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Hackontest — 24h Open Source Coding Marathon

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the room-full-of-doritos-and-mountain-dew dept.

Google 50

maemst writes "Can you code 24 hours non-stop? Hackontest is a new Google-sponsored 24-hour programming competition between different open source projects. Its goals are to enhance Free Software projects according to user needs and to make visible how enthusiastically open source software is being developed. During the current online selection process users and developers of open source software may submit feature requests and rate and comment them. On August 1st, 2008 the Hackontest jury will pick the three most promising teams. Each team will receive a free trip to Switzerland on September 24/25, 2008 to participate in the competition located in Zurich. Hacking 24 hours inside an etoy.CONTAINER, the teams and their virtually present communities will implement certain features based on the online ratings and jury selection. In the end, the Hackontest jury evaluates the code and awards the winners with a total of USD 8500. The jury is made up of 10 renowned open source contributors: Jeremy Alison (Samba), Jono Bacon (Ubuntu), Brian W. Fitzpatrick (Subversion), Martin F. Krafft (Debian), Alexander Limi (Plone), Federico Mena-Quintero (GNOME), Bram Moolenaar (vim), Bruce Perens (OSI founder), Lukas K. Smith (PHP) and Harald Welte ("

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Free as in Freeloaders (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23126628)

Microsoft is a community of employees, bound by a common unifying theme: Make and support software, and get rich. The Microsoft "company" community has produced 10,000 millionaires.

The F/OSS community is quite different. There is a community, but only a few people at the top get rich. Other contributors will vanish into obscurity, never receiving a penny for their work.

You can be in the community of the rich, or the community of the poor, idealistic naive submissive fools.

It's your choice. You have the freedom to choose.

Remember who got the ball rolling? Richard Stallman, wrote in his GNU Manifesto (1984) [] []

                        People with new ideas could distribute programs as freeware, asking for donations from satisfied users, or selling hand-holding services. I have met people who are already working this way successfully.

That may have been true around 1984, before the widespread popularity of the Internet. It's not true that you could make a living from this now.

                        In the long run, making programs free is a step toward the post-scarcity world, where nobody will have to work very hard just to make a living. People will be free to devote themselves to activities that are fun, such as programming, after spending the necessary ten hours a week on required tasks such as legislation, family counseling, robot repair and asteroid prospecting. There will be no need to be able to make a living from programming.

These insights were penned by the same Richard Stallman who championed the GNU Hurd, which 16 years later hasn't even entered alpha. When Linux rose in popularity, Stallman tried to take credit, and insisted that everybody call it "GNU/Linux". That's sort of like Microsoft trying to tell everybody to prepend the name "Microsoft" to whatever applications they build with Microsoft products.

Now, did Richard Stallman suffer? No: he received a quarter of a million dollars from the MacArthur Foundation for the creation of FSF, and invested the dough in mututal funds; he's living off the interest. (Plus, he has no children, no wife, and no car... ) If Richard Stallman had his way, nobody would " be able to make a living from programming." He would rather hear you say "Do you want fries with that?"

Remember when Eric Raymond wrote "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", and convinced a dwindling Netscape to open-source its code? The net benefit was predicted to help Netscape and AOL destroy Microsoft. How wrong those naive optimistic projections became. Netscape is long dead, AOL's customers are deserting to broadband provided by other ISPs, and AOL and its clientele are still reviled by most computer professionals as unwashed trailer trash. Good PR stunt move, oh Netscape and AOL.

Around 1876, author Mark Twain wrote the immortal "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer". In Chapter 2, Tom finds himself stuck whitewashing a fence -- hard work he doesn't want to do. But then he comes upon a brilliant idea: Get other people to do the work for him for free! In fact, by feigning interest in his work, he managed to get other people to PAY HIM to do the work:

                        Tom went on whitewashing -- paid no attention to the steamboat. Ben stared a moment and then said: "Hi-YI! YOU'RE up a stump, ain't you!"

                        No answer. Tom surveyed his last touch with the eye of an artist, then he gave his brush another gentle sweep and surveyed the result, as before. Ben ranged up alongside of him. Tom's mouth watered for the apple, but he stuck to his work. Ben said:

                        "Hello, old chap, you got to work, hey?"

                        Tom wheeled suddenly and said:

                        "Why, it's you, Ben! I warn't noticing."

                        "Say -- I'm going in a-swimming, I am. Don't you wish you could? But of course you'd druther WORK -- wouldn't you? Course you would!"

                        Tom contemplated the boy a bit, and said:

                        "What do you call work?"

                        "Why, ain't THAT work?"

                        Tom resumed his whitewashing, and answered care- lessly:

                        "Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain't. All I know, is, it suits Tom Sawyer."

                        "Oh come, now, you don't mean to let on that you LIKE it?"

                        The brush continued to move.

                        "Like it? Well, I don't see why I oughtn't to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?"

                        That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling his apple. Tom swept his brush daintily back and forth -- stepped back to note the effect -- added a touch here and there -- criticised the effect again -- Ben watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more absorbed. Pres- ently he said:

                        "Say, Tom, let ME whitewash a little."

                        Tom considered, was about to consent; but he altered his mind:

                        "No -- no -- I reckon it wouldn't hardly do, Ben. You see, Aunt Polly's awful particular about this fence -- right here on the street, you know -- but if it was the back fence I wouldn't mind and SHE wouldn't. Yes, she's awful particular about this fence; it's got to be done very careful; I reckon there ain't one boy in a thousand, maybe two thousand, that can do it the way it's got to be done."

                        "No -- is that so? Oh come, now -- lemme just try. Only just a little -- I'd let YOU, if you was me, Tom."

                        "Ben, I'd like to, honest injun; but Aunt Polly -- well, Jim wanted to do it, but she wouldn't let him; Sid wanted to do it, and she wouldn't let Sid. Now don't you see how I'm fixed? If you was to tackle this fence and anything was to happen to it --"

                        "Oh, shucks, I'll be just as careful. Now lemme try. Say -- I'll give you the core of my apple."

                        "Well, here -- No, Ben, now don't. I'm afeard --"

                        "I'll give you ALL of it!"

                        Tom gave up the brush with reluctance in his face, but alacrity in his heart. And while the late steamer Big Missouri worked and sweated in the sun, the retired artist sat on a barrel in the shade close by, dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the slaughter of more innocents. There was no lack of material; boys happened along every little while; they came to jeer, but remained to whitewash. By the time Ben was fagged out, Tom had traded the next chance to Billy Fisher for a kite, in good repair; and when he played out, Johnny Miller bought in for a dead rat and a string to swing it with -- and so on, and so on, hour after hour. And when the middle of the afternoon came, from being a poor poverty-stricken boy in the morning, Tom was literally rolling in wealth. He had besides the things before mentioned, twelve marbles, part of a jews-harp, a piece of blue bottle-glass to look through, a spool cannon, a key that wouldn't unlock anything, a fragment of chalk, a glass stopper of a decanter, a tin soldier, a couple of tadpoles, six fire-crackers, a kitten with only one eye, a brass door- knob, a dog-collar -- but no dog -- the handle of a knife, four pieces of orange-peel, and a dilapidated old window sash.

                        He had had a nice, good, idle time all the while -- plenty of company -- and the fence had three coats of whitewash on it! If he hadn't run out of whitewash he would have bankrupted every boy in the village.

Does Tom Sawyer's technique sound like the GNU Manifesto?

Remember the good old days, when Transmeta funded Linus Torvalds? You could have your cake (pre-IPO company AND the founder of Linux), and eat it too! Transmeta bit the dust, and Torvalds is now living in Oregon.

Most people who advocate open source are free loading consumers, not producers.

Free -- as in freeloader.

Re:Free as in Freeloaders (1)

Lally Singh (3427) | more than 6 years ago | (#23169964)

I wouldn't be so hard on them -- most of them are misguided by idealism over the pragmatic realities of life. However I'm inclined to agree with your points.

I just wish you hadn't posted anonymously, so I filter up your posts!

Enhance? (4, Insightful)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 6 years ago | (#23126652)

``Can you code 24 hours non-stop? ... to enhance Free Software projects''

I don't know about the rest of you, but, although I am sure I _could_ code non-stop for 24 hours, I am sure I won't be producing the best quality code if I do so. I think _enhancing_ any project is best done with clear thinking and sufficient breaks.

Re:Enhance? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 6 years ago | (#23126742)

the common argument ammong tech workers are the long hours... Yet we partisipate in competations to show it off. Mixed messages any one?

Re:Enhance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23126902)

Yet we partisipate in competations to show it off. Mixed messages any one?
Who's "we"? An incredibly small number of programmers participate in these events...

Re:Enhance? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23127252)

Why are you still alive?

Re:Enhance? (2, Insightful)

Devv (992734) | more than 6 years ago | (#23126796)

I could probably hack for 24 hours non-stop but I wouldn't be able to work on a serious project for 24h non-stop
Obviously I am referring to the diffrence between a hack and a serious application built with continued developement in mind.

Re:Enhance? (2, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#23126862)

Exactly, I tend to spend more time wondering which direction to best approach a problem from, trying to find an elegant solution that is succinct, but also flexible. I often spend a lot less time implementing and bugfixing code than I have planning it out.. there is more than one way to do it, as them perl people say - often the challenge is just deciding what is the 'best' way to do it for the application you are writing. I'd give examples but I'd just end up ranting for 2 paragraphs, as usual :p

Re:Enhance? (2, Insightful)

flewp (458359) | more than 6 years ago | (#23126924)

I don't know how it is for programmers, but as an artist I've stayed up for more than 24 hours, spending the majority of it on art (be it work, school, etc).

Once I started feeling tired, the quality of work suffered dramatically. No longer was I able to "go by feel" but had to actually think about the smallest detail, and usually it was for the worse.

Re:Enhance? (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127476)

I'm not sure that's quite what GP meant.

I know that I can code, break, and code for some 18-20 hours, with very long breaks -- some to think about the project, and plan it out, and some to get my mind off the project entirely. But by then, the quality really does suffer, no matter how carefully I plan -- lack of sleep eventually makes me completely ineffective at anything, including coding.

I could probably do it with polyphasic sleep, but I'm not sure I have enough time to get on a polyphasic schedule before the contest.

Re:Enhance? (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#23131738)

Yeah sleep is good. I once had one of those moments where you're stuck on a problem, go to bed, and basically as soon as you wake up you've figured out the solution. If I have everything all planned out beforehand, then I think I'd be able to go for 24 hours (though in that time you could probably code a whole OS :P ), it seems kind of pointless though, the quality is bound to suffer by the end as you say.. and if the focus is on the actual coding without stopping to test everything thoroughly, then there will probably be a few nasty bugs too.

Re:Enhance? (3, Interesting)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127650)

Nobody said the judges were being up for 24 hours. In fact, I made sure they knew I wasn't volunteering for sleep deprivation. And I just found out about this strange cyber-morturary container they propose to hold the contest in. Now, we know these things don't always get delivered, but if it does, I want a picture!


What? Snow Crash? (1)

HiggsBison (678319) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127768)

And I just found out about this strange cyber-morturary container they propose to hold the contest in.

Coffin hotels a la Snow Crash?

Re:What? Snow Crash? (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128146)

Oops, it's not the cyber-mortuary, it's another product of eToys, also in a container. Coffin offices, sort of, but then freight containers aren't so small. That's reassuring. When I read the mortuary part, I wondered what sort of plans the organizers had for us :-)

Re:What? Snow Crash? (1)

Metasquares (555685) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128814)

They're probably going to give the winners jobs. Spending 24 hours straight coding in a coffin is good preparation :)

Re:Enhance? (2, Interesting)

modir (66559) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128324)

The website states clearly that you have to be in a group of 3 people. So it depends on how you manage the team. Everyone has only to work for 8 or 9 hours if you plan it like this. Then as well from the website: "However, the Hackontest developers may connect to their outside community through chat, SVN, wikis etc. thus enlarging their team size virtually in a unlimited scale." In other words those in the container could only be the team leaders/project managers and those outside program.

Re:Enhance? (1)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | more than 6 years ago | (#23129042)

Mod parent up - this is a ridiculous way to get new code into software. Sheesh, no wonder half the bug/security fixes I see coming through Ubuntu updates are buffer overflow vulnerabilities.

Re:Enhance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23139590)

you cant make anything useful coding non stop 24 hours. you have to go tot the loo, eat something, call the girlfriend etc...or watch tv

Twofo Live! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23126704)

Twofo Live! []

The question is... (5, Funny)

Devv (992734) | more than 6 years ago | (#23126752)

Does the container have a toilet?

Re:The question is... (3, Funny)

Eevee1 (1147279) | more than 6 years ago | (#23126764)

They'll be flushed with success.

Re:The question is... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23126896)

If they're GNU/GPL hippies, they don't need a toilet, they usually just soil themselves anyways.

Re:The question is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23127158)

More importantly, does it have a foosball table?

Re:The question is... (3, Funny)

WK2 (1072560) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127482)

Sure does. It's a hybrid toilet/deskchair.

Re:The question is... (2, Funny)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128936)

They should, otherwise they'll suffer from buffer overflow errors.


void codeToMuch(byte *poop){
    char *toilette;
    //toilette = (char*) malloc (TOO_MANY_BURITTOS * sizeof(byte));
    memmove(toilette, poop, TOO_MANY_BURITTOS * sizeof(byte));

lol wat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23126762)

it all seems fine until you read about the .. "etoy.CONTAINER". what?!

Re:lol wat (2, Informative)

modir (66559) | more than 6 years ago | (#23126808)

The link to the etoy.CONTAINER is not the best. The link goes to another project by etoy (which is based on the container idea as well). For more information about the containers you better visit this: []

Re:lol wat (1)

Metasquares (555685) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128850)

That page also has a poor explanation. My guess is that the company isn't all that great at clearly explaining what their products do.

Re:lol wat (1)

modir (66559) | more than 6 years ago | (#23130126)

Well, it is an art group. They talk like artists :)

I was in those containers. It is not that special. In one container are work spaces and in the other (the one they put on top) are some beds.

There is no question... (1)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 6 years ago | (#23126778)

It WILL blend your brain.

Vim (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23126834)

Where the hell is the emacs representation?


Re:Vim (1)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 6 years ago | (#23129122)

They asked me, but I turned them down. Better read between the words on that one.

(If) they (had) asked me, but I (would have) turned them down (because I think the whole idea is silly).

There, fixed that for myself.

Yeah, it's unfair that vim (which is a really bad version of vi, give me nvi any day) got representation and we didn't.

Publicity stunt (2, Insightful)

mattMad (1271832) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127036)

To me this sounds like a publicity stunt with little useful output for the projects. I prefer the concept of the Google Summer of Code (even though many of the projects funded there seem to fail), because it focuses on a longer-term development and possibly recruits new talent to the projects.

Re:Publicity stunt (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 6 years ago | (#23131794)

Publicity stunt/extreme/nerdy is good in this case bringing hackers together for OSS to show off how hardcore they are. I doubt it has much to do with the code getting done in those 24hrs. Its an event.

Hopefully... (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127038)

...none of the resulting code will make it into production. Marathon coding sessions produce only crap.

Re:Hopefully... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23127174)

Marathon coding sessions produce only crap.


Some of my best code has been in marathon sessions but yeah, there comes a point where concentration gives way to tiredness and it's pointless continuing beyond that. We've all done it and we all know the results. (1)

fineghal (989689) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127056)

Anyone else think the etoy.Container/Mission_Eternity link is creepy? Quote: "Mission Eternity is an information technology-driven cult of the dead." ... 'nuff said. (1)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128296)

What I want to know is what text-to-speech engine was used in the video. Damn, that is the best one I heard yet. (1)

Unoti (731964) | more than 6 years ago | (#23132140)

Here is the speech synthesis you are looking for [] , and you can try it out right there on their web page. I love the software so much, and I've actually grown quite attached to her voice.

As soon as I read your comment, I thought I knew the answer even before hearing the voice. I then listened to the video, and sure enough, it was the voice I thought it would be.

I used to spend a fortune on books on CD, at $50 usd per book it became an expensive habit as I drove back and forth to work.

Then I started pirating books off a torrent site, then burning my own mp3's using speech synthesis software. I scoured the internets to find the best damn speech synthesis in the world, and I found the voice they used in that movie. I wrote software to take the text and semi intelligently split it into chapters, and make guesses about dividing the chapters down into 15 minute or so chunks for easy mp3 navigation. It has some features that let me preview what's going to get recorded so I can make sure it's naming the mp3 filesnames with the right chapter numbers. I've been steadily improving the software for a couple years. For text to speech, it just uses the Microsoft Speech API and I purchased that voice (Heather I think her name was) and it works amazingly.

The software isn't free, but it's so much better than anything else I've ever heard. It paid for itself after burning a few books to mp3. The voice is actually really expensive, I paid something like $150 2 years ago. However, at that time you could get a one month free trial, which is enough time to do a lot of playing and book recording.

Acapela offers several voices, but by far hers is the best. When you listen to her for hours, you'll hear traces of what I think is a castilian spanish accent. Acapela is based in Europe, and they do voices in many languages.

Anyway, their stuff is way better than anything else I've ever heard for general purpose synthesis. If there's anything better, I need to hear about it immediately, especially if it's open source.

man, so old and so analog (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23127318)

what's wrong with a twenty-four hour, global, online, code-fest with cash prizes?

call it code day

easy, effective and simple

instead we get yet another example of elite mismanagement :~(

Harder to cheat. (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127506)

Put everyone in a box. That at least proves that they wrote it themselves.

Re:Harder to cheat. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128308)

No it doesn't. They have net access (and are encouraged to use it).

Missing the point (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128392)

It seems everyone is missing the point. I doubt projects will be greatly improved more so in one day through this contest than they would be as opposed to normal contributions in a day. And sleep deprivation may lead to sloppy code. And the contest isn't inherently fair is people have internet access. But none of that is the point.

The prize is small, but the real reward here is PR for the OSS community, and these projects. OSS projects thrive on high visibility.

Re:Missing the point (1)

maemst (1273924) | more than 6 years ago | (#23137518)

Enderandrew, thanks for your comment - it's exactly as you write: We don't believe there will be huge code improvements within 24 hours - that's what the regular release processes are for. However, we believe FLOSS development needs more attention by the public (=everyone who doesn't read /.) Thus we'll try to get mass media (TV, news papers etc) to the event and document the Hackontest session and thus inform mortal software users that there are alternatives for their MS et al. products.

As second effect we expect to motivate FLOSS users to file their feature requests on the platform so developers get to know what people want. It's sort of addressing end user wishes with lot of demand (And yes, this concept is copied from Dell Ideastorm and Ubuntu Brainstorm - but now made available for all open source projects) Of course we are aware that there are roadmaps with future functionality enhancements. In this case it's even easier for developers to participate in the competition: Just file the features you've planned to implement anyway and maybe win a trip to Switzerland and some pocket money.

A last comment by the (unpaid) organizers: The first Hackontest is a trial - if many people participate in the selection process, file feature requests and rate them, if many skilled developers agree to implement features and show up at the event and if FLOSS communities support Hackontest overall (e.g. such as phpMyAdmin [] ), then it's a success (and will be hopefully repeated next year). If not, we're sorry for the distortion we've created and won't bother you again with silly ideas ;)

Thanks for helping to make more marketing for great FLOSS products and participating on [] !

Free Trip!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23127394)

I would love a free trip + $5,000.
To bad the site doesn't give details about how to get this free trip :(
Pritty lame that it doesn't actualy. I say we hackit :/

OpenBSD fork (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23130472)

this sounds more like OpenBSD's hackathon []

google: ruin open source code more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23132894)

No wonder I don't want to work for Google: such brainless development efforts as this.

Passion Vs Potential (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23132906)

How would Google measure Passion in Coding?

Reminds me of MacHack (1)

Lally Singh (3427) | more than 6 years ago | (#23169978)

MacHack was a 3 day/24hr conference with tech presentations. During the event, people put together hacks to compete for the covetous A-Trap award, given at the end. Some great hacks over the years.

I was at MacHack 19, good times. There never was a (real) 20.
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