Detailed timing configuration

This section describes the exact meaning of CMS parameters for controlling the time window allocated to each contestant. Please see Configuring a contest for a more gentle introduction and the intended usage of the various parameters.

When setting up a contest, you will need to decide the time window in which contestants will be able to interact with the contest (by reading statements, submit solutions, ...). In CMS there are several parameters that allow to control this time window, and it is also possible to personalize it for each single user in case it is needed.

The first decision to chose among these two possibilities:

  1. all contestants will start and end the contest at the same time (unless otherwise decided by the admins during the contest for fairness reasons);
  2. each contestant will start the contest at the time they decide.

The first situation is that we will refer to as a fixed-window contest, whereas we will refer to the second situation as customized-window contest.

Fixed-window contests

These are quite simple to configure: you just need to set start_time and end_time, and by default all users will be able to interact with the contest between these two instants.

For fairness reasons, during the contest you may want to extend the time window for all or for particular users. In the first case, you just need to change the end_time parameter. In the latter case, you can use one of two slightly different per-contestant parameters: extra_time and delay_time.

You can use extra_time to award more time at the end of the contest for a specific contestant, whereas you can use delay_time to shift in the future the time window of the contest just for that user. There are two main practical differences between these two options.

  1. If you set extra_time to S seconds, the contestant will be able to interact with the contest in the first S seconds of it, whereas if you use delay_time, they will not, as in the first case the time window is extended, in the second is shifted (if S seconds have already passed from the start of the contest, then there is no difference).
  2. If tokens are generated every M minutes, and you set extra_time to S seconds, then tokens for that contestants are generated at start_time + k*M (in particular, it might be possible that more tokens are generated for contestants with extra_time); if instead you set delay_time to S seconds, tokens for that contestants are generated at start_time + S + k*M (i.e., they are shifted from the original, and the same amount of tokens as other contestants will be generated).

Of course it is possible to use both at the same time, but we do not see much value in doing so.

Customized-window contests

In these contests, contestants can use a time window of fixed length (per_user_time), starting from the first time they log in between start_time and end_time. Moreover, the time window is capped at end_time (so if per_user_time is 5 hours and a contestant logs in for the first time one minute before end_time, they will have just one minute).

Again, admins can change the time windows of specific contestants for fairness reasons. In addition to extra_time and delay_time, they can also use starting_time, which is automatically set by CMS when the contestant logs in for the first time.

The meaning of extra_time is to extend both the contestant time window (as defined by starting_time + per_user_time) and the contest time window (as defined by end_time) by the value of extra_time, but only for that contestant. Therefore, setting extra_time to S seconds effectively allows a contestant to use S seconds more than before (regardless of the time they started the contest).

Again, delay time is similar, but it shifts both contestant and contest time window by that value. The effect on available time similar to that achieved by setting extra_time, with the difference explained before in point 1. Also, there is a difference in token generation as explained in point 2 above.

Finally, changing starting_time is very similar to changing delay_time, but it shifts just the contestant time window, hence if that window was already going over end_time, at all effects advancing starting_time would not award more time to the contestant, because the end would still be capped at end_time. The effect on token generation is the same.

Again, there is probably no need to fiddle with more than one of these three parameters, and our suggestion is to just use extra_time or delay_time to award more time to a contestant.