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CC23 Stage Changes

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Now that Country Cup 2023 is over and there are no longer stakes in terms of how the competition goes, I’m hoping we can have a sensible and constructive discussion about how it was run.

Let me say up front, I know some people may find all this as a bit much. They might wonder why I care so much. The truth is, I care so much because it would be so easy to do the right thing - and when the right thing is easy, not doing the right thing is terrible.


What Happened:

During the competition, there ended up being several changes to stages. I can’t actually say for sure how many, since there’s no transparency about when stage rules are changed. However, there are two that I know for sure, and think are worth discussing. First, the superpi 32M bclk stage. This was changed to exclude socket 775 due to benchmate issues, and as a result the multi cap was raised from 8x to 9x to include socket 1156. I bring this up as an example of a stage where the changes were well justified. I want to show that I’m not just blindly opposed to any action, any change – even though that change wasn’t good for me personally.

Second, the Cloud gate iGPU stage. At some point in “early november” – therefore at least 2 weeks into the competition – “Xeon CPUs allowed” was silently added to the rules of this stage. This had the effect of changing the optimal hardware to exclude one iGPU from a fully unlocked CPU, in favour of a BCLK OC’d Haswell Xeon (costing $100+ and with little reason to own for OC) that benefits from a separate hardware listing.

The justifications given when this was talked about on Discord were, in chronological order:

1) “so people can complain and keep the discord thread alive”

This was seriously the only justification given at first.

2) “This wasn't added recently fyi…”

This was said on the 1st of December – since the change was silent a lot of people took a while to notice. That doesn’t make it better!

3) “Xeon iGPUs don't offer any significant advantage over their non server counterparts, in fact they will be less performant in this benchmark”

This simply wasn’t true, as allowing xeons meant you could have HD 4600+P4600 rather than 4600+4000. CPU clock matters, but not that much. So ok, it was an error. But also – in that case what about the double-digit number of other stages where xeons would have genuinely offered no advantage?

So, unlike the superpi stage, there was no real justification given for the change.

Eventually, after having to drag Roman into it, I got one more drop of reasoning:

4) leeghoofd didn’t think there were xeons with iGPUs when the change was made. Had he been right about this, adding “Xeon CPUs allowed” would have had zero effect on what hardware could actually be used for the stage.

OK. So it wasn’t supposed to have an effect. But then why make the change at all? Why play with fire? When I talked to Roman on the 4th of December he said he’d “try to follow up with Albrecht and that he gets in contact with you again”. A patient month later, that hasn’t happened. I am still none the wiser as to what led to the bright idea to make this arbitrary change in the first place.


Why This Matters:

This has happened before, and it earned hwbot a write up in igorslab, as well as completely turning off at least one participant from future involvement in hwbot: https://www.igorslab.de/en/the-dirty-business-behind-hwbot-competitions-a-field-report-as-editorial/

Those events, within the last year, led to a statement from Roman, including 2 key points:

  • I totally agree that it’s unacceptable to edit rules of the competition after it started.”
  • It is also not in [HWBOT mods] interest to cause any unnecessary conflicts or drama – nor do they personally benefit from it.”

So… why did the “unacceptable” happen AGAIN, causing nothing but unnecessary conflicts and drama? Why was arbitrary hardware silently added to the cloud gate stage weeks into the competition?

I was very enthusiastic about country cup when it started, participating very heavily and encouraging others to do the same. The fact that this change happened completely ruined the competition for me. Afterwards, I made one other submission as a favour to teammates with conflicting hardware. I honestly regret participating at all. The truth is, I’m not sure if I want to get involved in another hwbot competition now – and I know I’m not the only person to feel that way.


What Next?

Personally, I believe very strongly in seeing the best in people. I want to understand why this happened so that I can forgive and forget. But I can’t do that if the chain of thought that led to this change is kept a secret. I am begging leeghoofd to please meet me halfway here by explaining the thought process that inspired this change specifically being made. So far all I’ve heard is retroactive justifications. I’m sorry, but how can I trust that a mistake like this won’t be repeated if I’m not even allowed to know where the mistake came from?

I would also love to hear from other users on what they think could be done differently so that problems like this don’t happen again. Not just “don’t do it again” – we had that back in March and it didn’t stick – but structural/procedural changes. There have been multiple competitions in 2023 tainted by unjustified after-the-whistle changes to rules. How can hwbot do better in the new year, and begin to mend what has been broken?

Edited by mickulty
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