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Crowdsourcing Software Development to the Masses

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the not-sure-that's-wisdom-of-the-crowds dept.

Software 122

Lucas123 writes "Computer World is running a piece on Crowdsourcing. That's a catchy term for the practice of taking a job traditionally performed by employees or a contracted company and outsourcing it to an undefined, large group of people in the form of an open call on the Web. Article author Mary Brandel views it as a viable way to develop cheap but innovative software. Sites like TopCoder and their coding competitions are becoming more popular with big name companies like Constellation Energy because programmers who take on the job are global, offering many different perspectives on any one job. 'The creativity and innovation of how people are rationalizing these designs and building components enables us to interject a perspective and approach that normally we wouldn't have access to,' Constellation's director of IT said." Is there any potential here, or is this just a buzzword bad idea?

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122 comments

I call it... Let's not pay people... (3, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21603961)

All of "open" and reward based programming schemes are merely ways to avoid hiring programmers. "Let's find someone to do it for free." Only morons would do it.

Re:I call it... Let's not pay people... (3, Funny)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 6 years ago | (#21603989)

Only morons would do it.

At least they get what they pay for.

Re:I call it... Let's not pay people... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21604035)

Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda is a 29-year old white male with a stocky build and a goatee. He responded to my ad to be interviewed for this article wearing only leather pants, leather boots and a leather vest. I could see that both of his nipples were pierced with large-gauge silver rings.

Questioner: I hope you won't be offended if I ask you to prove to me that you're a nullo. Just so that my readers will know that this isn't a fake.

CmdrTaco: Sure, no problem. (stands and unbuckles pants and drops them to his ankles, revealing a smooth, shaven crotch with only a thin scar to show where his genitals once were).

Q: Thank you. That's a remarkable sight.

(laughs and pulls pants back up). Most people think so.

Q: What made you decide to become a nullo?

(pauses). Well, it really wasn't entirely my decision.

Q: Excuse me?

The idea wasn't mine. It was my lover's idea.

Q: Please explain what you mean.

Okay, it's a long story. You have to understand my relationship with Hemos before you'll know what happened.

Q: We have plenty of time. Please go on.

Both of us were into the leather lifestyle when we met through a personal ad. Hemos's ad was very specific: he was looking for someone to completely dominate and modify to his pleasure. In other word, a slave.

The ad intrigued me. I had been in a number of B&D scenes and also some S&M, but I found them unsatisfying because they were all temporary. After the fun was over, everybody went on with life as usual.

I was looking for a complete life change. I wanted to meet someone who would be part of my life forever. Someone who would control me and change me at his whim.

Q: In other words, you're a true masochist.

Oh yes, no doubt about that. I've always been totally passive in my sexual relationships.

Anyway, we met and there was instant chemistry. Hemos is about my age and is a complete loser. Our personalities meshed totally. He's very dominant.

I went back to his place after drinks and had the best sex of my life. That's when I knew I was going to be with Hemos for a long, long time.

Q: What sort of things did you two do?

It was very heavy right away. He restrained me and whipped me for quite awhile. He put clamps on my nipples and a ball gag in my mouth. And he hung a ball bag on my sack with some very heavy weights. That bag really bounced around when Hemos fucked me from behind.

Q: Ouch.

(laughs) Yeah, no kidding. At first I didn't think I could take the pain, but Hemos worked me through it and after awhile I was flying. I was sorry when it was over.

Hemos enjoyed it as much as I did. Afterwards he talked about what kind of a commitment I'd have to make if I wanted to stay with him.

Q: What did he say exactly?

Well, besides agreeing to be his slave in every way, I'd have to be ready to be modified. To have my body modified.

Q: Did he explain what he meant by that?

Not specifically, but I got the general idea. I guessed that something like castration might be part of it.

Q: How did that make you feel?

(laughs) I think it would make any guy a little hesitant.

Q: But it didn't stop you from agreeing to Hemos's terms?

No it didn't. I was totally hooked on this man. I knew that I was willing to pay any price to be with him.

Anyway, a few days later I moved in with Hemos. He gave me the rules right away: I'd have to be naked at all times while we were indoors, except for a leather dog collar that I could never take off. I had to keep my balls shaved. And I had to wear a butt plug except when I needed to take a shit or when we were having sex.

I had to sleep on the floor next to his bed. I ate all my food on the floor, too.

The next day he took me to a piercing parlor where he had my nipples done, and a Prince Albert put into the head of my cock.

Q: Heavy stuff.

Yeah, and it got heavier. He used me as a toilet, pissing in my mouth. I had to lick his asshole clean after he took a shit, too. It was all part of a process to break down any sense of individuality I had. After awhile, I wouldn't hesitate to do anything he asked.

Q: Did the sex get rougher?

Oh God, yeah. He started fisting me every time we had sex. But he really started concentrating on my cock and balls, working them over for hours at a time.

He put pins into the head of my cock and into my sack. He attached clothespins up and down my cock and around my sack. The pain was pretty bad. He had to gag me to keep me from screaming.

Q: When did the idea of nullification come up?

Well, it wasn't nullification at first. He started talking about how I needed to make a greater commitment to him, to do something to show that I was dedicated to him for life.

When I asked him what he meant, he said that he wanted to take my balls.

Q: How did you respond?

Not very well at first. I told him that I liked being a man and didn't want to become a eunuch. But he kept at me, and wore me down. He reminded me that I agreed to be modified according to his wishes, and this is what he wanted for me. Anything less would show that I wasn't really committed to the relationship. And besides, I was a total bottom and didn't really need my balls.

It took about a week before I agreed to be castrated. But I wasn't happy about it, believe me.

Q: How did he castrate you?

Hemos had a friend, Zonk, who was into the eunuch scene. One night he came over with his bag of toys, and Hemos told me that this was it. I was gonna lose my nuts then and there.

Q: Did you think of resisting?

I did for a minute, but deep down I knew there was no way. I just didn't want to lose Hemos. I'd rather lose my balls.

Zonk restrained me on the living room floor while Hemos videotaped us. He used an elastrator to put a band around my sack.

Q: That must have really hurt.

Hell yeah. It's liked getting kicked in the balls over and over again. I screamed for him to cut the band off, but he just kept on going, putting more bands on me. I had four bands around my sack when he finished.

I was rolling around on the floor screaming, while Hemos just videotaped me. Eventually, my sack got numb and the pain subsided. I looked between my legs and could see my sack was a dark purple. I knew my balls were dying inside.

Hemos and his friend left the room and turned out the light. I lay there for hours, crying because I was turning into a eunuch and there wasn't anything I could do about it.

Q: What happened then?

Eventually I fell asleep from exhaustion. Then the light switched on and I could see Hemos's friend kneeling between my legs, touching my sack. I heard him tell Hemos that my balls were dead.

Q: How did Hemos react?

Very pleased. He bent down and felt around my sack. He said that it felt cold.

Zonk told me that I needed to keep the bands on. He said that eventually my balls and sack would dry up and fall off. I just nodded. What else could I do at that point?

Q: Did it happen just like Zonk said?

Yeah, a week or so later my package just fell off. Hemos put it in a jar of alcohol to preserve it. It's on the table next to his bed.

Q: How did things go after that?

Hemos was really loving to me. He kept saying how proud he was of me, how grateful that I had made the commitment to him. He even let me sleep in his bed.

Q: What about the sex?

We waited awhile after my castration, and then took it easy until I was completely healed. At first I was able to get hard, but as the weeks went by my erections began to disappear.

That pleased Hemos. He liked fucking me and feeling my limp cock. It made his dominance over me even greater.

Q: When did he start talking about making you a nullo?

A couple of months after he took my nuts. Our sex had gotten to be just as rough as before the castration. He really got off on torturing my cock. Then he started saying stuff like, "Why do you even need this anymore?"

That freaked me out. I always thought that he might someday take my balls, but I never imagined that he'd go all the way. I told him that I wanted to keep my dick.

Q: How did he react to that?

At first he didn't say much. But he kept pushing. Hemos said I would look so nice being smooth between my legs. He said my dick was small and never got hard anymore, so what was the point of having it.

But I still resisted. I wanted to keep my cock. I felt like I wouldn't be a man anymore without it.

Q: So how did he get you to agree?

He didn't. He took it against my will.

Q: How did that happen?

We were having sex in the basement, and I was tied up and bent over this wooden bench as he fucked me. Then I heard the doorbell ring. Hemos answered it, and he brought this guy into the room.

At first I couldn't see anything because of the way I was tied. But then I felt these hands lift me up and put me on my back. And I could see it was Zonk, the guy who took my nuts.

Q: How did you react?

I started screaming and crying, but the guy just gagged me. The two of them dragged me to the other side of the room where they tied me spread eagled on the floor.

Zonk snaked a catheter up my dick, and gave me a shot to numb my crotch. I was grateful for that, at least. I remember how bad it hurt to lose my balls.

Q: What was Hemos doing at this time?

He was kneeling next to me talking quietly. He said I'd be happy that they were doing this. That it would make our relationship better. That kind of calmed me down. I thought, "Well, maybe it won't be so bad."

Q: How long did the penectomy take?

It took awhile. Some of the penis is inside the body, so he had to dig inside to get all of it. There was a lot of stitching up and stuff. He put my cock in the same jar with my balls. You can even see the Prince Albert sticking out of the head.

Then they made me a new pisshole. It's between my asshole and where my sack used to be. So now I have to squat to piss.

Q: What has life been like since you were nullified?

After I got over the surgery and my anger, things got better. When I healed up, I began to like my smooth look. Hemos brought friends over and they all admired it, saying how pretty I looked. It made me feel good that Hemos was proud of me.

Q: Do you have any sexual feeling anymore?

Yes, my prostate still responds when Hemos fucks me or uses the buttplug. And my nipples are quite sensitive. If Hemos plays with them while fucking me, I have a kind of orgasm. It's hard to describe, but it's definitely an orgasm.

Sometimes Hemos says he's gonna have my prostate and nipples removed, but he's just kidding around. He's happy with what he's done to me.

Q: So are you glad Hemos had you nullified?

Well, I wouldn't say I'm glad. If I could, I'd like to have my cock and balls back. But I know that I'm a nullo forever. So I'm making the best of it.

Hemos and I are very happy. I know that he'll take care of me and we'll be together always. I guess losing my manhood was worth it to make that happen for us.

Re:I call it... Let's not pay people... (2, Insightful)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604027)

Yeah. Galaxy Zoo, Wikipedia and the like, I get, but what, exactly, is my incentive to write code (for free) for a company to make money from?

Re:I call it... Let's not pay people... (1)

omeomi (675045) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604205)

Yeah. Galaxy Zoo, Wikipedia and the like, I get, but what, exactly, is my incentive to write code (for free) for a company to make money from?

The companies market it as a way to "give young programmers real-life experience" and "something to use in their portfolio".

Re:I call it... Let's not pay people... (2, Funny)

rmerry72 (934528) | more than 6 years ago | (#21606143)

The companies market it as a way to "give young programmers real-life experience" and "something to use in their portfolio".

So there is no incentive for real programmers who already have a resume to bother. Only ameteurs and script kiddies would bother, so where is the quality code?

The idea has potential in some markets and for some industries however. I might offer to "crowdsource" for the local brothel by holding a bonking competition open to all the young ladies in my neighbourhood as a way of selecting the best potential hookers. I will personally judge all entrants to guarantee the quality: after all I'm responsible to my client - the brothel - for the quality of candidates. Winner gets $100, a twelve month contract and a chance to pad their resume with some real-life experience. Got to be a cheaper way for the brothel - sorry, "bordello" - to recruit quality talent.

Think it'll work :-) I'm willing to try.

Re:I call it... Let's not pay people... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21604127)

Some might say the same about free, open source programming.

Call me a troll, but there are people writing free-as-in-beer software who are creating products that compete with companies that pay programmers, and in many cases they are doing it for no pay. I can't help but think this has a depressing effect on wages for programmers.

But since I am not a programmer, please keep writing free as in beer software :)

Re:I call it... Let's not pay people... (2, Informative)

bondjamesbond (99019) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604311)

Will someone please mod this +1 Funny? Geez! It's like pulling teeth around here.

Re:I call it... Let's not pay people... (3, Insightful)

BrianRoach (614397) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604357)


There's a slight difference between giving a mega-corp some code for free so they can make more money vs. working on an open-source project which you enjoy and that benefits many folks ...

(You can argue that SOME opensource projects lead to companies making money via support services ... but they're far and few between ... and really, if that's the case, you can make money from it as well should you choose.)

- Roach

Re:I call it... Let's not pay people... (2, Interesting)

Bill Dog (726542) | more than 6 years ago | (#21607731)

...there are people writing free-as-in-beer software who are creating products that compete with companies that pay programmers,... I can't help but think this has a depressing effect on wages for programmers.

Probably depends on the size of the company. A small company with a single product that finds itself competing with a new free version of it, will tend to have to shed developers as the amount it can successfully charge for it diminishes. And job losses can depress wages, due to supply and demand dynamics. However, at a large company, it can act against job losses, the classical example here being MS having to update the web browser that they would have otherwise let linger for forever -- as long as competition (free or otherwise) forces them to maintain the IE product, they need to keep enough devs around to do it.

So free-as-in-beer software probably doesn't depress wages so much as has the effect of stifling smaller companies and reinforcing the larger ones.

even outside programming, it's usually a scam (4, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604257)

"Crowdsourcing" usually means getting people to do stuff for you for free, where you own the results and the people who created them cannot use them except by paying you (if at all). This is why people should be sure that projects they contribute to as volunteers release their results under some kind of Free license. For example, contributions to Wikipedia are free-licensed, and even if Wikipedia died or turned ultra-evil tomorrow, you could use the articles yourself under the GFDL, or set up a fork based on them. The same is true of contributions to MusicBrainz [musicbrainz.org] (Open Audio License), among other such projects.

For a good early example of the opposite, recall the CDDB fiasco---lots of people submitting data that ends up owned by someone who won't let you use it except under onerous licensing terms. The rise of "Web 2.0" has basically taken CDDB-style business models and made them much more common, so it's important to make sure you aren't enabling that sort of thing that in the long term ends up working directly against your interests.

Huck Finn whitewash fence anyone? (4, Insightful)

justsomecomputerguy (545196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604271)

Jeesh - Doesn't anyone read the classics anymore? It's only been available for over 130 years...

Re:Huck Finn whitewash fence anyone? (1)

Embedded Geek (532893) | more than 6 years ago | (#21605867)

Er, I think it was Tom Sawyer. Huck Finn was too busy traveling down the Mississippi... which he threw a silver dollar across before becoming president.

Re:I call it... Let's not pay people... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21604297)

Only morons would do it.

so are you enjoying doing this? i'm just saying...

Re:I call it... Let's not pay people... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21604469)

Yeah... sorry... I don't work for free.

Re:I call it... Let's not pay people... (0, Offtopic)

beadfulthings (975812) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604979)

I'm especially interested that the company involved is Constellation Energy. They're the parent company of Baltimore Gas and Electric, which serves my hometown. BGE recently railroaded through a 72% rate increase for electricity. That took effect in July after much controversy. The utility now wants 25% more. [wjz.com] This more recent increase is supposed to enhance their profits; the previous increase was supposed to cover the cost of energy they purchase from Constellation. Actually, they sell electricity to Constellation, then they buy it back at inflated prices and pass the cost on to their customers. There's no shortage of technical talent in Maryland. I suppose it's too much to expect that Constellation would pay fair wages to Maryland-based programmers.

Were it so simple... (1, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21605149)

Actually, they sell electricity to Constellation

It's deregulation. All utilities were basically "split" into generation and delivery. Generation owns the generators, and delivery is the wires and the customer base. The generation people sell their power to the grid - which there is the PJM power pool, and in turn the delivery side buys, for spot needs, from the grid at what's called location marginal price. The LMP is a calculated thing, it is designed to be a public price so that its transparent to all players.

What happens though, particularly in the east coast, is that, thanks to NIMBY, there's simply not enough electricity being generated for this to work. Particularly in Maryland, no one wants to build enough generation, and so, Constellation goes and buys the electricity from somewhere else across the country. Right now, this is commonly in Texas, because Texas seems to have no problem with building big coal plants, and so Texas makes a lot of money exporting electricity to the rest of the country.

So yes, Constellation is, in a sense, buying electricity from itself, but, it also has to pay a ton of middle men along the way, from ISO operators, energy traders, and even the rights to move transmission between ISOs.

The moral of the story is, if you want the cheapest possible electrity and best possible service, support legislation to recombine generation and transmission entities of various utilities, then, support the eminent domain and deregulation needed to allow these reconstituted utilities to construct enough coal plants to meet demand. If you want windmills, rats on treadmills, or other environmentally friendly generation, then be prepared to pay a premium on it.

Re:I call it... Let's not pay people... (1)

JMZero (449047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21605909)

"Let's find someone to do it for free."

TopCoder isn't trying to get people develop for free. If anything, the complaint would be that TopCoder's development methodology is too expensive: payments to design winners, payments for developers, bonuses for reliability, payments for review staff, payments for architects, ongoing programs like the "digital run". I've heard estimates that TopCoder ended up spending around $500,000 on its new UML tool.

I don't do design/development work for TopCoder (although I love the algorithm competitions, which are separate). But basically, the plan is to divide a project into parts. Each part is run as a design contest. Numerous designers spend a large amount of time producing a design. The designs are evaluated by a review board according to very specific, standardized criteria. A winning design is eventually picked, and the winners are paid. Then the part goes off to development, which follows the same general pattern. Other competitors and/or in-house staff are involved in the assembly and architecture of the overall software.

There are a lot of people submitting design and development work, but there is a much smaller group of people who routinely win. The money is not trivial - hundreds of thousands of dollars - and many of the top people do TopCoder projects full time. Thus there is a tremendous incentive towards quality, and it shows in the software TopCoder produces.

I don't think it's the best methodology for all software (or even most software) - but it's definitely not haphazard crap thrown together on the cheap by 1000 newbies. It's much more likely to be over-expensive, over-engineered software, with each part much more general-purpose than required by the specific software.

Re:I call it... Let's not pay people... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21606839)

A winning design is eventually picked, and the winners are paid.

You write that and don't realize that people do not get paid for their work? They basically have many designs produced, but they only pay for one and a little for the review process. Contests are bullshit. Anyone who regularly wins contests could easily get a higher paying job and anyone who doesn't win contests doesn't get paid. Company wins.

Reply to AC (1)

JMZero (449047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21607221)

You're making some assumptions that are incorrect. Firstly, you're assuming that everyone is there for the money. For many people, TopCoder provides a way to have "something" on their resume. Even if their competition history isn't glorious, it's nonetheless the best experience that many new graduates (or other young developers) will have to show (and for many bright students it also provides a flexible source of income). But even if a submission only passes the initial filtration steps, it's a demonstration of basic competence that many employers respect (TopCoder has been sponsored by Google/Microsoft/NSA/AOL/Deutsche Bank/many other AAA companies).

Secondly, suggesting that these people could easily get higher paying jobs is only sometimes true. Many competitors quit their "regular" job because they were making more at TopCoder per hour. This is especially true for competitors in areas where the average salary is lower, or where work befitting their skill level isn't available. Regardless of dollars per hour, doing work for TopCoder allows a tremendous amount of freedom in terms of when, where, and how much you work - and for many people those are important factors.

And I'm not saying it's a perfect setup, certainly not for everyone. I have never done much with the design/development competitions because the numbers don't work - for me - and honestly I'm not sure how well I'd do. But, for many people, it has proven to be a great fit.

Still working for free? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21607979)

Graduates who partake in these competitions are probably too inexperienced to see that this way of getting experience ruins their and every other developer's chance of earning reasonable pay in the future. Getting lots of designs for the price of one plus overhead will lower company's willingness to pay for steady work, even if the process eventually fails due to maintenance issues.

Besides, assume the process does not fail. Why would businesses hire coders at all? Then it's the music industry business model: A few stars become filthy rich, many just get by and most can never make a buck despite working hard, but they keep trying because the reward for making it is so big. If that sounds fair to you, I can't help you.

If graduates want experience, they can always help out an open source project. Pay is the same, because they won't beat more experienced developers (or they wouldn't need the experience to get a job.) This way they can at least use the fruits of their own labor when they get a job.

Competitions are scams, just like internships these days. If you do the work, demand the pay. Grow a spine.

Re:Still working for free? (1)

JMZero (449047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21608445)

Doing a software project through TopCoder is actually fairly expensive - there's a lot of overhead in terms of architecture staff, review boards, etc, to make it work. It will never be the norm in terms of the software industry, except perhaps for certain kinds of components designed for heavy re-use. Heck, TopCoder itself doesn't use the TopCoder process for all of its own internal work (they have their own internal developers). Being familiar with how these contests work, I'm not worried TopCoder will take my job any more than I'm afraid open source developers will take my job. They all have their place.

It's not the right process for every project, and it's not the right system for every developer. But for some projects and some developers, it works really well. I've seen a lot of people try, find it's not to their liking and leave - but few do so with any real complaints. On the flip side, I know a lot of people who are very happy doing work for them.

Re:I call it... Let's not pay people... (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 6 years ago | (#21608153)

...Contests are bullshit...

True. It's been a feature of content development firms since before the PC, too. I remember reading about how Heinlein was going to submit his first short story to one of the early SF magazines, who offered a cash prize in a contest for the best SF story. He looked around and found the going rate per word for regular submissions in a competitor's magazine was considerably higher than that cash prize, so he submitted the story there instead.

It's a perception thing, I think -- you say "Prize" and the eyes light up at the possibility of a higher than normal payoff. "Payment" can be higher, but sounds so bland -- no implied improvement over the status quo. Talk to Dr. Spin about that grand high lifestyle that piddling prize offers you.

The nukular power pants coders (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21603985)

their coding competitions are becoming more popular with big name companies like Constellation Energy
So we want you random guys to make up the code for deciding when to withdraw the boron rods from our nuclear reactors. Yeah, the guys who code up the first boron rod controllers get fifty dollars each.

Not Gonna Work (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21604011)

TopCoder has nothing to do with people accomplishing work. It's a competition, nothing more.

I bet this will be about as successful as my last idea, cokesourcing. I'd open my garage door in the morning and there would be piles of cocaine for anyone to walk up and snort in huge mounds. While they were there I merely encouraged them to add some code on the computers sitting in my garage.

I've never seen so many confusing drug related delusions put into comments! Luckily the comments made for a great book and that was how I, L. Ron Hubbard began Scientology!

Re:Not Gonna Work (1)

JMZero (449047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21605409)

There are algorithm competitions on TopCoder (which I enjoy, and which I assume you're referring to), but they are completely separate from the design, development, and architecture competitions (though naturally some people participate in both).

As someone familiar with their software development methodology, the criticism I would be most likely to level is that it's very labor intensive. It involves a large number of designers, developers, architects and reviewers - and the competitive nature of the individual parts means that there's a lot of duplication of effort (ie. for each component there will be a number of designs submitted; only one wins - so while some parts of different submissions may be used, there is still a lot of waste).

So while you could make a case that TopCoder software is over-engineered or over-expensive, it is in not haphazard and it has everything to do with creating a great, "real-world" result. The people involved are excellent developers, many of whom do TopCoder full time; if you are good enough to routinely "win", it can be quite lucrative.

Re:Not Gonna Work (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 6 years ago | (#21606373)

I've never seen so many confusing drug related delusions put into comments! Luckily the comments made for a great book and that was how I, L. Ron Hubbard began Scientology!

That is hardly fair. Scientology is a carefully designed and executed fraud. Give credit where credit is due.

Re:Not Gonna Work (1)

norova (1199601) | more than 6 years ago | (#21608145)

TopCoder has nothing to do with people accomplishing work. It's a competition, nothing more.
Wrong. TopCoder is a gateway for many corporations to hire globally available programmers and designers. Most Algorithm matches bring a corporate sponsor there to recruit top-performing competitors. In addition to Algorithm competitions, there are Design and Development rounds that let TopCoder members design and develop software (or bits of software) that TopCoder actually uses and sells to companies.

Two heads etc. (4, Interesting)

ShawnCplus (1083617) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604033)

While this definitely isn't new it's always a good thing to get another pair of eyes on code. Turning it into a competition has the tendency to trick programmers into doing better or working harder with a (sometimes false) sense of personal gain.

my website has a crap shovelling competition (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21604055)

The Summer of Crap.

software engineering...nah (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21604095)

So their argument is that everything in the field of software engineering is useless so lets just hire a bunch of people off the street? I cant wait until the time comes around to do some maintenance on that software, I'll be laughing.

Jews did 9/11 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21604133)

Jews did 9/11 and now Jewlianni is using it to his advantage.

"Crowdsource" = horrid UI? (3, Insightful)

hobo sapiens (893427) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604143)

Whatever kind of software we are talking about, you'll most likely get a horrid UI and the resulting usability headaches.

On one hand, you get design by committee. A UI that is not great, but just didn't offend anyone, the software equivalent of a meal at Olive Garden. Many MSFT apps have a designed by committee feel.

On the other hand you get no real UI conventions so various parts of the application look like what they are: a patchwork. Some F/OSS software has this type of design shortfall.

Sounds like a less focused version of an open source project. F/OSS embraces a certain ideal. I don't know if providing a free service for a for-profit corporation falls under that idea.

Re:"Crowdsource" = horrid UI? (1)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604715)

Well, in a lot of ways this is how open source works. However with open source, the gains for the developer are more obvious, more direct, and all-round better. Crowdsourcing is an attempt to do open source development for closed projects and while it will have some limited success, it is not that important.

Re:"Crowdsource" = horrid UI? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21606221)

Whatever kind of software we are talking about, you'll most likely get a horrid UI and the resulting usability headaches.

Come on, you don't *really* think MS crowdsourced Vista, do you? :-)
     

Frost 4isT!? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21604173)

and arms and dick The resources that One Here but now *BSD has steadilY new core is going philosophies must for the project.

architecting the puzzle (3, Insightful)

us7892 (655683) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604259)

So, the company describing this task had their architects divide the "project" into a hundred or so pieces to be worked on separately. Then, the best designs, submitted confidentially, get picked and used the company, with some "royalties" getting paid out. The company developers combine the best of these components into the finished product...

Something just doesn't seem right here... MobSourcing, RiotCoding, I mean CrowdSourcing. Seems like a good way to get all sorts of stolen code, easter eggs, and pretty much crappy code into your codebase.

Lets test the idea right here (2, Funny)

ueltradiscount (1195109) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604309)


Anyone who can turn this into Crysis 2 by noon tomorrow gets a lolipop and a free In Soviet Russia joke

DEF width = 1280
DEF height = 800
OPENCONSOLE
IF CREATESCREEN(width,height,16) 0
        MESSAGEBOX NULL,"Failed to create DirectX screen","Error"
        END
ENDIF
FILLSCREEN RGB(255,255,255)
sx = 0.1f
sy = 0.2f
speed = 1

Re:Lets test the idea right here (2, Funny)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604365)

In Soviet Russia, lollipop gets YOU!

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Re:Lets test the idea right here (1)

ueltradiscount (1195109) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604425)


In Soviet Russia the crowd sources YOU!

oops. gave the prize away early. Now I'll expect a DirectX11 wrapper for Windows 2000 on top of the initial assignment. Hurry up. Time is code! +P

Re:Lets test the idea right here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21605173)

DEF width = 1280 DEF height = 800 OPENCONSOLE IF CREATESCREEN(width,height,16) 0 MESSAGEBOX NULL,"Failed to create DirectX screen","Error" END ENDIF FILLSCREEN RGB(255,255,255) DEF engine INITOPENSOURCEGAMEENGINE(SCREEN0, engine) sx = 0.1f sy = 0.2f speed = 1 DIM cys As Crysis2App = New Crysis2("http://www.crysis-online.com:5004", username, paassword); cys.run(engine); ... Done.

Tom Sawyer's paint-my-fence scheme reborn (1)

samuel4242 (630369) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604315)

It's a cute idea when you're deep in Twainspace and the master is firmly in control of reality, but it's quite another thing in the real world. Does anyone know anyone who's managed to get others to paint their fence, either literally or figuratively? I think it's a rare thing and it almost happens more by accident than by design. Yes, some places like Slashdot have managed to build a public gathering spot and sell some ads around it, but it's quite another to get this crowd to do real, coordinated work. Then, I contend, you might as well hire people and pay them because it will take even more work to herd the crowd of cats.

Re:Tom Sawyer's paint-my-fence scheme reborn (1)

OutSourcingIsTreason (734571) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604865)

Does anyone know anyone who's managed to get others to paint their fence, either literally or figuratively?
Yes. Donald Trump.

Re:Tom Sawyer's paint-my-fence scheme reborn (2, Interesting)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 6 years ago | (#21610543)

Yes, some places like Slashdot have managed to build a public gathering spot and sell some ads around it, but it's quite another to get this crowd to do real, coordinated work.
Ah, the irony. Think about it. Slashdot has people creating content for free (specifically the comments in the forum) that are of high value (as a whole; maybe not this specific comment!). It would be impossible, or prohibitively expensive to pay a team of experts to create the content of this forum.

One of the "Tricks" to the Crowdsourcing phenomenon is to provide a way for users to create value without feeling like they are working. Slashdot has done that to the extent that you have created content (your posting) questioning whether anyone has done this. Tom Sawyer indeed.

Check out the Carnegie Mellon projects, The ESP Game, [espgame.org] Peekaboom, [peekaboom.org] and Phetch [peekaboom.org] for more examples where users are providing valuable services FOR FREE while playing a game. Similar to how you and I are creating value for free in this forum with our witty banter. It feels rewarding to post a comment. And it creates a valuable end product for Slashdot.

One "crowdsourced" concept that I find to be totally unethical is the archival of student papers. Force students to submit papers to your service, in the name of plagiarism-checking, and then hold them FOREVER, and build a database of content so that you can use other people's Intellectual Property. The McLean trial [washingtonpost.com] starts around January 23rd. Hopefully Slashdot will be covering it.

No guarantee of getting paid even if you "win" (1)

bn0p (656911) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604375)

The article makes two points that, put together, concern me - "If an InnoCentive participant's idea is selected, he can be rewarded up to $100,000 for it."
and
"Who's to say that a company that doesn't pick your solution as the 'winner' won't nevertheless take your idea and run with it anyway? InnoCentive handles this by requiring all participants to sign an agreement protecting confidential information, and it prevents third parties from seeing and stealing others' ideas by allowing only the organization that posted the problem to see proposed solutions."

This may prevent a third-party from stealing your idea, but it does not address the issue of the company posting the problem from stealing your work. If a company wants to, what's to keep them from saying that no one's code was good enough to win the $100K, then using some, or even all, of the ideas submitted anyway. It's not like you get to look at the code for the final product to make sure your (unpaid) work has not been used.


Never let reality temper imagination

Re:No guarantee of getting paid even if you "win" (1)

caltuslex (1119255) | more than 6 years ago | (#21607113)

What's to stop a company from having you code and then saying "Oh, no, we dont feel like paying you." Honor is about all you have, and the thought of lawsuits. With innocentive, they are backed by big names in the chemistry world who cant exactly stand to get a reputation of not honoring contracts, or else the whole system would fall apart. They paid me my money just fine (quite helpfully really).

Question: (0)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604385)

Where does 'innovative' come in? Is somebody going to look at their tiny part of the code and go "wooo we should use fuzzy logic, here!" ??

Maintenance (4, Insightful)

tknd (979052) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604437)

Building new things is great and all but any sane software engineer will understand that maintaining the software is a much harder and more complex problem than building the first version. Even if you pick the best built components, at some point later your customers are going to want a new feature or want a broken feature fixed. I don't think you can simply hold a competition to figure out who can submit the best maintenance job. Additionally, once the competitors submit their entries, they have no further obligation to work for you. So you've essentially lost the most important assets (the people that wrote the stuff) on the day you receive the finished the work. You could always have your own people maintain it but they will be much more costly than had you kept the original authors who do not need to re-learn the code.

Another way to take advantage of the populace (1)

omfglearntoplay (1163771) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604519)

You have to love how good intentions are often taken advantage of by the money hungry. It just irritates me.

mod do3n (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21604537)

ThesE ear7y

you mean like a few days ago on /.? (2, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604553)

That's a catchy term for the practice of taking a job traditionally performed by employees or a contracted company and outsourcing it to an undefined, large group of people in the form of an open call on the Web

You mean like a few days ago when a story submitter commanded us "slashdotters" to go rifling through Microsoft's OOXML documents for them so, that IBM and friends wouldn't have to pay staffers/paralegals/lawyers to do so?

Rent-A-Coder was a disaster (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604557)

I put a job on Rent-A-Coder once. The job was to take an existing GPL piece of Python code that understood how to query some, but not all, of the various registrar WHOIS servers, and make it understand the output from each of them. The existing code was years out of date, but did approximately the right thing. Each registrar has a slightly different format for the same WHOIS data, so you need a collection of parsing modules, or something smart enough to do it generically. It's not a difficult problem, just time-consuming.

The code, and a test file of 1000 test domains, was provided. The statement of the problem said that all the test cases had to work. The resulting code would be re-released under the GPL.

Four programmers in succession took that job, with bids from $200 to $500 and locations from Ireland to Russia, and none of them produced any working code.

Is this the same group? (1)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 6 years ago | (#21606173)

I put a job on Rent-A-Coder once.
Is this the same group as Rent-A-Crowd? They were great for my 21st! (Hey I'm a coder, I don't have friends!) :P

Re:Rent-A-Coder was a disaster (1)

abigor (540274) | more than 6 years ago | (#21606447)

I don't think a lot of good developers hang out there, to be honest, as the rates are hilariously terrible. Right now, there is a guy who wants a clone of the iTunes store. The maximum bid accepted: $300.

i second that.. (3, Interesting)

fliptout (9217) | more than 6 years ago | (#21609323)

Truly, if one has the masochistic desire to experience cringe-worthy job requirements, go to rentacoder. You too can develop code for $50 that would otherwise be worth thousands of dollars. A few years ago, I thought I would join and make some extra cash.. But it turned out to be an opportunity to troll assholes trying to get something for nothing.

Some projects I recall off the top of my head:
-Write software that will take in a .wav and convert it to a midi ring tone. Guy in India wants it done for $50-ish dollars. I've written something similar in Matlab, so I know how freaking non-trivial it is.
- Create a solid state disk drive for somebody's extra RAM. Willing to pay $300. Har har. I, ahem, told them I could make a prototype for $50k, plus the cost of Xilinx tools.

I've done bits of consulting, and doing projects for small, clueless companies is by far the worst job you can do as an engineer. They are technically clueless, don't understand that engineering costs money and want it done yesterday. Rentacoder and its ilk only magnify these problems, because they troll for technical people who will work for relatively nothing.

Recently, I offered to hire myself out as an embedded systems engineer at $60 an hour, and that is pretty much whoring myself out compared to what other people charge for consulting, but the Indian dude who wanted to hire me only wanted to pay $20 an hour. F off.

All I can say is, if these site works for somebody, good for them. I have bigger fish to fry. It's quite hard for me to see how this attracts any real talented people.

Re:Rent-A-Coder was a disaster (1)

Pinball Wizard (161942) | more than 6 years ago | (#21607073)

In other words, you were looking to get something on the cheap by hiring foreign programmers, and it bit you in the ass.

Oh, well, from what I understand thats a common occurrence, so don't feel bad.

Re:Rent-A-Coder was a disaster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21607531)

Four programmers in succession took that job, with bids from $200 to $500


The going rate for a good developer is 30$ to $50 /hour. You are hiring contractors who have to pay their own benefits, taxes, overhead, and pay for down time, so you have to double to quadruple that figure. That gives and hourly cost of between 60 /hour (low-ball) and 200 / hour (super-star). Lets be generous and say 100$ /hour for an average. Did you really expect them to get it done in 2 to 5 hours?

I looked for work on R-A-C once. I left when it was clear that the place was overrun by low-ball incompetent workers. You got what you paid for.

Re:Rent-A-Coder was a disaster (1)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 6 years ago | (#21610737)

Four programmers in succession took that job, with bids from $200 to $500 and locations from Ireland to Russia, and none of them produced any working code.
I don't know much about that site, but I assume that you didn't have to pay, then. So truly you got what you paid for (pay zero, get zero). What a hassle though. Did it cost you anything (besides your time)? Listing fees, maybe? Just curious.

I do think there are talented, low cost people out there. Especially in (don't shoot me) India and Russia.

Plus, you might land some rising star. Not that I was necessarily a rising star, but I was so interested in getting job experience that I accepted my first technical "job" and worked TWO entire summers for, no lie, bus fare. Eight+ hours of work, for the cost of my commute (which, at the time, was well under a buck. So an hourly rate of less than a dime.) The way we got by child labor and minimum wage laws was to call it training and volunteer work. Taken advantage of? No way. It was a blast, and gave me unbelievable experience.

And I was ruthless on cranking out projects and not letting a tough problem slow me down. My third summer (different company), I got paid more than twice the hourly rate of any of my friends (working for a software company paid better than flippin' burgers) because I had that experience, and the software company billed me out for about 5 times what they paid me (which was still a VERY competitive rate, and I got numerous requests for follow-up work, so I know I had satisfied customers). Once again, I was paid well, got valuable experience, and the client got cheap rates.

...of course, this was the 70's... But I'm sure there are similar people to be found out there.

And.. believe it or not, I got a call in 1999 from one of those clients who tracked me down on the internet, asking me if my 1970's code was Y2K compliant. OK.. So I produced code for $6/hour that was IN PRODUCTION for 20+ years. "Yeah, I'd be happy to verify Y2K compliance to satisfy your auditor, but my rates have gone up a bit since then...." - That phone call made my day!

Central Limit Theorem (2, Interesting)

xPsi (851544) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604641)

Crowdsourcing can work if enough people participate. The laws of probability take over from there. What drives the success and stability of this counterintuitive approach is The Law of Large Numbers [wikipedia.org] and some of the Central Limit Theorem [wikipedia.org] . Basically, with enough random contributions, the counterproductive/arbitrary elements tend to cancel and the coherent parts add up over time. Ironically, this is probably why democracy tends to be a reasonably stable form of government. From a business's point of view, it is great because you essentially get free labor. However, the drawback is that if you don't have enough people participating, you essentially get white noise as your output subject to large fluctuations. You will also have to be patient before you hit the right critical threshold of users to get projects done on any meaningful time scale. Software projects have different needs but, using Wikipedia as a working example, this means you need roughly a hundreds of thousands of rabid, active users to achieve modest stability over several years. In other words, SourceForge. You may needs something on the scale of the open source movement itself for it to work in software.

Re:Central Limit Theorem (2, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604771)

Basically, with enough random contributions, the counterproductive/arbitrary elements tend to cancel and the coherent parts add up over time. Ironically, this is probably why democracy tends to be a reasonably stable form of government.


Not really. Democracy is fairly stable because the main reason for government instability is that, in non-participatory systems, people often have no effective way to protest unwelcome government action except for seeking overthrow of the government (making those systems unstable, since discontent builds up and then explodes), whereas in participatory systems, direct participation provides an outlet.

This is also related to why, among democracies, systems which feature a wider array of viable parties tend to have much higher satisfaction than those, like the US, with very few, since the array of meaningful electoral choices is closely related to how much of the population feels their ideas are effectively represented in government.

Re:Central Limit Theorem (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 6 years ago | (#21605177)

That's an interesting observation. Duverger's Law says that things tend to two-party systems, at least when you apportion votes to geographical districts. Even where you apparently have multiple parties, like in England, the coalitions are fairly static and form a close approximation to two parties.

So I wonder if people feel more effective when they're offered an apparent choice, even if it's really mostly the same choice.

Random Contributions?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21607761)

Random contributions are far more likely to break something than improve it. This is why the most successful projects have plenty of places where the appropriate bias is introduced. Take away those and coderot will quickly set in.

In advertising, they call it CGC (1)

switcha (551514) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604649)

There's a similar movement afoot in advertising that goes by the equally dumb buzzword of "Consumer (or User) Generated Content". Under the guise of advertising that's more "in touch" with consumers, agencies are letting the public create their campaigns for them. Be it ketchup or Doritos or whatever, the result is usually only "in touch" with the person who made the poorly produced, half-baked idea, and then it's ability to resonate falls of sharply beyond that.

Re:In advertising, they call it CGC (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 6 years ago | (#21607357)

I don't know... didn't GM try that one with the Yukon or something a while ago? They got a whole bunch of really excellent commercials pointing out how silly SUV commercials are, complete with inadequacy jokes. They sure resonated with me. Best car commercials ever.

Sounds great... (3, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#21604729)

....until you get one crap piece of code that goes into an infinite loop on bad input or just some odd input and kills the whole shit. Unless you've written a good set of unit cases, and if you did you'd probably easily write the code yourself with that level of understanding. Reviewing code is IMO a very time-consuming and difficult skill, and putting good people to review bad code to look for the best is usually a waste of time. Either they will skip the checking, or they're skilled enough to write it themselves and on better time. Though I suppose it's better than putting bad people at reviewing, which is the deaf leading the blind. Honestly, would you like a product that's put together by a hundred different indian code shops, only somewhat worse?

What every software company wants is predictability - they want to know if you typically turn out good code or poor code, then they can review accordingly. And by that I don't mean nothing, everyone has a bad day and everyone makes mistakes, but if it's the new intern you know it needs much more review. There's no way they could be just as thorough on all parts and still deliver this century. Crowdsourcing sounds to me like a lemon market [wikipedia.org] , where you'd want reliable contributors rather than the fly-by-night lemon sellers. That's exactly the opposite, where you go into long-term relationships and both side want long-time commitments rather than this micromanagement.

Re:Sounds great... (1)

atlacatl (161963) | more than 6 years ago | (#21608333)

Well, the director of development said that he will save 50% of time and money. This is nonsense, of course, as you rightly point out that creating a working system out of bits and pieces is more time consuming and error prone than actually doing it in house.

What I find misleading in the article are the examples given where crowdsourcing works. The examples given are content consuming things. You don't need any expertise to read a wikipedia article, or laugh at a whole bunch of pictures someone gave away. Software engineering can't be broken piecemeal style, as the integration will deteriorate into a complex mess of crappy code.

I think at the end, this company will have a system, but I doubt it will become mission critical. And the 50% savings will come from the firing of the managers who allowed to take such unproven road to developing software.

I'm as resourceful and avantgarde as the next guy, but businesses require a sense of assurance and predictability. This method of software development gives none of those assurances. On the other hand, it will be easy to pin-point what went wrong.

First impression (Snow Crash) (1)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 6 years ago | (#21605027)

When I first saw the words "Crowdsourcing Software Development" it reminded me of the coding practices of the Federal Government in Snow Crash, where Y.T.'s mother worked on a tiny piece of code with no idea of what she was actually contributing to. Basically the coders would each handle one function and know nothing of the whole. Entire departments probably wouldn't even know what they were working on as the contracts were huge and the projects enormous. It was a cool concept (actually that whole chapter on Y.T.'s mom was a great read), just hope it never pans out.

This article seems nothing like that though... just a short stream of consciousness.

Re:First impression (Snow Crash) (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#21605161)

When I first saw the words "Crowdsourcing Software Development" it reminded me of the coding practices of the Federal Government in Snow Crash, where Y.T.'s mother worked on a tiny piece of code with no idea of what she was actually contributing to. Basically the coders would each handle one function and know nothing of the whole. Entire departments probably wouldn't even know what they were working on as the contracts were huge and the projects enormous. It was a cool concept (actually that whole chapter on Y.T.'s mom was a great read), just hope it never pans out.

The whole Feds thread in Snow Crash was ripped off in the Matrix. Its a shame Neal Stephenson didn't get credit for it.

Crowdsourcing is the total opposite of this scenario. The way the Feds do it is pretty close to how commercial software is developed today in some large companies.

Uhmmmmm (3, Funny)

The Living Fractal (162153) | more than 6 years ago | (#21605031)

Crowdsourcing?
You mean..
Open source?

Difference?

Hey I know, let's make up buzzwords for things that already have them. Yes, that's going to help.... I say we brick this idea.

Crowdsourcing and the CDDB debacle (1)

IGnatius T Foobar (4328) | more than 6 years ago | (#21605049)

The problem with crowdsourcing is that the crowd might not trust you, especially after being burned. Consider the "CDDB" database, which allows computers to identify the music CD that's currently sitting in the drive by building a hash of its contents and searching for that in an online database on the Internet. If it wasn't there, you could enter the data yourself, and then the next person to put the same disc in their computer would enjoy a track list that you composed. It was great, it worked, and it was a great example of crowdsourcing ... but why are there others now, such as FreeDB? Because the folks holding the database just up and decided one day to make it proprietary. They renamed it to GraceNote [gracenote.com] and declared that anyone who wants to make use of the CDDB now has to pay for a license.

Naturally, the free world moved on and started FreeDB in its place, but the message here is: if you're going to crowdsource, don't stab your crowd in the back after you get what you want from them.

Re:Crowdsourcing and the CDDB debacle (1)

nerdacus (1161321) | more than 6 years ago | (#21607175)

They renamed it to GraceNote and declared that anyone who wants to make use of the CDDB now has to pay for a license.

Umm, last I checked, anyone writing a freeware app could use Gracenote for free. So what are you talking about?

Re:Crowdsourcing and the CDDB debacle (1)

IGnatius T Foobar (4328) | more than 6 years ago | (#21607263)

Umm, last I checked, anyone writing a freeware app could use Gracenote for free. So what are you talking about?
Gracenote is free like Internet Explorer is free -- i.e. it isn't.

Re:Crowdsourcing and the CDDB debacle (1)

nerdacus (1161321) | more than 6 years ago | (#21607329)

Care to clarify? If I don't know what I'm talking about, I'd like to know. Or are you just trying to be cute? Have you actually read anything about the freeware policy, or perhaps the policy itself?

Re:Crowdsourcing and the OpenDivX debacle (1)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 6 years ago | (#21607697)

Now that I think about it, DivXNetworks' OpenDivX project followed the same path. DivXNetworks shafted the developers by changing the license and removing the code from their Web site, so someone forked the project and later it was re-written as Xvid.

It's just business (3, Insightful)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 6 years ago | (#21605209)

Why pay for something when you can get it for free (even if you're only paying pennies on the dollar by outsourcing)? Comedy clubs have used this model for years with "Open Mike" nights, and media outlets have their unpaid "interns".

There is an endless supply of desperate, talented people who will do anything for free in the hope that their gifts will get them noticed by an employer. Employers, of course, are quick to exploit this reservoir of free talent without mercy or restraint.

Please god no (1)

Gideon Fubar (833343) | more than 6 years ago | (#21605263)

You wouldn't crowdsource any other engineering task, so why software?

Sometimes it's not just a buzzword, it's also a bad idea.

Re:Please god no (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 6 years ago | (#21610335)

You wouldn't crowdsource any other engineering task, so why software?
[PHB] Because software's just typing, but with more semicolons. Now get back to work! [/PHB]

High abuse potential? (2, Insightful)

KC7GR (473279) | more than 6 years ago | (#21605345)

Seems to me that doing this sort of thing could, assuming minimal checking of the results, open one's code up to widespread abuse in the form of 'back doors' or 'logic bombs' that anyone not pleased with the idea (say, programmers unhappy with the entire outsourcing/offshoring pattern) could manage to slip in.

As others have (accurately) pointed out, this is also little more than a way to be lazy about doing a job, and not caring if it's done right as long as your company gets paid for it. What benefit do those actually writing your code get for their efforts?

There are right ways and wrong ways to go about doing any task. This strikes me as just plain wrong. I certainly wouldn't want to do any project I come up with this way. It would be like Boeing throwing open their design process to the world, and saying "OK, you design our next plane for us, but we get to use any idea you come up with and not pay you." Ludicrous, hmmm?

Crowd VS Community (1)

david.negrier (1199497) | more than 6 years ago | (#21605515)

Hi,
This is my first post on Slashdot but I had to answer this one.
Actually, I'm quite amazed that the guys behind TopCoder manages to run a company on the concept of a permanent competition. I am myself in the business of "crowd-sourcing" development on the web since 3 years. I cofounded a company named The Coding Machine (http://www.thecodingmachine.com/ [thecodingmachine.com] ) and when we founded it, the first model that we thought about was the model applied by TopCoder.
But we went on a different model. The rational behind it is that we wanted to build a community of developers rather than having a "crowd" of developers competing against each other. Competition is right to a certain point, but having a relationship based on trust with a developer is much more important to me. You cannot expect people to keep competing forever. A constant competition can be fun for some time, but as a developer, I would certainly not do that for a living.
On the other hand, if as a developer, I know a project manager that trusts me because I delivered good work, and that is ready to take me in priority for other developments, I will come back. Building trust and making a true community is certainly complex, but is in the end much more powerful than crowdsourcing.
So this is what I try to do every day at The Coding Machine. After 3 years, we have a few strong relationships with about twenty developers, but we value them much more than a crowd of a thousand developers.
But anyway, I'll be interested in following TopCoder to see if their business model keeps working after a few years.

Bugs... (1)

das_magpie (1149995) | more than 6 years ago | (#21605715)

Would be interesting if there is a massive bug found and half the team was unavailable at there real jobs and could not find time to design a possible fix.

I guess this "open source model" could never be used for a serious application which required rapid response work if a bug was found.

PHB speak for "Cheap Foreign labor" (2, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21606047)

because programmers who take on the job are global, offering many different perspectives on any one job.

This is PHB speak for "cheap foreign labor". I recognize phrases similar to this from pro-H1B (visa-worker) business lobbyist websites. "Many different perspectives" is just fluffy "global community" talk to hide the real i$$ue.
     

MBA buzzword bullshit (3, Insightful)

f1055man (951955) | more than 6 years ago | (#21606833)

See it everywhere.
Overstock.com Divulges Secret To Its Cyber Monday Success [informationweek.com]
Their secret? They hired engineers. I shit you not, they were a .com with all the tech outsourced. Apparently if you kiss enough asses and make enough powerpoints you start to believe that that's what makes shit happen. The leaches go from one very important golf game to the next while the engineers are busy making shit and rolling their eyes at the douchebaggery. Engineers make the world go round. The eyerolling I mean, something about angular velocity or some shit. Kind of slept through physics class. I was a business major at the time, didn't think it was very practical.

this is just a bad idea (1)

f1055man (951955) | more than 6 years ago | (#21606969)

It's an incredible waste of resources. Creative ideas and approaches to a problem are a dime a dozen and therefor dirt cheap. Management gurus don't like to consider this because that's all they do. The implementation is the hard/time consuming/expensive part. If I'm running the show, I make a request for proposals, pick the best one and then implement it once. Apparently MBAs like to stick the rest of us with the costs of duplicating labor.

Yet another way to try to use the OSS community (1)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#21606989)

This is yet another way to try to use the OSS community to write code for businesses. Most companies that try to just make money selling other people's code fail, only the true "community" ways of writing code manage to survive, think of Red Hat, they have Fedora and many other ways for the Community to help write the software without it becoming a "we need you to write a program to do X" it is the way that people can work at their own pace and do what they are good at which makes OSS programming so successful, sure some jobs get neglected because people don't like writing drivers and the like, but over time, it creates a better user experience because there are multiple developers with their own agendas, not simply "unpaid work" like "crowd-sourcing" is. Companies need to realize that unless there is some sort of accomplishment such as bragging rights, a better software for you to use, pay, or fame, people won't work on these projects, they need to realize that OSS developers are looking for something and aren't just people who decide "oh I have a free evening lets spend 12 hours coding tonight for some companies project without being paid" they need something and "crowd-sourcing" doesn't do that.

Interesting (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 6 years ago | (#21608909)

So...

catchy
adj., -ier, -iest.

1. Utterly moronic: a catchy term for the practice of outsourcing a job to an undefined, large group of people.

Good idea (1)

sonamchauhan (587356) | more than 6 years ago | (#21608923)

Like every other crowdsourcing idea, it has potential but only if the tools were free and convenient as well... For eg. a web browser based IDE with an integrated design and test environment

Perhaps it time those old visual programming ideas were implemented on the internet....

An Extremely Foolish Form of Outsourcing (1)

phlamingo (629479) | more than 6 years ago | (#21609209)

This appears to be a "brillant" idea from some meathead MBA who thinks FOSS works by magic.

These are the same people who think that outsourcing IT is a good idea. I've seen it from both sides, and I have never seen an outsourcing arrangement (regardless of national boundaries) work well.

I'm not talking about bringing in contractors to help; generally, a good contractor will become as much a part of the team as the empoyees, just with different constraints. I'm talking about "Hey, Big Freaking Impersonal Company, I'll pay you less than it's costing me to {manage my servers, write my code, keep my network secure, etc.}"

The best you get is divided loyalty, over-conscientious techs working around the system to keep the users happy and lying to management on both sides. It can get much worse than that, when people are cynical enough, or just get exhausted and overloaded.

Yes, I am in that kind of situation right now.

back-stabbing is a possibility, but all assume it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21610095)

I am amazed at the cynicism of people here. Yes, the possibility exists of theft and deceit. But a group who offers a prize and then doesn't deliver when the requirements they lay out are met will not get more than one crowdsourcing campaign to work for them, a possible greater loss than the gain of stealing an idea they advertised a prize for.

Then, there are some problems that are a good idea to attract a crowd of potential problem-solvers into trying to solve. I for one am happy that there are more and more worthy challenges being defined with a prize at the end. Whether the prize be token compared to the effort involved, as in the X-Prize, or the prize be possibly substantial compared to the investment required, as in the Virgin Earth Challenge (devising a plan to reduce atmospheric CO2, prize $25 million), the competition style definitely can be an effective complement to the hire-only problem-solving approach. There is a huge number of problems that are important to solve (global warming and other ecological issues are mere drops in the ocean), and which will never be solved if only left to engineers-on-staff that are told to work on them. With some problems, it doesn't matter how smart your people are, or how much money you are throwing at it. You sometimes just don't know where the solution will come from.

In some cases, solving the problem, no matter how many man-hours 'lost', is the one and only goal, and the solution benefits all. How about winning a war? Or preventing famine? Or curing disease? I'm amazed no one seems to have pointed this out to counter the complaints. I wouldn't mind working on a grand challenge in my free time and be happy if it worked, and maybe got a prize. If I don't want to work on it, I don't, and no one fires me for it.

In short, cynics all line up at the "I don't want to shoot and I don't want to score" kiosk of life. Don't think for a second that those who make it big in business, society, science, etc, always see an immediate return on their investment of blood, sweat and soul. The ability to strive, and the willingness to try challenges that are unmet, and possibly undefined, is often what leads to growth in this increasingly brain-seeded civilization of ours.

A good way to support Open Source projects (1)

zby (398682) | more than 6 years ago | (#21610651)

Competitions looks like a good way to support Open Source projects. Of course the best way is to publish your own code - but if a company wants to do something more and support some OS project they can pay some of the project contributors - but this can destroy the motivation of the other contributors and pack it with politics. Making a competition can be a good way of supporting a project without distorting it's structure.
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