly any knowledge of DSA (data structures and algorithms) and problem-solving strategies. As a self-taught programmer, I was a lot more familiar and comfortable with general programming, such as object-oriented programming, than with the problem-solving skills required in DSA questions. This post reflects my journey throughout the term and the resources I turned to in order to quickly improve for my coding interview. Here're some common questions and answers What's the interview process like at a tech company? Good question. It's actually pretty different from most other companies.
(What It's Like To Interview For A Coding Job
First time interviewing for a tech job? Not sure what to expect? This article is for you.
Here are the usual steps:
First, you’ll do a non-technical phone screen.
Then, you’ll do one or a few technical phone interviews.
Finally, the last step is an onsite interview.
Some companies also throw in a take-home code test—sometimes before the technical phone interviews, sometimes after. Let’s walk through each of these steps.
The non-technical phone screen
This first step is a quick call with a recruiter—usually just 10–20 minutes. It's very casual. Don’t expect technical questions. The recruiter probably won’t be a programmer. The main goal is to gather info about your job search. Stuff like:
Your timeline. Do you need to sign an offer in the next week? Or are you trying to start your new job in three months?
What’s most important to you in your next job. Great team? Flexible hours? Interesting technical challenges? Room to grow into a more senior role?
What stuff you’re most interested in working on. Front end? Back end? Machine learning?
Be honest about all this stuff—that’ll make it easier for the recruiter to get you what you want. One exception to that rule: If the recruiter asks you about your salary expectations on this call, best not to answer. Just say you’d rather talk about compensation after figuring out if you and the company are a good fit. This’ll put you in a better negotiating position later on.
The technical phone interview(s)
The next step is usually one or more hour-long technical phone interviews. Your interviewer will call you on the phone or tell you to join them on Skype or Google Hangouts. Make sure you can take the interview in a quiet place with a great internet connection. Consider grabbing a set of headphones with a good microphone or a bluetooth earpiece. Always test your hardware beforehand! The interviewer will want to watch you code in real time. Usually that means using a web-based code editor like Coderpad or collabedit. Run some practice problems in these tools ahead of time, to get used to them. Some companies will just ask you to share your screen through Google Hangouts or Skype. Turn off notifications on your computer before you get started—especially if you’re sharing your screen! Technical phone interviews usually have three parts:
Beginning chitchat (5–10 minutes)
Technical challenges (30–50 minutes)
Your turn to ask questions (5–10 minutes)
The beginning chitchat is half just to help your relax, and half actually part of the interview. The interviewer might ask some open-ended questions like:
Tell me about yourself.
Tell me about something you’ve built that you’re particularly proud of.
I see this project listed on your resume—tell me more about that.
You should be able to talk at length about the major projects listed on your resume. What went well? What didn’t? How would you do things differently now? Then come the technical challenges—the real meet of the interview. You’ll spend most of the interview on this. You might get one long question, or several shorter ones. What kind of questions can you expect? It depends. Startups tend to ask questions aimed towards building or debugging code. (“Write a function that takes two rectangles and figures out if they overlap.”). They’ll care more about progress than perfection. Larger companies will want to test your general know-how of data structures and algorithms (“Write a function that checks if a binary tree is ‘balanced’ in O(n)O(n) ↴ time.”). They’ll care more about how you solve and optimize a problem. With these types of questions, the most important thing is to be communicating with your interviewer throughout. You'll want to "think out loud" as you work through the problem. For more info, check out our more detailed step-by-step tips for coding interviews. If the role requires specific languages or frameworks, some companies will ask trivia-like questions (“In Python, what’s the ‘global interpreter lock’?”). After the technical questions, your interviewer will open the floor for you to askthemquestions. Take some time before the interview to comb through the company’s website. Think of a few specific questions about the company or the role. This can really make you stand out. When you’re done, they should give you a timeframe on when you’ll hear about next steps. If all went well, you’ll either get asked to do another phone interview, or you’ll be invited to their offices for an onsite.
The onsite interview
An onsite interview happens in person, at the company’s office. If you’re not local, it’s common for companies to pay for a flight and hotel room for you. The onsite usually consists of 2–6 individual, one-on-one technical interviews (usually in a small conference room). Each interview will be about an hour and have the same basic form as a phone screen—technical questions, bookended by some chitchat at the beginning and a chance for you to ask questions at the end. The major difference between onsite technical interviews and phone interviews though: you’ll be coding on a whiteboard. This is awkward at first. No autocomplete, no debugging tools, no delete button…ugh. The good news is, after some practice you get used to it. Before your onsite, practice writing code on a whiteboard (in a pinch, a pencil and paper are fine). Some tips:
Start in the top-most left corner of the whiteboard. This gives you the most room. You’ll need more space than you think.
Leave a blank line between each line as you write your code. Makes it much easier to add things in later.
Take an extra second to decide on your variable names. Don’t rush this part. It might seem like a waste of time, but using more descriptive variable names ultimately saves you time because it makes you less likely to get confused as you write the rest of your code.
If a technical phone interview is a sprint, an onsite is a marathon. The day can get really long. Best to keep it open—don’t make other plans for the afternoon or evening. When things go well, you’ wrap-up by chatting with the CEO or some other director. This is half an interview, half the company trying to impress you. They may invite you to get drinks with the team after hours. All told, a long day of onsite interviews could look something like this:
10am-12pm: two back-to-back technical interviews, each about an hour.
12pm-1pm: one or several engineers will take you to lunch, perhaps in the company’s fancy office cafeteria.
1pm-4pm: three back-to-back technical interviews, each about an hour.
4pm-5pm: interview with the CEO or some sort of director.
Code tests aren’t ubiquitous, but they seem to be gaining in popularity. They’re far more common at startups, or places where your ability to deliver right away is more important than your ability to grow. You’ll receive a description of an app or service, a rough time constraint for writing your code, and a deadline for when to turn it in. The deadline is usually negotiable. Here's an example problem: Write a basic “To-Do” app. Unit test the core functionality. As a bonus, add a “reminders” feature. Try to spend no more than 8 hours on it, and send in what you have by Friday with a small write-up. Take a crack at the “bonus” features if they include any. At the very least, write up how you would implement it. If they’re hiring for people with knowledge of a particular framework, they might tell you what tech to use. Otherwise, it’ll be up to you. Use what you’re most comfortable with. You want this code to show you at your best. Some places will offer to pay you for your time. It's rare, but some places will even invite you to work with them in their office for a few days, as a "trial.") Do I need to know this "big O" stuff? Big O notation is the language we use for talking about the efficiency of data structures and algorithms. Will it come up in your interviews? Well, it depends. There are different types of interviews. There’s the classic algorithmic coding interview, sometimes called the “Google-style whiteboard interview.” It’s focused on data structures and algorithms (queues and stacks, binary search, etc). That’s what our full course prepares you for. It's how the big players interview. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Oracle, LinkedIn, etc. For startups and smaller shops, it’s a mixed bag. Most will ask at least a few algorithmic questions. But they might also include some role-specific stuff, like Java questions or SQL questions for a backend web engineer. They’ll be especially interested in your ability to ship code without much direction. You might end up doing a code test or pair-programming exercise instead of a whiteboarding session. To make sure you study for the right stuff, you should ask your recruiter what to expect. Send an email with a question like, “Is this interview going to cover data structures and algorithms? Or will it be more focused around coding in X language.” They’ll be happy to tell you. If you've never learned about data structures and algorithms, or you're feeling a little rusty, check out our Intuitive Guide to Data Structures and Algorithms. Which programming language should I use? Companies usually let you choose, in which case you should use your most comfortable language. If you know a bunch of languages, prefer one that lets you express more with fewer characters and fewer lines of code, like Python or Ruby. It keeps your whiteboard cleaner. Try to stick with the same language for the whole interview, but sometimes you might want to switch languages for a question. E.g., processing a file line by line will be far easier in Python than in C++. Sometimes, though, your interviewer will do this thing where they have a pet question that’s, for example, C-specific. If you list C on your resume, they’ll ask it. So keep that in mind! If you’re not confident with a language, make that clear on your resume. Put your less-strong languages under a header like ‘Working Knowledge.’ What should I wear? A good rule of thumb is to dress a tiny step above what people normally wear to the office. For most west coast tech companies, the standard digs are just jeans and a t-shirt. Ask your recruiter what the office is like if you’re worried about being too casual. Should I send a thank-you note? Thank-you notes are nice, but they aren’t really expected. Be casual if you send one. No need for a hand-calligraphed note on fancy stationery. Opt for a short email to your recruiter or the hiring manager. Thank them for helping you through the process, and ask them to relay your thanks to your interviewers. 1) Coding Interview Tips How to get better at technical interviews without practicing Chitchat like a pro. Before diving into code, most interviewers like to chitchat about your background. They're looking for:
Metacognition about coding. Do you think about how to code well?
Ownership/leadership. Do you see your work through to completion? Do you fix things that aren't quite right, even if you don't have to?
Communication. Would chatting with you about a technical problem be useful or painful?
You should have at least one:
example of an interesting technical problem you solved
example of an interpersonal conflict you overcame
example of leadership or ownership
story about what you should have done differently in a past project
piece of trivia about your favorite language, and something you do and don't like about said language
question about the company's product/business
question about the company's engineering strategy (testing, Scrum, etc)
Nerd out about stuff. Show you're proud of what you've done, you're amped about what they're doing, and you have opinions about languages and workflows. Communicate. Once you get into the coding questions, communication is key. A candidate who needed some help along the way but communicated clearly can be even better than a candidate who breezed through the question. Understand what kind of problem it is. There are two types of problems:
Coding. The interviewer wants to see you write clean, efficient code for a problem.
"I have to at least look at all of the items, so I can't do better than O(n)O(n)."
"The brute force approach is to test all possibilities, which is O(n^2)O(n2)."
"The answer will contain n^2n2 items, so I must at least spend that amount of time."
Get your thoughts down. It's easy to trip over yourself. Focus on getting your thoughts down first and worry about the details at the end. Call a helper function and keep moving. If you can't immediately think of how to implement some part of your algorithm, big or small, just skip over it. Write a call to a reasonably-named helper function, say "this will do X" and keep going. If the helper function is trivial, you might even get away with never implementing it. Don't worry about syntax. Just breeze through it. Revert to English if you have to. Just say you'll get back to it. Leave yourself plenty of room. You may need to add code or notes in between lines later. Start at the top of the board and leave a blank line between each line. Save off-by-one checking for the end. Don't worry about whether your for loop should have "<<" or "<=<=." Write a checkmark to remind yourself to check it at the end. Just get the general algorithm down. Use descriptive variable names. This will take time, but it will prevent you from losing track of what your code is doing. Use names_to_phone_numbers instead of nums. Imply the type in the name. Functions returning booleans should start with "is_*". Vars that hold a list should end with "s." Choose standards that make sense to you and stick with them. Clean up when you're done. Walk through your solution by hand, out loud, with an example input. Actually write down what values the variables hold as the program is running—you don't win any brownie points for doing it in your head. This'll help you find bugs and clear up confusion your interviewer might have about what you're doing. Look for off-by-one errors. Should your for loop use a "<=<=" instead of a "<<"? Test edge cases. These might include empty sets, single-item sets, or negative numbers. Bonus: mention unit tests! Don't be boring. Some interviewers won't care about these cleanup steps. If you're unsure, say something like, "Then I'd usually check the code against some edge cases—should we do that next?" Practice. In the end, there's no substitute for running practice questions. Actually write code with pen and paper. Be honest with yourself. It'll probably feel awkward at first. Good. You want to get over that awkwardness now so you're not fumbling when it's time for the real interview. 2) Tricks For Getting Unstuck During a Coding Interview Getting stuck during a coding interview is rough. If you weren’t in an interview, you might take a break or ask Google for help. But the clock is ticking, and you don’t have Google. You just have an empty whiteboard, a smelly marker, and an interviewer who’s looking at you expectantly. And all you can think about is how stuck you are. You need a lifeline for these moments—like a little box that says “In Case of Emergency, Break Glass.” Inside that glass box? A list of tricks for getting unstuck. Here’s that list of tricks. When you’re stuck on getting started 1) Write a sample input on the whiteboard and turn it into the correct output "by hand." Notice the process you use. Look for patterns, and think about how to implement your process in code. Trying to reverse a string? Write “hello” on the board. Reverse it “by hand”—draw arrows from each character’s current position to its desired position. Notice the pattern: it looks like we’re swapping pairs of characters, starting from the outside and moving in. Now we’re halfway to an algorithm. 2) Solve a simpler version of the problem. Remove or simplify one of the requirements of the problem. Once you have a solution, see if you can adapt that approach for the original question. Trying to find the k-largest element in a set? Walk through finding the largest element, then the second largest, then the third largest. Generalizing from there to find the k-largest isn’t so bad. 3) Start with an inefficient solution. Even if it feels stupidly inefficient, it’s often helpful to start with something that’ll return the right answer. From there, you just have to optimize your solution. Explain to your interviewer that this is only your first idea, and that you suspect there are faster solutions. Suppose you were given two lists of sorted numbers and asked to find the median of both lists combined. It’s messy, but you could simply:
Concatenate the arrays together into a new array.
Sort the new array.
Return the value at the middle index.
Notice that you could’ve also arrived at this algorithm by using trick (2): Solve a simpler version of the problem. “How would I find the median of one sorted list of numbers? Just grab the item at the middle index. Now, can I adapt that approach for getting the median of two sorted lists?” When you’re stuck on finding optimizations 1) Look for repeat work. If your current solution goes through the same data multiple times, you’re doing unnecessary repeat work. See if you can save time by looking through the data just once. Say that inside one of your loops, there’s a brute-force operation to find an element in an array. You’re repeatedly looking through items that you don’t have to. Instead, you could convert the array to a lookup table to dramatically improve your runtime. 2) Look for hints in the specifics of the problem. Is the input array sorted? Is the binary tree balanced? Details like this can carry huge hints about the solution. If it didn’t matter, your interviewer wouldn’t have brought it up. It’s a strong sign that the best solution to the problem exploits it. Suppose you’re asked to find the first occurrence of a number in a sorted array. The fact that the array is sorted is a strong hint—take advantage of that fact by using a binary search. Sometimes interviewers leave the question deliberately vague because they want you to ask questions to unearth these important tidbits of context. So ask some questions at the beginning of the problem. 3) Throw somedata structuresat the problem. Can you save time by using the fast lookups of a hash table? Can you express the relationships between data points as a graph? Look at the requirements of the problem and ask yourself if there’s a data structure that has those properties. 4) Establish bounds on space and runtime. Think out loud about the parameters of the problem. Try to get a sense for how fast your algorithm could possibly be:
“I have to at least look at all the items, so I can’t do better than O(n)O(n) ↴ time”.
“The brute force approach is to test all possibilities, which is O(n^2)O(n2) time. So the question is whether or not I can beat that time.”
“The answer will contain n^2n2 items, so I must at least spend that amount of time.”
When All Else Fails 1) Make it clear where you are. State what you know, what you’re trying to do, and highlight the gap between the two. The clearer you are in expressing exactly where you’re stuck, the easier it is for your interviewer to help you. 2) Pay attention to your interviewer. If she asks a question about something you just said, there’s probably a hint buried in there. Don’t worry about losing your train of thought—drop what you’re doing and dig into her question. Relax. You’resupposedto get stuck. Interviewers choose hard problems on purpose. They want to see how you poke at a problem you don’t immediately know how to solve. Seriously. If you don’t get stuck and just breeze through the problem, your interviewer’s evaluation might just say “Didn’t get a good read on candidate’s problem-solving process—maybe she’d already seen this interview question before?” On the other hand, if you do get stuck, use one of these tricks to get unstuck, and communicate clearly with your interviewer throughout...that’s how you get an evaluation like, “Great problem-solving skills. Hire.” 3) Fixing Impostor Syndrome in Coding Interviews “It's a fluke that I got this job interview...” “I studied for weeks, but I’m still not prepared...” “I’m not actually good at this. They’re going to see right through me...” If any of these thoughts resonate with you, you're not alone. They are so common they have a name: impostor syndrome. It’s that feeling like you’re on the verge of being exposed for what you really are—an impostor. A fraud. Impostor syndrome is like kryptonite to coding interviews. It makes you give up and go silent. You might stop asking clarifying questions because you’re afraid they’ll sound too basic. Or you might neglect to think out loud at the whiteboard, fearing you’ll say something wrong and sound incompetent. You know you should speak up, but the fear of looking like an impostor makes that really, really hard. Here’s the good news: you’renotan impostor. You just feel like an impostor because of some common cognitive biases about learning and knowledge. Once you understand these cognitive biases—where they come from and how they work—you can slowly fix them. You can quiet your worries about being an impostor and keep those negative thoughts from affecting your interviews.
Everything you could know
Here’s how impostor syndrome works. Software engineering is a massive field. There’s a huge universe of things you could know. Huge. In comparison to the vast world of things you could know, the stuff you actually know is just a tiny sliver: That’s the first problem. It feels like you don’t really know that much, because you only know a tiny sliver of all the stuff there is to know.
The expanding universe
It gets worse: counterintuitively, as you learn more, your sliver of knowledge feels like it'sshrinking. That's because you brush up against more and more things you don’t know yet. Whole disciplines like machine learning, theory of computation, and embedded systems. Things you can't just pick up in an afternoon. Heavy bodies of knowledge that take months to understand. So the universe of things you could know seems to keep expanding faster and faster—much faster than your tiny sliver of knowledge is growing. It feels like you'll never be able to keep up.
What everyone else knows
Here's another common cognitive bias: we assume that because something is easy for us, it must be easy for everyone else. So when we look at our own skills, we assume they're not unique. But when we look at other people's skills, we notice the skills they have that we don't have. The result? We think everyone’s knowledge is a superset of our own: This makes us feel like everyone else is ahead of us. Like we're always a step behind. But the truth is more like this: There's a whole area of stuff you know that neither Aysha nor Bruno knows. An area you're probably blind to, because you're so focused on the stuff you don't know. We’ve all had flashes of realizing this. For me, it was seeing the back end code wizard on my team—the one that always made me feel like an impostor—spend an hour trying to center an image on a webpage.
It's a problem of focus
Focusing on what you don't know causes you to underestimate what you do know. And that's what causes impostor syndrome. By looking at the vast (and expanding) universe of things you could know, you feel like you hardly know anything. And by looking at what Aysha and Bruno know that you don't know, you feel like you're a step behind. And interviews make you really focus on what you don't know. You focus on what could go wrong. The knowledge gaps your interviewers might find. The questions you might not know how to answer. But remember: Just because Aysha and Bruno know some things you don't know, doesn't mean you don't also know things Aysha and Bruno don't know. And more importantly, everyone's body of knowledge is just a teeny-tiny sliver of everything they could learn. We all have gaps in our knowledge. We all have interview questions we won't be able to answer. You're not a step behind. You just have a lot of stuff you don't know yet. Just like everyone else. 4) The 24 Hours Before Your Interview
Feeling anxious? That’s normal. Your body is telling you you’re about to do something that matters.
The twenty-four hours before your onsite are about finding ways to maximize your performance. Ideally, you wanna be having one of those days, where elegant code flows effortlessly from your fingertips, and bugs dare not speak your name for fear you'll squash them. You need to get your mind and body in The Zone™ before you interview, and we've got some simple suggestions to help. 5) Why You're Hitting Dead Ends In Whiteboard Interviews
The coding interview is like a maze
Listening vs. holding your train of thought
Finally! After a while of shooting in the dark and frantically fiddling with sample inputs on the whiteboard, you've came up with an algorithm for solving the coding question your interviewer gave you. Whew. Such a relief to have a clear path forward. To not be flailing anymore. Now you're cruising, getting ready to code up your solution. When suddenly, your interviewer throws you a curve ball. "What if we thought of the problem this way?" You feel a tension we've all felt during the coding interview: "Try to listen to what they're saying...but don't lose your train of thought...ugh, I can't do both!" This is a make-or-break moment in the coding interview. And so many people get it wrong. Most candidates end up only half understanding what their interviewer is saying. Because they're only half listening. Because they're desperately clinging to their train of thought. And it's easy to see why. For many of us, completely losing track of what we're doing is one of our biggest coding interview fears. So we devote half of our mental energy to clinging to our train of thought. To understand why that's so wrong, we need to understand the difference between what we see during the coding interview and what our interviewer sees.
The programming interview maze
Working on a coding interview question is like walking through a giant maze. You don't know anything about the shape of the maze until you start wandering around it. You might know vaguely where the solution is, but you don't know how to get there. As you wander through the maze, you might find a promising path (an approach, a way to break down the problem). You might follow that path for a bit. Suddenly, your interviewer suggests a different path: But from what you can see so far of the maze, your approach has already gotten you halfway there! Losing your place on your current path would mean a huge step backwards. Or so it seems. That's why people hold onto their train of thought instead of listening to their interviewer. Because from what they can see, it looks like they're getting somewhere! But here's the thing: your interviewer knows the whole maze. They've asked this question 100 times. I'm not exaggerating: if you interview candidates for a year, you can easily end up asking the same question over 100 times. So if your interviewer is suggesting a certain path, you can bet it leads to an answer. And your seemingly great path? There's probably a dead end just ahead that you haven't seen yet: Or it could just be a much longer route to a solution than you think it is. That actually happens pretty often—there's an answer there, but it's more complicated than you think.
Hitting a dead end is okay. Failing to listen is not.
Your interviewer probably won't fault you for going down the wrong path at first. They've seen really smart engineers do the same thing. They understand it's because you only have a partial view of the maze. They might have let you go down the wrong path for a bit to see if you could keep your thinking organized without help. But now they want to rush you through the part where you discover the dead end and double back. Not because they don't believe you can manage it yourself. But because they want to make sure you have enough time to finish the question. But here's something they will fault you for: failing to listen to them. Nobody wants to work with an engineer who doesn't listen. So when you find yourself in that crucial coding interview moment, when you're torn between holding your train of thought and considering the idea your interviewer is suggesting...remember this: Listening to your interviewer is themostimportant thing. Take what they're saying and run with it. Think of the next steps that follow from what they're saying. Even if it means completely leaving behind the path you were on. Trust the route your interviewer is pointing you down. Because they can see the whole maze. 6)How To Get The Most Out Of Your Coding Interview Practice Sessions When you start practicing for coding interviews, there’s a lot to cover. You’ll naturally wanna brush up on technical questions. But how you practice those questions will make a big difference in how well you’re prepared. Here’re a few tips to make sure you get the most out of your practice sessions. Track your weak spots One of the hardest parts of practicing is knowing what to practice. Tracking what you struggle with helps answer that question. So grab a fresh notebook. After each question, look back and ask yourself, “What did I get wrong about this problem at first?” Take the time to write down one or two things you got stuck on, and what helped you figure them out. Compare these notes to our tips for getting unstuck. After each full practice session, read through your entire running list. Read it at the beginning of each practice session too. This’ll add a nice layer of rigor to your practice, so you’re really internalizing the lessons you’re learning. Use an actual whiteboard Coding on a whiteboard is awkward at first. You have to write out every single character, and you can’t easily insert or delete blocks of code. Use your practice sessions to iron out that awkwardness. Run a few problems on a piece of paper or, if you can, a real whiteboard. A few helpful tips for handwriting code:
Start in the top-left corner. You want all the room you can get.
Leave blank space between each line of code. This makes it much easier to add things later.
Slow down. Take an extra second to think of descriptive variable names. You might be tempted to move faster by using short variable names, but that actually ends up costing more time. It’ll make your code harder to debug!
Set a timer Get a feel for the time pressure of an actual interview. You should be able to finish a problem in 30–45 minutes, including debugging your code at the end. If you’re just starting out and the timer adds too much stress, put this technique on the shelf. Add it in later as you start to get more comfortable with solving problems. Think out loud Like writing code on a whiteboard, this is an acquired skill. It feels awkward at first. But your interviewer will expect you to think out loud during the interview, so you gotta power through that awkwardness. A good trick to get used to talking out loud: Grab a buddy. Another engineer would be great, but you can also do this with a non-technical friend. Have your buddy sit in while you talk through a problem. Better yet—try loading up one of our questions on an iPad and giving that to your buddy to use as a script! Set aside a specific time of day to practice. Give yourself an hour each day to practice. Commit to practicing around the same time, like after you eat dinner. This helps you form a stickier habit of practicing. Prefer small, daily doses of practice to doing big cram sessions every once in a while. Distributing your practice sessions helps you learn more with less time and effort in the long run. part -2 will be upcoming in another post !
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