From the time I was young I loved two things above almost all others – tinkering with technology and the Boston Red Sox (as anyone who hears me talk can guess). In the last decade I feel lucky to have experienced not one, but two miracles – the first was watching my beloved Red Sox come back from 0-3 to beat the Yankees and win the world series. The second is how being a techie has gone from meaning you’re destined for life in the back room to the world being yours to reinvent.
Cloud, social, mobile, big data, the Internet of Things – all of these have made the world a programmable place and allowed technologists to create technology that is “indistinguishable from magic” more easily than ever. At Topcoder we get to, on a daily basis, see talented people from all over the world do exactly that – from helping NASA find asteroids, the EPA predict toxicity, create an Ebola identification iPhone app, build a game changing mobile app, and much much more.
All of this is why we wanted to bring the Topcoder Open back to San Francisco this year and make it more than a competition of the best of the best (the top 100 Topcoder competitors from the past year will compete live for 250K in prizes), but a celebration about how technologists are repainting our world. You can read all about the event in the press release we issued today – including details about how the competition works, amazing speakers like Jim Goetz from Sequoia, celebrity and pickup coding challenges, the fun zone with cool gear from 3D Systems and Harman, our Girls in STEM day and much much more.
I know we have and will make a ton of mistakes with the TCO, but I wanted to touch on a couple of things we are trying to do that we hope catch on across the industry in order to make conferences and events more real for developers.
The first thing is we have a way for developers to code their way to the event for free – skipping the $500 registration fee all together. We picked medium level problems (next year they will be harder !) that will take from a few minutes to an hour for a skilled developer to solve. Sequoia Capital jumped at the idea because they wanted to show the developer community some love, so they helped offset the costs for them. If our event or yours is for technologists why not make that clear from the first step? As sage Boston band extreme once noted – it takes More Than Words to make it real (how much you love developers).
Second is the SuperAwesome Cloud API Mashathon. Yes its a 20K hackathon, but with a twist. You spin a wheel a few times, land on some APIs and then have to build something using them. Rather than building with just your favorites, it introduces a level of randomness we think mimics the real world. We also love combining traditional consumer and business APIs on the same wheel. You may love (our sponsor) Facebook’s APIs but how will you combine them with something from B2B stalwarts from salesforce or HP? Lots of people do hackathons really well, but how often do you get to spin a wheel? Dev conferences need more spinning wheels.
Finally, I wanted to shift to something more serious that our whole industry needs to do more with. On Wednesday of the Topcoder open, thanks to Google and our own techie Maryam Norouzi, we will be hosting a Girls in STEM panel, birds of a feather round tables and a hundred local students to learn and discuss how women can prosper with tech careers. Its a great follow on to the Girls in STEM poster design challenge we ran at last year’s event. Being a technologist is hard enough and no one should have an additional burden placed on them for their gender or other preconceived notions. We do have a real problem with this in the industry and it will only change as we broaden our own perspectives. So I hope women and men will take the opportunity to participate and learn about this. As the father of two amazing daughters I hope they love technology (and the Red Sox) as much as I do and see it as a career opportunity without limits.
We hope to see many of you at the Topcoder open but even more hope we see many more events demonstrating their commitment to technologists in new and creative ways – particularly if there are spinning wheels with equal opportunity for success and embarrassment alike!