Hello, world! Of astronauts and goats

June 19, 2014

Read time 3 min

I remember the day I got welcomed to the little white room with four clocks ticking on the wall.

It was only night in Los Angeles, a very early morning in New York, and two o’clock in the afternoon in Moscow. Colorful notes filled most of the light surface, but the back wall was covered with a huge map. Titled ’the world domination plan’, it was clearly divided into three regions.

I had arrived at the Hello World Open 2014 headquarters.

Ville, one of the organizers of the Coding World Championships, was smiling in front of the map. ”We know that coders are superstars. The thing is, no one else really does just yet”, he described the situation in March.

I gradually started to realize that our ultimate task would be to find the next top athletes of programming through a virtual slot car racing spectacle. The idea was simple and brilliant. (I couldn’t ever have said ”why hasn’t anyone come up with this race before” though. This little white clock-ticking and world-mapping room was clearly the most likely spot in the world for creating such a plan.)

My job would be to explain it to people.



”We’re organizing the first Coding World Championships. The participants need to gather a team of 1-3 genius programmers, create an artificial intelligence together and drive a virtual car faster than fellow competitors.”

”Are you serious?”

”Yes and no.”

As a matter of fact, we are absolutely most seriously looking for the best coders in the world. But we certainly aren’t serious.

One of the most rewarding things in Hello World Open 2014 has been to witness how occasional subtle disbelief on people’s faces changes into smiles.

This year, I think I’ve learned not to laugh at any ideas. The most crazy ones are usually the beginning of something that soon gets discovered. Because of this, I didn’t laugh even when someone at the office recently mentioned astronaut goats.

The Slovak Michal Burger from California, one of the eight finalists, said something that often comes to my mind when I acknowledge slightly prejudiced feelings towards the space goats. Michal asked if I could even imagine what the world would look like without the email, Wikipedia or Google Maps. I couldn’t, really. Then he told me that his own coding idols are the ones who are never afraid to keep working on ideas that no one else has worked on before. Ideas that would have seemed impossible to many people back in the day. ”Pick your goal and realize it – if it can’t be done with the technology we have today, just invent a new one.”

The likelihood of unleashing your imagination through coding will only increase in the future. On that personal level there’s no need for white rooms or world domination plans. One can even survive without astronaut pets of any kind. But isn’t it still nice to know that they might exist here in Helsinki?

Thank you so much for all the 4000 contestants from 92 countries, the 1000 friends of the new sport who gathered to the finals last week, our amazing team (I’ll miss you!) and more generally everyone, who bursted into laughter after five seconds of confusion.

Veera was in charge of the communications of Hello World Open. 

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