I got a few questions about the ethics of the RankManiac 2010 contest, especially considering the Caltech Honor Code. For those of you who don't know, the honor code states that "No member of the Caltech Community shall take advantage of any other member of the Caltech Community."
So, how does that work with a competitive assignment like RankManiac 2010? If I am winning, my grade is higher. Does that imply that winning is an unfair advantage? What about the path to winning? If I broke my classmates' hands so they couldn't type, that would certainly be unfair. What about more gray areas, like calling in favors from friends or linking from an existing popular website I happen to have access to?
On a normal Tech problem set, everybody has advantages. They're usually little advantages, like "I happened to see a similar problem at Math Camp" or "My TA gave me a big hint, while your TA gave you a little hint." Sometimes, they're even big advantages, like "I am a certified genius in Physics" or "My father wrote the textbook." With the collaboration policy, these tend to even out. My advantages become your advantages and your advantages become my advantages. This helps even things out. A contest like this, on the other hand, actively discourages collaboration (although it does not eliminate it. I was friends with these guys before this class and I'll remain friends with them afterward). So, without collaboration, do these individual advantages become "unfair?"