Friday, May 20, 2011

Why I CloudSpoke

Daniel Llewellyn
Guest Blogger: Daniel Llewellyn

Dan (aka Kenji776), our most recent contest winner for his entry in the CloudSpokes Scoreboard Challenge, has graciously volunteered on twitter to join our ridiculously talented series of guest blogger entries.

Dan, who hails from Minnesota, works with Apex, Visualforce, Coldfusion, SQL, lots of Javascript hacking, and has been known to play with some C# here and there.  He's put together an excellent perspective post on his experience with CloudSpokes, it's too good to not share!

When my boss first gave me a heads up about this cloud coding contest called CloudSpokes, and told me I should compete I thought he was crazy. Who would pay real money to let a bunch of nobodies write code for them? I mean if you want code written you hire a contractor and lay out spec and work with them until completion. How could you get quality results from crowdsourcing? Also, I figured it would be a waste of time because I’m no programmer. There would be real pros there, I’m just some wanna be hacker. Sure I’ve played with some different things, and can be clever time to time, but there was no way I could square off with people who really know what they are doing. Still, I decided to check it out, just to be a good sport. It was my boss who told me to take a look after all.

I signed up and started looking through the challenges, “nope, nope *scroll scroll scroll*, nope”. I don’t know how to do any of this. What the hell is ruby on rails? I don’t know how to write objective C, I can’t write an iPad application. Was looking pretty out of my league. Then, one challenge caught my eye. “Jailbreak Chatter” it said. Excitedly, yet pensively I clicked the link and waited impatiently for it to load. What was this? They want to “hack” Salesforce to allow custom content. This was a challenge I could sink my teeth in to. Back in the day I prided myself on bending and breaking systems, Salesforce itself seemed like a worthy competitor. I mashed the register button immediately.

The next several hours were a blur. Now I had a challenge, and to me, my pride was on the line. I didn’t even care about the money. Now it was me vs the system and a panel of judges watching. I said I was going to do this, so I damn well better do it. I tried all the classic attacks for injecting code, clever syntax, url tricks, even directly modifying the post data. Salesforce had it covered. Their validations were too good. It was clear I was going to need to think a bit outside the box here. Eventually I came up with my javascript injection technique that won me second place. When the word came down I could hardly believe it. Me, some idiot who hardly feels like I know what I am doing manged to take second place in a contest between some of the more prominent programmers in the cloud computing arena. I felt validated. Maybe I could do this? Maybe I am good enough? I told my boss that I had placed. He sent an email to the company letting them know. All day I received congratulations and pats on the back. I was hooked.

That is why I compete. It’s not about the money. It’s not even really about the technology. For me it’s a form of validation. To know that I can run with some of the best. That I can solve problems others can’t. To know that I am at the cutting edge and pushing it further. Of course I love problem solving and the friendly competition, learning new stuff and making a bit of cash. Really though the best part is just the challenge itself. Maybe it’s all inside my head, but that’s good enough for me.

PS and for the record, it turns out the crowd is great for the cloud. The results that I’ve seen and have been amazing. Maybe it’s due to a bit of a shared mindset about pride being on the line, but the entries are always top notch. As an article I read about this topic the other day said “It’s not about the worst submissions you get, it’s about the best ones” or something along those lines. One awesome entry can totally make up for a bunch of mediocre ones and this particular community is amazing. So I humbly admit I was mistaken. The cloud-crowd owns.

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