Tuesday, July 31, 2012

In The News: Competing for work in a crowdsourced world

SDTimes - Alex Handy

...In CloudSpokes, users can post development requirements, then choose from a typical pool of three or four finished implementations. David Messinger, chief architect at CloudSpokes, said that developers compete on CloudSpokes in order to win a set prize, typically in the hundreds of dollars range. Today, he said, the site has a hair under 45,000 users, has completed 360 jobs, and disbursed more than US$600,000 to freelance developers who've risen to win challenges.

“It's more of a market-based system,” said Messinger. “I need to get this work done, and here's the prize amount for it. Multiple people compete on that unit of work, and based on who does the best job, we pay.” Unlike traditional outsourcing models, CloudSpokes developers build applications to specifications, and only the best implementation wins. Both losing and winning entries are still posted online so that the community can critique each other’s coding skills. 

CloudSpokes.com was actually constructed through this competitive implementation system, said Messinger. “The CloudSpokes site itself was built on Azure, but we decided to rebuild it,” he said. “We asked our 20,000 members, and they rewrote the entire site from scratch without us writing a single line of code ourselves. It's not something I would recommend to a client, but we said, 'Build this service on whatever platform you want,' so now we're based on Heroku, some Google AppEngine, and Amazon Web Services.” Each aspect of the site rewrite was paid for through CloudSpokes’ bounty-like system as well...

Monday, July 30, 2012

Compete...win...and become famous!

When people ask what CloudSpokes is about, the short answer we always give is that it's where you can go "to compete with code in the cloud and win cash".  But based on the recent experience of CloudSpokes member dubroe, maybe we should add "...and become famous!" to that tagline.  You see, last month dubroe won this CloudSpokes challenge (his first!).  And of course he won the $1,000 top prize.  But that wasn't the end of it.    You see, dubroe's Twitter Doghouse app was so cool that people started using it, and talking about it, and eventually writing articles about it in publications like Mashable and International Business Times (EDIT: and now the Wall Street Journal!).  And if getting his name in the "paper" wasn't enough, Twitter has exploded with thousands of tweets about his app in just the past 24 hours!

So congratulations to dubroe for his awesome app and his vast, yet almost certainly fleeting internet fame.  But fear not, even if the fickle users in twitterland soon move on to the next kitten-fueled meme there's always another CloudSpokes challenge around the corner.  And who knows?  Your next submission might just be the one to catapult you to worldwide fame and fortune!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

In The News: Twitter Doghouse Lets You Temporarily Dump Annoying Tweeps

Mashable - Sam Laird

...Twitter Doghouse was created by developers Elan Dubrofsky and Jure Stern in response to a challenge posted on the crowdsourcing development platform CloudSpokes.

Once you log in and authenticate with your Twitter credentials, you'll be presented with a form to fill out indicating who you want to put on timeout and for how long. You can spurn someone for as short as one minute or as long as you want...


Friday, July 27, 2012

Leaderboard 07/27/12 - Code Your Way To Dreamforce

Here's the first leaderboard for Code Your Way To Dreamforcejazzyrocksr is out to a quick lead having won first place in Salesforce Smart Lead Search and second place in Design a Outlook to Salesforce.com Contacts Exporter since this contest started on July 18th.

It's really early in the competition. And remember we'll be picking the top leader from the US and one internationally, so we'll fine tune the leaderboard as we get closer to the end date.

Good luck, CloudSpokers!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Guest Blogger: CloudSpokes and the Cycle of Progress

Guest Blogger: George Dyer

A few weeks back, we hosted this challenge and knew it would have some really creative results. What we didn't know would happen, was that once again, one of our newest members was going to absolutely crush it on their first ever submission! George (aka georgedyer), who comes to us from Chattanooga Tennessee, teaches High School Spanish at his alma mater, where he is working on the next generation of foreign language instruction tools! He found CloudSpokes while browsing GitHub and stumbled across a fellow CloudSpokers repo and saw a past contest entry. He decided to snoop around our site, and when he found our Kiva challenge with backboneJS, he chose to just go for it! Turns out that was a good choice! We were so impressed with his submission on the challenge, we badly wanted him to write something up about it! Thankfully he accepted! Please welcome George to our blog, and keep an eye out for his name, as I have a feeling we'll all be seeing it frequenting our leader boards in the future!

CloudSpokes and The Cycle of Progress

Teachers are very important to me. A teacher in high school first introduced me to algorithmic problem solving via the Pascal language way back in 1987. It was Mr. Lewis who loaned me reference books and let me watch him program the school's first student administration software. More importantly, he fed me programming challenges regularly and provided access to a computer. I soon discovered that successful skill development followed a certain cyclical pattern that looks something like this:
  1. Observe the experts. Recognize patterns.
  2. Mimic those patterns. Practice them. Tweak the patterns to create something new. Make mistakes.
  3. Analyze and correct mistakes. Improve your creation.
  4. Repeat...
There are no tricks, really. The speed of your skill improvement is directly related to the number of focused iterations of this cycle that you can manage within a given time.

Another teacher in high school helped me become fluent in Spanish. It turns out that the same process applies to foreign language acquisition. Paco (my teacher) and I succeeded where many others in foreign language have failed, and I believe the key lies in this process, which I like to call The Cycle of Progress. Paco spoke in Spanish 99% of every class and was continuously asking us to copy and tweak the patterns he provided us with his speech in order to say something new. Students weren't allowed and didn't have time to speak English, as precious class time was devoted to what might be the most important step in The Cycle of Progress: Rigorous practice.

I was so well-prepared by Mr. Lewis that I started programming straight out of high school, first on physics research and soon after working for startups during the (first) internet boom of the late 90s. It was an exciting and lucrative time for anyone who loves to acquire and apply new skills.

Years later I got the chance to return to my high school to teach Spanish. I seized the opportunity to work alongside many of the teachers who taught me, and that's what I've been doing for close to 10 years now. Along the way, I've achieved the most success when focusing my students on The Cycle of Progress. Here is the rather cheesy representation that I gave my Spanish students every year:

During my experience as an educator, interactive web apps matured and flourished, and I began to see how technology, used in the right ways in the service of skill development, empowered me to achieve great influence on student language acquisition. This, as well as my love for problem solving, eventually drew me back into programming full-time. My current goal is to combine teaching experience with programming skills to create tools for teachers that leverage and multiply their power to transform the minds of students.

I've spent the past year playing technology catch-up, sharpening my skills with the many new web technologies that have matured while I was busy in the classroom. There are plenty of great mentors and heroes out there to learn from, like Alex McCawJeremy AshkenasJames HallidayTJ Holowaychuk and the folks at Bocoup in Boston, just to name a few, that have provided me with the opportunity to look over their shoulders via github repos, books, blog entries and screencasts as they do what they do best. These resources alone, however, would not help me achieve my goals.

Finally, this is where Cloudspokes comes in. When I stumbled upon the site for the first time, I knew I had to try one of the challenges. It was a chance to practice the new skills and techologies I've been reading about and watching in screencasts online; to copy programming patterns and tweak them; to make mistakes, refactor and work out the kinks; to measure my performance, analyze mistakes and carry the experience to the next iteration in the Cycle of Progress. Best of all, I had the chance to get paid for my time learning! It was like a teacher giving out cash.

My first CloudSpokes challenge was a BackboneJS Kiva loan organizer. Briefly, here are some of the things I learned how to implement:
Here are a few things I realized I needed to improve on by the end:
  • Separating client-side code into modules
  • Making sure that my views only respond to model changes
Here is the code on github and a link to the live demo.
For my second CS challenge, I designed an embeddable online user-count that links to a chatroom for logged-in users. Along the way I learned how to implement/develop:
You can take a look at the repo here.

Many lines of code later, I feel much wiser, more capable and confident than I was only a month or so ago. CloudSpokes challenges were the perfect opportunities to iron out the implementation of many skills and tools before incorporating them into my own larger projects for language instruction, and I made a little money, too! I've already used some of that money on a yearly subscription to Peepcode! The cycle continues...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Code Your Way to Dreamforce

The Cloud Computing industry event of the year is coming. Over 650 sessions covering everything from cloud, to social, to mobile. Speakers including Sir Richard Branson, Tony Robbins, and numerous industry experts and executives of leading organizations. Oh, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are headlining the party.

We can only be talking about one event - Dreamforce. And we want you to go experience it for yourself, September 18th through the 21st:

The basic rundown is as follows. For 30 days, (July 18th through August 16th), we'll pull the top leaders by POINTS won for challenges in the "Salesforce" or "Heroku" categories, by end date. Points will be distributed according to this guide:
  • 1st place = 500 points
  • 2nd place = 300 points
  • 3rd place = 200 points
  • 4th place = 150 points
  • 5th place = 100 points
In the case of a tiebreaker situation, we'll pick the participant who won the most prize money for the same challenges used for the point distribution.

There will be two winners chosen, one based in the US, and one International. The prize is an “all expense paid trip to Dreamforce”:
  • Full conference pass to Dreamforce (and “CloudStock”/Developer event as available)
  • Airfare to and from Dreamforce
  • Hotel accomodations
  • Spending cash
  • CloudSpokes shirt for the event
  • Free VIP ticket to the Appirio Dreamforce After-Party
  • and more...

Have questions? Visit our support page

We'll be posting the weekly leaderboard on the blog, so stay tuned for more, and good luck! See you at Dreamforce!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Badges, Badges, Badges!

There are currently four main menu items available on CloudSpokes.com. These items pretty accurately reflect the top priorities for the community. "Members" takes you to a list of the community itself, showing profiles, leaderboards, win rates, and activity. "Challenges" is the running list of open developer challenges. "Account" is where you as a member manage your profile.

Today, we're proud to introduce "Badges". Badges, Badges, Badges. We had the badge's page in beta for some time, but as you might have noticed on your profile, badges are now in full effect. Here's what to look for:
  • Badges page - This page details all our current badges and requirements to achieve them. Expect this page to change as we add more partners and scale more challenges.
  • Profile page - On your profile page you will now see your points and rewards, as well as stats and achievements. 

As you compete and win on CloudSpokes, it's important for us to provide transparency into your achievements. You've earned them, you deserve to be able to show them off! 

Beyond the the top-level CloudSpokes achievements, you'll notice we've focused on individual technologies as well. So whether you're looking to prove that you truly are an HTML5 Samurai, or looking to build out a new skill set with Force.com, we hope to the be the place you come to to show off your talents and track your progress. Instead of a superficial resume, you can now pull your real-world achievements directly off of CloudSpokes - where the rubber meets the code!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

DocuSign Killed the Paperwork Star!

CloudSpokes is all about working with fun and useful new technologies, which is why it's so frustrating to have to ask winners to print and scan tax forms to us so we could process payments. I mean, what is this, 1979?*

Luckily we’ve been working with DocuSign to build their shiny new REST API and we were one of their first partners to use it in production. We spent a couple of weeks working with Vlad Cretu, DocuSign’s Developer Advocate, to solve this nagging problem with a slick little node.js application hosted on heroku (what else would you use?) using socket.io that allows a member to sign their tax form online and update our Database.com org all from the comfort of their browser.

Well, we're happy to report CloudSpokes members will never have to deal with time-wasting paperwork again!  Now you can select and sign the appropriate tax forms in the cloud, from the comfort of your own browser!

Check out the video below to hear our own Jeff Douglas explain how to sign and submit your tax forms with paper-free bliss.  If you have any questions, problems, ideas, or just want to heap praise on Jeff, please visit our new support page.

* If you don't get the reference or the photo, you owe it to yourself to check out this music video.

Gettin Jiggy with Community Support

Managing a top-notch developer community isn’t all badges and prize money, as much as we wish it was! Just like an app, sometimes we have bugs. And the best way to handle bugs is to flush them out and get them fixed as soon as possible in a scalable manner. For example, the other day I emailed Jeff and asked him who would win in a fight between John McClane from Die Hard or Martin Riggs from Lethal Weapon. (which is clearly McClane, but that’s another story for another day) and his answer was, “Paypal payments are on the 10th and 20th of each month. For more information see the CloudSpokes FAQ page located here”.

I took a little bit of offense to this as I felt he wasn’t really contemplating my legitimate question. Well thankfully, that will no longer be an issue, as we have finally nailed down a support process that we are pretty excited about. Not only will it make things much more organized, manageable and intimate, it will also support the true CloudSpokes theme of “Community”.

In our new support community, powered by GetSatisfaction, the community will be self-sufficient and self-operating, with the opportunity to ask and answer each other, as well as post ideas, get feedback and even just get general updates. The new CloudSpokes support community will not only replace our current FAQ’s section, but will also be the home to all future CloudSpokes related inquiries. All without having to wait for that message from Jeff Douglas to appear in your inbox. The new “Help” page will be community driven and eventually replace all emails sent to support@cloudspokes.com. There will even be itemized support products such as “FAQ’s”, “Payments”, and “Challenges” for you to easily find the answer you are looking for or ask a new one that isn’t there yet.

You may have even already noticed the change in our top right nav, or the support widget we’ve rolled out, but should this be the first you are hearing of them, give the new site layout a quick once over. Also make sure to snoop around the community support page and start flooding it with questions, answers to existing ones, and ideas. You can even access our new method of support via our Facebook page, under the support tab. One of our members, PaulKolbovich already stumbled across our new support page and posted a great idea, which we now have in our July Sprint Cycle and should be releasing next month. Curious about what it is...check it out here.

Scaling our support management, and making this investment will benefit those of us behind the scenes at CloudSpokes and the community as a whole. If you have any more questions, comments or ideas, head over to the community help page and give us a shout! We look forward to seeing this grow, generating answers and ideas with involvement from CloudSpokers across the globe, bringing the community just a little bit closer together.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Announcing "First Time Submitter" Challenges

A little while back, we got an interesting tweet from one of our long-time followers, Carlos Villalpando:

The chat in question was with between Carlos and one of our most active and consistent members, Kenji776, right around the time we launched CloudSpokes:

Now, a little over a year later, Dan is on the top of our leaderboard and is a fantastic contributor to the community. But there was a time when CloudSpokes was new, and Dan was new, and at first glance the hurdle of jumping right into our main developer challenges might have been a barrier to him ever joining and participating in CloudSpokes. So we owe a dept of gratitude to Carlos, and we have since been looking for a way to help ease new members into the CloudSpokes process.

As part of an initiative to address this, we launched our first First Time Submitter Challenge. You can find it here.

These challenges will be for all new users who have not yet submitted for a CloudSpokes challenge. These challenges will run for a longer time period (about a month) and we will release one every month. As well, the criteria for these challenges will be much looser and more "hackathon-styled", allowing new members to play with and experiment with new cloud technologies.

If you have a friend interested in getting started on CloudSpokes, this is the place to send them! As we scale CloudSpokes, more participants means we can have more challenges, and have more people winning more often. If you have any feedback on how we can improve this new concept, please let us know in the comments. Welcome and good luck new CloudSpokers!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rolling Thunder Round 7 Winners!

Rolling Thunder blogs have been on hiatus for the past couple of weeks, but don't worry...the thunder still rolls. We took the time off blogging and put it to good use however, by listening to Garth Brooks on repeat announcing the return of QuickQuizzes, which are back for a limited time! With all that being said, we are now finished with Round 7, and are well on our way to a new and improved mobile site.

In Round 6, we asked you to build out the challenges page and we weren't disappointed! Well Round 7 was no different! In this round of our series of challenges, we asked you to build our member details page. In fact, much like Round 6, there were extra winners paid out due to an excess of awesome submissions! JustinLau roped in first place this time, followed by alfongj, talesforce and PaulKolbovich, taking 2nd and a tie for 3rd respectively.

Per usual we had the in house expert Jeff Douglas run through the submissions and demo' them in a video. Make sure to check that out, and get in on the action of the last few days of QuickQuizzes.