257 Cloud apps from the Crowd: A CloudSpokes Update

May 23, 2012 Appirio

By Sal Partovi (@spartovi)

It’s been nearly a year since we last updated this group on CloudSpokes – a crowdsourcing development community focused on the cloud.

In the past, we shared how our crowd in the cloud has given back to the open-source community for furthering cloud development, how crowdsourcing can increase innovation, provided arguments for looking outside company walls to achieve open innovation, and summed up the first year highlighting some of the apps and partner work from CloudSpokes’ inaugural year.

As we’ve stated before, “The flexibility of cloud platforms has created a unique point where, for the first time, dramatic innovation can occur with both the underlying technology model and how results are delivered to businesses. With an Internet connection and some expertise, the world can be your development partner.

This concept of the cloud accelerating crowdsourcing is echoed by GigaOM, “The Netflix Prize challenge in 2009 attracted more than 50,000 participants trying to improve Netflix’s Cinematch algorithm, and today we have Kaggle — an entire company dedicated to hosting competitions for companies trying to crowdsource their own analytical challenges. And it’s the cloud, with its centralized nature, virtually unlimited and on-demand resources, that makes it possible to have so many people access and work with the same data sets at the same time.” This is why we’re so excited about CloudSpokes, which sits right at the intersection of crowdsourcing and cloud development on its merry way to disrupt an industry.

There are many examples of us using CloudSpokes to our own benefit within Appirio, but one of our proudest examples of CloudSpokes in action is the migration of the CloudSpokes platform itself from Azure to Heroku and Database.com, performed almost entirely by the community itself. We love that the community built the community, it’s so… perfect. Again quoting GigaOM: “Because CloudSpokes crowdsourced the development of various aspects of the site, submissions came in using all sorts of languages and cloud platforms. When the new Database.com-based site is flipped on near the end of this month, the front end will run on Heroku, and the middle tier will run on a combination of Heroku-, Google App Engine- and Amazon Elastic Beanstalk-based services.” Below is a sample of a few of the challenges (some code based, some design based) we ran to rebuild the site from the ground up:

For more on the migration, see our talk here.

And we’re not the only ones using CloudSpokes to crowdsource innovation. During the past 15 months CloudSpokes has become an important vehicle for our customers to deliver innovative solutions. We’re overdue in describing some of these real world examples of how a 40,000+ member cloud development community can contribute to enterprise app dev, so here are a few recent challenges our enterprise customers have run:

  • Twilio SMS for Force.com: An application that allows a user to send and receive SMS messages for contacts in Salesforce.com. Run by one of the largest, private sector universities in North America as a new way to engage with students.
  • FTP with Google App Engine: An App Engine application that allows uploading and downloading files via FTP. Run by a biotechnology corporation as an extension to an app being built on App Engine
  • Chatter Compliance: An application designed to filter out chatter posts according to identifiers configured by an administrator. All feed items and comments will be checked against a list of configured patterns. If a match is made, an email with the post will be mailed to a configured system account and the offending text will be replaced. Run by a medical device manufacturing company who wanted to use Salesforce Chatter for collaboration but needed to implement compliance controls.
  • Mobile Lead Conversion: An HTML5 mobile lead conversion app using the new Salesforce Mobile SDK. The application displays a list of leads on a user’s phone/tablet and allow the user to quickly convert a lead to an existing account or a new account. Run by a technology company focused on storage and data management as a new way for mobile sales reps to better manage CRM.
  • Weighted Round Robin Assignment Engine: A sales lead assignment engine that determines a way to assign new leads and opportunities to top producers (so that top producers receive the most leads by number) while still distributing leads fairly to the rest of the sales team. Run by a company specializing in green home energy to better help manage leads after industry events.
  • Google calendar free/busy lookup within SFDC: An interface in Salesforce that looks up Google Apps Free/Busy data for a specified a Google Apps user(s), given a specified date range and availability of time. Run by a large media company as a way to manage corporate calendar information within CRM.

The crowd in the cloud was announced as a match made for the enterprise. Now 15 months, 257 apps, 40,000+ members (in 65+ countries), and $465,000+ in awards later, CloudSpokes has clearly proven that success. The old model is dead, and the Crowd in the Cloud is real and here to stay.

Interested in seeing how a community of experts can help your business innovate? We recommend checking out crowdsourcing pioneers like 99designs for design work and Tongal for creative video for starters. If you’re ready to jump into application development, start by architecting your applications so the pieces are independent. Loosely coupled elements of a larger project are simply easier to parse out to a development community, and easier for a community to digest. Once you’re ready to post your first development challenge, check out the open list of challenges and the CloudSpokes blog for inspiration. And if you have any questions along the way, tweet @CloudSpokes.

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