Skip to main content

The DreamForce Million Dollar Hackathon

A few weeks we witnessed a historical event: for the first time ever a programming competition had a
million dollar bounty.  $1 Million drew a lot of attention and had many skilled programmers code up their best ideas; the flip side of $1 Million is the intense drama that’s associated with picking the winner.  In the DreamForce Hackathon the winners were accused of having the code ready before the competition announced and therefore having an unfair advantage over the rest of the field.

As a person who has won and lost hackathons I can tell you - there is nothing worse than going for several days without sleep, hacking something amazing, and then losing to someone who had an unfair advantage.  We all know that given more time all of the competitors could have improved their applications.

The first problem that is inherent in all of the hackathons is the amount of original code that needs to be written in the competition. For instance: all of us are using libraries and frameworks and no one seems to have an issue with that.  In fact people who are masters of using libraries are praised at their skillful way to configure or control those building blocks during the competition.

The second problem in the hackathons is that the nature of the event calls for quick judgment.  Everyone wants to know the winner literally hours after the submissions and presentations are done.  Anyone who has done a code review or a due diligence on any software knows that it is downright impossible to do a good amount of due diligence on dozens or hundreds of submissions in 2-3 hours.  Should we have more time for reviews?  I think all of the contestants themselves want to know if they won something pretty much that same day.

Salesforce’s decision to award the first prize to both 1st and 2nd team is incredibly generous and also probably the best given the situation.

If any of the critics come up with a better idea of how to do judgment in a compressed amount of time I think we should all try them out.  My closing advice for participants is: build apps that you would like to work on regardless of the prize.  Many of the apps built during the $1 Million Hackathon were elegant, innovative and could very well attract funding and customers.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Quality of Code is Quality of Life

About 20 years ago when I started working in technology companies I remember “the best” engineers had similar patterns:
-They worked crazy hours
-They knew the systems no one else knew
-They could react and deliver something faster than anyone else
You could always hear other employees say: “Bob is really smart, no one knows how to get anything done in system X besides him!”

This reinforced optimization around being the only person who knew how to do something in some part of the code.  That in turn reinforced job security and bargaining for those engineers, but also chained them to a particular system.  We had big code bases of C++ or Java code where some “Bob” hacked up features as soon as he possibly could.  “Bob” would have occasional nuclear disasters where he’d sleep in the office or through the weekend and then everyone would thank him for how he “saved the day.”  “Bob” sacrificed his quality of life to get praise when he hacked stuff up quickly and then the second time when n…

SDET / QA Engineer Interview Checklist

After interviewing and hiring hundreds of engineers over the past 12+  years I have come up with a few checklists.  I wanted to share one of those with you so you could conduct comprehensive interviews of QA Engineers for your team.

I use this checklist when I review incoming resumes and during the interview.  It keeps me from missing areas that ensure a good team and technology fit.  I hope you make good use of them.  If you think there are good questions or topics that I have missed - get in touch with me!


SDE/T or QA Engineer interview checklist from Mike Borozdin
If you like this checklist you might want to check out these posts:
Emotional Intelligence in Software Teams  and Good-bye manual tester, hello crowdsourcing!

Code versus Configuration

At Ethos we are building a distributed mortgage origination system and in mortgage there is a lot of
different user types with processes that vary depending on geography.  One of our ongoing discussions is about how much of the logic resides in code vs. being in a workflow system or configuration.  After researching this topic for a bit, I have arrived at a conclusion that the logic should live outside of code very infrequently, which might come as a surprise to a lot of enterprise software engineers.

Costs of configuration files and workflow engines First thing that I assume is true is that having any logic outside of the code has costs associated with it.  Debugging highly configurable system involves not only getting the appropriate branch from source control, you also need to make sure that the right configuration values or the database.  In most cases this is harder for programmers to deal with.  In many FinTech companies where the production data is not made readily accessible…