The New Wave of Open-Source Software Development
I swear that I'm always the last person to embrace disruptive technologies. Open-source software is a perfect example. Having worked for Big Blue for several years, I never accepted open-source software. How could you make money? Why would a competitive company embrace something that everyone else has? What would be the security risk to adopting open-source code? What would be the competitive advantage? What's the discriminator?
Well, this time, I am on the leading edge. The company is TopCoder, a maverick company according to William Taylor and Polly LaBarre, authors of Mavericks At Work.
Open-source collaboration is an innovative concept that TopCoder has perfected. TopCoder, Inc., a for-profit business, has developed a creative business. Founded in April of 2001 by Jack Hughes, the company is essentially a talent search firm. The essence of their business is providing software development expertise to solve their blue chip clients' application needs. The end result is TopCoder brings to bear the absolute best programming skills from around the world.
How do they do it? According to Taylor and LaBarre,
TopCoder signs a contract to build a computer application for one of the big-name companies, divides up the application into a collection of discrete software components, and then turns its members loose to create the code in an open-source style, with everyone eligible to contribute and everyone's work visible to everyone else.
But here's the twist: these programmers collaborate to produce great code by vying fiercely in head-to-head competitions. Their work is organized as series of online matches in which TopCoder members battle deadlines to design and write the most elegant components and impress a jury of their peers. These competitions are dripping with geek machismo: members boast about their technical prowess, talk trash about their rivals, and aren't afraid to express outrage when don't win.
Several companies are catching on to the TopCoder business model. TopCoder has over 95,000 members from 190 companies. The members have incredible programming skills, skills in great demand by the likes of Google, Yahoo, Intel, Sun Mircosystems and Microsoft. Each member has a profile and performance track record - information available to recruiters.
And what are the results? Remarkable! In 2005, Google worked with TopCoder to run a competition in India. The competition attracted over 14,000 registrants. At stake - the top 50 finalists won a job offer from Google!
More to come on TopCoder!
The Sacramento Executive