Friday, November 30, 2012

Guest Blog: How I Reinvented Myself as a Developer!

Guest Blogger: Talesforce

Not too long ago I wrote a blog seeking out guest bloggers for our site, and almost immediately there was interest from a few of members! The first one to respond, was Talesforce, who since joining the CloudSpokes community, has been a force to be reckoned with! I was extremely excited that such a prominent member of our community wanted to take the time to write a guest blog! After a few emails back and forth, Talesforce was ready to rock! Check out his awesome story below, and definitely keep an eye out for his name on our Leader Boards!

It was a foggy January morning and I woke up early as usual to prepare for the day that lied ahead – meetings, meetings and more of them. For somebody who’d always been passionate about coding, I’d been living in another world dealing with project deadlines, deliveries, resources and everything sans coding.

It was purely by chance that I stumbled across CloudSpokes and the site’s headline struck a cord – “Participate in challenges, build a diverse portfolio, learn something new, and earn a little cash money on the side too.“  Not only would it give me a chance to brush up my coding skills, it would also provide an opportunity to pit myself against some of the best developers from all over the world and the best part – if I’m good enough, I’d have an opportunity to earn handsome rewards for my efforts.

Clearly, it was too good an opportunity to miss out upon, especially for someone who considers coding to be his first love in life! What followed in the last nine months has been an incredible journey of how I reinvented myself as a developer, thanks to CloudSpokes!

The Beginning

A year back, I didn’t qualify as a expert by any stretch of imagination but I did know how to find my way around and get things done. I was comfortable in technologies such as jQuery Mobile, JavaScript and most modern Web 2.0 technologies in general. I shook off my apprehensions and registered for the Mobile Discussion Boards with jQuery Mobile challenge.

The requirements were clear and there was enough guidance provided for starters such as me. It took me roughly 8-10 hours to complete the challenge requirements and by the time I submitted, I already had a sense of accomplishment of having learnt something new. Of course, I did not know if I would win especially as I was up against Kenji776 – one of the greatest CloudSpokes stalwarts (and it’s no surprise that he still stops the all time prize money list as I write this.)

Nonetheless, a couple of days later, the result came out and I was happy to know that I’d won my first ever CloudSpokes challenge.  Not only did I learn how to use jQuery Mobile on, I got some decent rewards for it as well. I have to admit that this victory kind of rubbed off and it got me hooked on CloudSpokes for good.

The Journey

Since then, I’ve participated in challenges varying across, Google App Engine, mobile and a host of other technologies. While some of the challenges have been easy to crack, I’ve literally pulled my hair off on a number of others, however the common denominator has been learning, and exposure to bleeding-edge technologies and fair compensation.

It would be a mistake to assume that my CloudSpokes journey has been all about coding. I’ve always had a flair for design and this prompted me to participate in several CloudSpokes design challenges as well. While I’m not a professional designer by any means, I do have an eye for detail and some knowhow of how to create visually appealing user interfaces and experiences. In that sense, CloudSpokes has provided me an ideal platform to pit myself against some of the top-notch designers from all over the world and build upon my design skills.

While I’ve never believed in the numbers game, I have managed to climb up the ladder and get myself a place in the Top 5 ‘All Time’list (as of now).  More than anything else, it’s an honor to be ranked among some of the best developers from all over the world.

The Competition

Developers always get a kick out of people who challenge them. They love competition as it helps them assess their strengths and weaknesses – I’m no different. I think the overall quality of competition is what stands out for CloudSpokes. There are folks from all over the world – each a master of their own art – be it wcheng from Canada (Ruby, Play, Groovy), cloudchallenger from India ( stuff) or all-rounders such as logontokartik and kenji776 both from United States. All in all, a great global mix of developers and a versatile set of technologies – can’t really ask for more.

The Community Spirit

Given the intense competition, one would assume that most challenges would end up as cat fights! In that context, I’m amazed at the CloudSpokes community spirit where most challenge results are fully respected and there’s been healthy competition on almost all challenges that I’ve participated in.

Of course, CloudSpokes isn’t perfect, nothing is - but I’ve a firm belief that it’s one of the best developer communities that I’ve been a part of – professionally managed, fair and well executed.

There’s no doubt that a lot of credit goes to the team that manages CloudSpokes on a daily basis – Jeff Douglas, Dave Messinger, Sal Patrovi, Tim Hicks and several others who chip in from time to time.

The SoCoMo Playground

At the end of the day, I view CloudSpokes as my SoCoMo (Social-Cloud-Mobile) playground. It’s said that this triple play would define the future of computing and I love the fact that CloudSpokes routinely throws up new challenges to help enhance my skills in all three arenas. It has been a fascinating journey so far and I’m sure the road ahead is equally challenging yet interesting.

My 2 cents!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

First2Finish Challenges, Whirlyball and Frisbee Golf?

Everyone here at CloudSpokes loves to compete. It can be anything.... frisbee golf, dodgeball, co-ed rec softball (watch out for injuries there!!) or competitive water skiing. I mean we love to compete. Heck, at our last offsite meeting we all tried to kill each other playing Whirlyball.

You CloudSpokers love to compete as well. For each challenge there's a deadline that everyone is shooting for. Unfortunately, some people are busy working on other challenges and are not able to compete on everything they'd like to.

Recently we implemented a "First2Finish" challenge type. These may be small or relatively straight forward challenges that we just want to get done without judging a ton of submissions. I mean how many submissions can you wade through that read from a CSV and insert records into a database. Not a lot of room for creativity there.

Another reason we love this type of challenges is that members typically ask if they can have small extension (we still grant them) or we don't receive a submission for a challenge. Now when a coding challenge reaches the end date and there are no submissions, it automatically switches to a First2Finish challenge and the end date gets pushed out by two weeks. The first person to submit a passing entry wins!

Here's how the First2Finish challenges work in detail. We will judge the submissions in the order in which we receive them. If the first submission passes review, the participant will be declared the winner. If the submission does not pass review, we will judge the next person's code and so on, until we either declare a winning submission or exhaust all submissions. You can submit as many time as you'd like, but you go back to the bottom of the queue each time. We will post a message to the discussion board each time a member submits and show the number of submissions on the challenge. Feel free to submit even if other members have submitted before you as their submissions may not pass. We will only pay first place prize money for First2Finish.

Monday, November 26, 2012

At AWS re:Invent? No excuses: Get that app built

The CloudSpokes team is heading down to AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas this week. We’re definitely excited to join the crowd of AWS fans and developers at Amazon’s first global customer and partner conference, and can’t wait to showcase the AWS successes we’ve had on CloudSpokes.

And because it’s what we do, we’re also bringing a contest to all AWS re:Invent attendees. That app that you need - the one that’s been on the backlog for whatever reason?

Come find the CloudSpokes team and give us a brief description of what you’re looking to create. Our team will judge this contest based on the proposed application's ability to transform a business process. The submission that has the most potential to create business impact for the nominee will win a free, fully-funded CloudSpokes contest. Submissions are being accepted online and at CloudSpokes booth #530 through the duration of the conference.

Looking for ideas on how crowdsourcing can bring innovation to your business? Check out our past AWS challenges, like the AWS EC2 Spot Instance Tool, built by the CloudSpokes community. Then bring us your challenge. Again, it’s what we do:

See you in Vegas!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Chatter Hashtag Reporter Winners!

Everyone loves #hashtags! Whether on Twitter, Facebook or Chatter, hashtags are the central point to every tweet, update or post! And there are some #superfrickinawesome hashtags out there, that we don't always get to see!

What we wanted to do, was have some way to search and export Chatter posts, based on the hashtags that were used. So when Jeff starts a #shoutoutfriday, we can see all of the posts with the same hashtag, and then export that list in a nice little list! Pretty neat right?

We did have a few technical requirements for the challenge as well! The Apex had to run as a SysAdmin so it had access to all posts, search parameters around date ranges, and of course some output requirements as well, such as Author, relevant posts and comments, etc.

At the end of the day, we had a couple of really good submissions, one from Manish_Kumar and the other from cloudchallenger, that ended up being our winners! Check out their submission videos below to see how their apps work, and don't forget to start #hashtagging like a mad man!

Place: 1
Money: $1000
Place: 2
Money: $250

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Rebuild our CloudSpokes Site in Rails Winners!

We recently launched a challenge to graphically redesign our site, and in conjunction we brought you this challenge to start building a new rails application using our super shiny brand new API! (which is still in beta, but that's another story for another day). This was the first, of many more challenges to come, in building our new site, and we were sure happy with the results!

We asked you to create the rails application, and get it running with the latest versions of the gems we use, and also add in Devise and Refinery. Pretty simple but still super fun right?

Well parasquid and aproxacs definitely thought so! They both scored perfect 100's on the scorecard, splitting the winnings down the middle, and making some some awesome apps. Check out parasquid's demo video below as well as his sample app here and aproxacs' sample app here!

Also, keep an eye out for the site redesign, and more challenges with our awesome new API!
Place: 1
Money: $500
Place: 2
Money: $500

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Native Android Bus System Map with Winners!

When we first launched this challenge I was extremely excited to see the results because I knew it was a cool challenge, and cool challenges always come with awesome submissions!

This was no exception! Building a native Android app that maps the bus stop information must have sounded as exciting all of you as well, because there was a lot of interest in this challenge!

At the end of the day, the competition even came so close, that our judges didn't know how one could possibly be better than the next and ended up scoring a tie for first place between talesforce and ppandhi. Make sure to check out talesforce's demo video below! And as always, congrats to all who participated!

Place: 1
Money: $1000

Place: 1
Money: $1000

Getting Started with AngularJS is Now Open Sourced!

A couple of months ago we engaged with a customer who wanted a custom web app with a super rich UI.  When I say super rich I mean Eli's cheesecake with fudge carmel truffel oil. Think hierarchy object creation with drag-able and expandable atributes that morph to create new objects, kind of like like g+ circles on caffeine, taurine, glucuronolactone, B-group vitamins, sucrose, and glucose. No problem eh! "There must be some sort of javascript library out there", we thought.

The good news is the customer did their homework and evaluated JS libraries for both Model-View framework and a powerful set of reusable components. Introductions: consultants meet AngularJS, AngularJS meet the consultants. We blushed a little at first when we reluctantly admitted that we had not met this beauty before. The customer assured us that we should not leap from the tallest bridge just yet. AngularJS is a Google project and they have been pretty quiet about it until it went 1.0 which was just a few weeks ago. We did our homework and were really impressed. We thought it was like Backbone and Bootstrap had a kid and BackStrap and BootBone were already taken so they decided to name it after Great Uncle Angular.   

Saying that Angular is a combination of Backbone and Bootstrap is not quite right since it extends and abstracts third party libraries not replaces them. The real beautify of AngularJS is that it's a framework and NJAJSL (Not just another Javascript Library) and this dog can hunt! The concept of MVW (Model-View-Whatever) or MVVM (Model View View Model), which angular embraces, purports to minimize the Controller. It provides an effortless two-way binding between the model and the view without having to manipulate the DOM. They achieve this by abstracting the DOM with a familiar looking construct and they even call it a directive. One genteman said "once you have static html data-binding is so easy even a PM could do it". Sold!

So we decided to run a little open ended contest just to see what our awesome community could produce. We launched Getting started with Angular JS with the thought that we would ask for Hello World for the Insomniac over-achiever or something like this: Self reg login page, store trivial user prefs in Mongo, get the weather, show shiny eye candy... As you can probably tell we were trying to get examples of how easy it would be to bind the view to the model, make a web service call out and still look as pretty as your senior prom date. Robertojrojas, entry was so fine we decided to open it up on github.


Monday, November 19, 2012

October First Time Submitter Challenge Winners!

When we saw a tweet from a while back about their new API, we got pretty excited and knew it would be perfect for our October First Time Submitter Challenge. Luckily, all you new CloudSpokers out there were as excited about it as we were!

By no surprise we had a lot of interest in this challenge, even some interest from members who just wanted to build something sweet with the new Do API, even though they didn't qualify for the challenge! Our new members however who were able to participate, had a blast building some super cool apps!

Lalyos and noeticpenguin came out as the winners for this one and both have awesome submissions with great videos! Make sure to check them out below, and if you are new member yourself, check out our November First Time Submitter Challenge!
Place: 1
Money: $750
Place: 2
Money: $250

Box is Back

Box is back, and better than ever.

We're kicking up the Box category on CloudSpokes and starting things off with three concurrent challenges live right now on our challenges page:

Sample App & Doc for Box and SendGrid - $1,000
Create an instructional walkthrough that shows people how to create a basic app that uses the Box and SendGrid APIs. For this challenge, you must create both the app described, as well as a guide to how to create it. Most of the judgement will be about how good the guide is, so be sure it's easy to understand. Additional resources like screenshots or demo videos will earn extra points. The audience for this will be people who have experience programming but are unfamiliar with one or both of the APIs, so write accordingly.

SharePoint Web Part for Box Embed - $1,250
Box wants to enable users to embed a Box webpart into their SharePoint sites. Users should be allowed to select a Box folder, whose contents will be displayed in the webpart using Box embed.

Box Weekly Sweepstakes (Week #1) - $100
Complete this quick 2-minute challenge to earn your Boxer badge, which will enter you into the weekly sweepstakes and also make you eligible for $25,000 worth of challenges!

Come get your Box on!

Friday, November 9, 2012

CloudSpokes is Looking for Guest Bloggers!

Have you ever wanted to author a guest blog before? Well now is your chance! In true CloudSpokes fashion, we are bringing in the community and looking for guest bloggers to post on our site!

Although we have a very strong collection of guest blogs already in the archive, we realized that a very large portion of our community has never had the opportunity to blog for us! We want that to change! You just won a contest and your app is pretty slick? We want you to blog it! Just attended an awesome talk on crowdsourcing? We want you to blog it! Started working with a new technology and built something cool? We want you to blog it! Just want to talk about how awesome Jeff Douglas is? We want you to blog it!

But it doesn't just end there! If blogging isn't your cup of tea, but still have some killer ideas on what you would like to see on our blog? Head over to our community page and post those ideas on this thread!

All of us here at CloudSpokes are extremely excited to see what you guys come up with and really make our blog the best that it can be! To get started, send an email to!

So what are you waiting for, get blogging!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Help re-design your community

It’s time for a fresh new look at CloudSpokes. We’re expanding and growing and need a new home that reflects our objectives as a community and application development platform. We’re also a little done with the “corkboard” theme. It’s served us well but it feels like it doesn’t fully reflect what this community has accomplished - we’re more than a bulletin board.

We’re putting this out as a challenge because that’s what we do. We need a new, and we want to see what this community can come up with. Keep in mind, this is the same community that re-built CloudSpokes itself from the ground up. Designing the new website is a natural extension of that work for a community that knows the site better than any other.

To be honest, this re-design is a huge undertaking, so we’ll be bringing in as much help as we can get. The end result will not be the work of one individual, but in true CloudSpokes fashion, the work of a community of experts for the best result. We’ll be putting challenges out on sites that specialize in this type of work, but want to include this community as well because these are the people who intimately understand how CloudSpokes works. We expect that the end result will be a collaborative project that blows the doors off other sites.

To get started, find all the specifications on the challenge,

Monday, November 5, 2012

Mobile Salesforce Productivity App - $2,750

In about two weeks, we will be scoring one of the smarter challenges we've posted, with one of the bigger price tags. We recently posted this challenge as a way to re-think the current UI architecture of with productivity on a mobile being the topmost priority. provides terrific functionality to help users be more productive in Sales, Marketing, Customer Service and Collaboration.  This standard functionality is supported by customizations that typically help make the system very effective in meeting an organization's needs.

There are several mobile apps that support - including basic Mobille for working with objects as well as Dashboards for quick and easy Ipad review of your dashboards.  The Chatter app mirrors's standard functionality in a Facebook-like approach. They also have "Touch" coming that should enhance the user experience further.

We'd like to see if there are alternate ideas for to supercharging productivity with a mobile device and also providing an even more unique and engaging user experience.  So, here's the challenge: write a mobile app or HTML front end that makes a user - sales, services, marketing or whoever - more productive in doing a task or set of tasks with a mobile device.  Faster, easier, more fun, whatever spin you want to put on it. We want to see you get creative, not just technical.

We expect the final result of this challenge to get *a ton* of exposure and views. Show us what you've got.