Want to Drive Innovation through Crowdsourcing? Learn the 5 Steps Get the eBook ×

The Evolution of the [topcoder] Open

By mcards13 In Uncategorized

Posted April 8th, 2014

@jmpld40 – Jessie D’Amato Ford

Back in 2005 when I was first hired at [topcoder], to me, java meant coffee, C++ was a high C grade in school, and software was just something technical I knew nothing about! To say I was naive and inexperienced would have been an understatement… But the folks at [topcoder] took a chance on me and I was officially in charge of making the [topcoder] Open run. My first TCO was in Santa Clara, California and I really had no idea what to expect. Thankfully I had people like [h]mbnd96[/h], [h]mike[/h] & [h]thx1138[/h], and [h]gt494[/h] (on the right) plus many others to help guide me through it.

I was so nervous for my first event. I had never been to a TCO before and I was a newbie just out of college. I spent many a days before arriving studying member profile photos because I wanted to know the members and recognize them. If only I had known that most of the time member profile photos really don’t look like the members at all! For example:

Needless to say, I barely recognized anyone!

Upon walking into the competition Arena at the TCO05, you were instantly quiet. Back in the day, the TCO Competition Arena was hush hush. People whispered, no flashy lights or loud games of any kind.

This was also the first TCO we ran a logo contest on [topcoder] prior to the start of Studio. Winning logo designer was [kristofferrouge] who still competes today!

After TCO05, I recommended we get out of the Santa Clara because after a couple of years it was kind of boring. I threw Las Vegas out there just for kicks and the team went gaga over that thought…So began five consecutive years of TCO in Sin City.

TCO06 was so much fun. The room was a bit smaller but the whole event looked bigger. Plus it was less quiet. Every year TCO got louder and louder – making that part of the bigger competition. Could you code, fast, and in a loud room?! TCO06 got featured on CNBC.

TCO07 brought us to the first of many events at the Mirage in Las Vegas. It was our first TCO with a online webcast featuring Jeremy Schaap following our very successful Collegiate Challenge the year before. This tournament also featured the first-ever Studio Design Competition and Marathon Match Competition. We closed this event out in style with a luau and surf simulator party.

In 2008, we returned to Las Vegas and added some excitement to the onsite competitions. With Component Development, Component Design, and Studio Design, the finalists created an actual widget in three days that we demoed on the final day of the event courtesy of our very own Chief Community Officer, Dave Messinger [mess]. We also made a pretty sweet TCO08 set up video from an empty room to a Competition Arena in just under three minutes.

As the TCO got bigger and better so did the competitions. It was time rework the competitions and TCO09 was the first and only year we ran nine competition tracks: Algorithm, Architecture, Assembly, Component Design, Component Development, Marathon, Mod Dash, Specification, and Studio. I always had to refer to them in alphabetical order or I’d forget one. Some lucky members will always hold the one and only award for Architecture Champion – [standlove], Assembly Competition – [pulky], Specification Champion – [AleaActaEst].

TCO09 was also the first tournament Facebook started sponsoring and they have been part of the event ever since – our longest consecutive sponsor.

I loved TCO10. It was one of my favorite tournaments. The graphics and colors for this event were really cool and definitely impressive. We had some fun video shorts, comics, and minute to win it games. TCO10 was the first and only tournament so far to crown a female champion, [Margarita], Mod Dash Champion.

TCO10 competition tracks became what they are today – six tracks and TCO10 was our last year in Vegas.

Everyone (staff-wise) thought Vegas was a great venue and I was afraid we’d never get out of there. I was grateful when we moved to the east coast. To me, Las Vegas had served it’s purpose and I didn’t want it to be the only city our members visited year after year. To be fair, Las Vegas is not the best representation of the USA for members visiting from abroad. It was time to show them some more wholesome places!

When I first stepped into the Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, Florida and they hired an airplane to drive across the beach with a “Welcome TopCoder” sign, I was sold. TCO11 was the tournament we introduced a new scoreboard wall, new viewing stations, and new computers. We also had our first official MC, Jared Ford.

I loved all the new and felt we were on our way to really making TCO the awesome, techie event it always should have been.

We stayed in Florida for TCO12 but this time, Orlando. TCO12 was all-around, hands-down one of the most successful events we ever pulled off (despite the fact that we pretty much blew out the speakers at the hotel!). Things just clicked for us and it showed. The red carpet was laid down, literally, we had a few awesome first-time sponsors like Google, Two Sigma, and Pocket Gems, and the atmosphere in the Arena was fun and uplifting. [Chokudai] definitely helped with that with his introduction flip.

Which brings me to TCO13. Our first [topcoder] Open after the acquisition. TCO13 is obviously the most fresh in my mind since it just happened but even if it hadn’t, TCO13 was the best event yet. You would think the monotony of the same competitions, same set, etc would wear on an event but we were able take what we had, add some pizzazz, and make TCO13 so very memorable. From the lights to the music to the awesome videos, TCO13 had it all.

We were able to take a hotel ballroom that was really old fashioned looking and make it look like the tech event the TCO was. But not only did the TCO competitions go well but we also hosted an insightful Innovation Summit, a successful Mashathon, and a Poster Design Contest for Girls in STEM.

All around it was pretty flawless thanks to the help our amazing [topcoder] staff, new staff from Appirio, [topcoder] members who helped us, the video team, and our official MC and DJ. I couldn’t have asked for a better team. TCO is not an easy task to pull together but with the right group of people we do it each year.

TCO14 is already in high gear; we’ve started the last period of competition, the Algorithm and Marathon rounds are beginning, and we are in the ultimate planning mode to outdo ourselves. And by hosting TCO14 in San Francisco at Pier 48 we are already on our way there. I also want to show off our redesigned TCO14 logo that fits more with the new [topcoder] branding.

Year after year, we aim to host the best programming competition we possibly can with integrity, excitement, and fun. But most importantly, our goal is to make TCO all about our community; the heart and soul of what we do every day. The TCO is for the community and it always will be; crowning new champions, dishing out new trophies, and awarding prize money and prestige to the developer world.

So no matter how big TCO gets, how much pizzazz goes into the event, or how we change it, in the end, one thing will always remain constant – this is an event for our community first and foremost.

Okay, maybe there is another constant… [Rustyoldman] or Chuck Grant. Each and every TCO since I started at [topcoder] Chuck has been there. Not as a competitor but as a spectator and then later on a blogger. TCO would not be the same without his enthusiasm and dedication to the community.

So thank you for walking down memory lane with me and my TCOs. I look forward to making more TCO memories in the years to come.