Why I Am a [topcoder] - 05/2011
When my boss first gave me a heads up about this cloud coding contest called [topcoder], and told me I should compete I thought he was crazy. Who would pay real money to let a bunch of nobodies write code for them? I mean if you want code written you hire a contractor and lay out spec and work with them until completion. How could you get quality results from crowdsourcing? Also, I figured it would be a waste of time because I’m no programmer. There would be real pros there, I’m just some wanna be hacker. Sure I’ve played with some different things, and can be clever time to time, but there was no way I could square off with people who really know what they are doing. Still, I decided to check it out, just to be a good sport. It was my boss who told me to take a look after all.
I signed up and started looking through the challenges, “nope, nope *scroll scroll scroll*, nope”. I don’t know how to do any of this. What the hell is ruby on rails? I don’t know how to write objective C, I can’t write an iPad application. Was looking pretty out of my league. Then, one challenge caught my eye. “Jailbreak Chatter” it said. Excitedly, yet pensively I clicked the link and waited impatiently for it to load. What was this? They want to “hack” Salesforce to allow custom content. This was a challenge I could sink my teeth in to. Back in the day I prided myself on bending and breaking systems, Salesforce itself seemed like a worthy competitor. I mashed the register button immediately.
That is why I compete. It’s not about the money. It’s not even really about the technology. For me it’s a form of validation. To know that I can run with some of the best. That I can solve problems others can’t. To know that I am at the cutting edge and pushing it further. Of course I love problem solving and the friendly competition, learning new stuff and making a bit of cash. Really though the best part is just the challenge itself. Maybe it’s all inside my head, but that’s good enough for me.
PS and for the record, it turns out the crowd is great for the cloud. The results that I’ve seen and have been amazing. Maybe it’s due to a bit of a shared mindset about pride being on the line, but the entries are always top notch. As an article I read about this topic the other day said “It’s not about the worst submissions you get, it’s about the best ones” or something along those lines. One awesome entry can totally make up for a bunch of mediocre ones and this particular community is amazing. So I humbly admit I was mistaken. The cloud-crowd owns.