2019 State of the Community from CEO Mike Morris

At 45 days into 2019, we could not be more proud of Topcoder’s continued progress.

It’s Valentine’s day again and there is nothing more we love at Topcoder than our community! This is always one of my favorite posts to write each year: it’s great to look back at what we’ve accomplished and see where we’re going.

Reflecting on 2018, we’re humbled by how the community played such a critical role in Topcoder’s accomplishments:

  • The community evangelism team grew to six dedicated members.
  • The Topcoder website was revamped, which included the creation of new track home pages for better information flow.
  • Our platform became event based! We added events to most of Topcoder’s major APIs, which enables better platform extensibility and faster improvements. The platform now allows:
    • Partners to integrate with Topcoder through webhooks;
    • Members to receive submission and scoring emails; and
    • Partners to host scoring logic and data, e.g. our most recent Quantum Challenge.
  • Topcoder’s core API has been upgraded to a new standard (Version 5), which follows the OpenAPI spec defined by Swagger. We are actively moving our APIs to the new standard, including scoring, submissions and review services.
  • As part of our ongoing platform modernization, Topcoder is focused on advancing stability and performance. Most recently, you will see improvements in challenge listings and profiles.
  • There have been significant evolutions to the Challenge Engine, including improvements to Marathon Matches and the submission, review and scoring processes.
  • We have placed a greater emphasis on Connect, Topcoder’s self-service (i.e. digital) platform, as well as driving customers to specific offerings that the community delivers with precision, every-time.

For any high-growth organization, it’s also important to take stock of challenges. There were a handful of priorities that still need improvement as we move forward.

Gamification, Badges, Ratings
These are core to Topcoder and we are committing to putting more emphasis on profiles, ratings and badges this year. The profile of a Topcoder member is still the highest regarded standard in many circles: we must keep it a major focus.  

Development on the “new Arena”
As the team started to peel back the layers of new Arena functionality, it seemed difficult to change the existing code (impressive that most of it has run for over 14 years and was created by the community) and accommodate the features that allow different types of problems (more competitors, increased categorizations, etc.).

Therefore, Topcoder has decided to develop an entirely new platform with a more efficient backend. We’ve started with the marathon platform and, in 2019, plan to replicate a condensed version of the same for SRMs, as well as bring additional resources on board to start developing the front end.

In the interim,we are diligently working to make the SRM experience as seamless as possible with the current Applet Arena. We recently identified and fixed a Java security issue, which makes the Applet Arena easier to setup and install.

As we look ahead in 2019, there’s a lot to be psyched about:

  • Corona Invictum: the rebirth of the Corona UI to view what is happening on Topcoder in real time. (I love maps and globes, so this is one of my favorite projects!)
  • Improving competitor experience at Topcoder by creating a submission review app to view the status of your subs and reviews, as well as adding a new scorecard system featuring dynamic scorecards with review pipelines.
  • The community website will add real time notifications to allow you to more easily follow events, challenges and other content on Topcoder.
  • A renewed focus on profiles and ratings: bringing Topcoder “back to our competition roots.” Look for news around code competitions in the upcoming months. We’ll also be adding copilot and reviewer feedback and ratings to profiles.
  • Placing greater emphasis on continued education at Topcoder: organizing content better, creating paths for learning new technologies, or simply getting started on challenges.
  • Continuing to reach out and involve more of our community in Topcoder. This includes adding more evangelism resources and improving TCO regional events, as well as reinventing the TCO finals with a new, fresh perspective. Furthermore, we have added a QA track to the TCO and are focusing on recognizing and rewarding QA work as a core part of Topcoder.  

A Quadrumvirate?

Topcoder has been built on a triumvirate of the 3Ds: Design, Development and Data Science.  Look this year for Topcoder to add an additional focus on Quality Assurance work. We refer to this as Quality as a Service (QaaS) and, as it turns out, we’re really good at! Quality has always been integrated across the 3Ds and it’ll be a foundation principle for QA in 2019.

Talent as a Service

We are excited to officially launch Talent as a Service (TaaS)! TaaS offers the benefits of crowdsourcing with the ease of contractor procurement—and delivers outcomes rather than hours. This is a significant strategy that differentiates Topcoder in the market because:

  • We’ve seen an increasing demand from customers who want to supplement their workforce with the crowd, rather than hiring FTEs.
  • There is an increasing demand from customers to work with specific members 1:1.
  • TaaS provides a measurable process for working in a task-based model that gives more members the opportunity to increase earnings and work on larger streams of work with a virtual community team.
  • TaaS gives customers a way to work with members that need specific credentials, licenses, certifications, skill sets, etc.
  • We are eliminating the single point of failure of a direct task model, which should better position Topcoder project teams for success.

Ever to Excel @ Topcoder

Taking a page from my Boston College alma mater, the concept of continued professional education is essential across the entire Topcoder organization. Supporting a love for learning is something Topcoder has done well since inception. The Internet is full of resources, videos, tutorials, and content to help you advance your career—not to mention that those within our community are, quantifiably, the very best developers, designers, data scientists and testers on the planet. Therefore, this year, it’s a must-hit goal for Topcoder to be sure we’re empowering you to reach your fullest potential.

Through the use of our content, tutorials, educational challenges (plus the countless outside resources available, many at no cost), know that we support your continued development. Your success leads to all of ours and we look forward to watching you embrace every opportunity to grow as part of the community…your community!

Exploring Benefits for the Community

Topcoder is always looking for ways to improve the experience and lives of our community members. Currently, we’re exploring the possibility of Topcoder providing certain benefits and insurances for you/your family. Your feedback is critical as to if, and how, we pursue this option.

There will be a survey coming out within the week on this matter and we appreciate you taking part in it.

In closing, riding on the momentum of the platform revamp in 2018, Topcoder was able to pay out the most prize money in its history to deserving members—you’ve earned it!

We’re looking very strong right out of the gate in 2019 and we won’t stop. Topcoder will continue to drive our vision of being the ‘operating system for talent,’ with the purpose of ‘changing the way the world works.’ Thank you for your continued loyalty and hard work!

Who never walks, save where they see tracks, makes no discoveries.

– (amended) Josiah Gilbert Holland

Topcoder is always looking for ways to improve the experience and lives of our community members. Currently, we’re exploring the possibility of Topcoder providing certain benefits and insurances for you/your family. Your feedback is critical as to if, and how, we pursue this option. Find the survey here. https://topcodr.co/2Xkj4vC