By this time I was fearing for that guy’s sanity. Took a few deep breaths and started off on how it the data could be parsed, possibly by using regular expression rules. And he had no idea what regexes were! Either way this is quite disturbing – IIT not teaching enough about *nix, or a CS guy clueless about basics. By now I was fearing for my sanity if I kept speaking to this guy any longer and politely refused to work on his project.
The whole incident brings up juicy questions on how competent these guys are. Don’t misunderstand me. I personally know IITians who’re good and dedicated to their line of work, but quite an astonishing number of them are not. BarCamp Delhi 5 was held at IIT Delhi and yet there was hardly a single IIT student who bothered to participate. A few did turn up for the Hackathon on day two but were naive enough to think it was some school class where they’d be “taught to hack into Gmail accounts”. (Apart from IIT profs making top ranking officials from software companies stand outside class while they finished a lecture and even shouting at them to keep quiet.) My particular recent experience with X, a software engineer from I-mfking-I-mfking-T, shows how wrong things are. To get into CS department this guy probably was among the top rankers – well within the top few hundred in IIT JEE! This is the level knowledge shown by this guy. The situation is bad in other colleges, including NITs which are considered to be among the top-ranked institutes in the country.
A big reason for this is the mindset of students getting admitted at these places – who care only about the packages they’ll get once they graduate. Doesn’t matter whether they’re interested in the subject or not. Another of course is a college environment with inadequately trained faculty and less than stellar infrastructure. Asking to rectify these few reasons would be asking for too much, but there is one thing which can be done. JEE used to have an English language section in its paper till a few years back. Reinstate it. (I’m sure people will get what I’m implying here.) Before you shout ‘racist’, note the English is the language which science and technology speaks. India will remain the laughing stock of the scientific research world until our top colleges have graduating students who are genuinely passionate about the field they take up – and not just some guy who slogged through a 25-year JEE question archive.