TopCoder lets developers compete to build the best app for your business

The public cloud is putting new capabilities and infrastructures in place for even the most modest enterprises, with a practically unlimited amount of computing capacity sitting only a credit card swipe away. In theory, this places the capability to build and deploy cutting-edge social and mobile applications within reach of anyone, anywhere. But the talent and skill sets necessary to develop these solutions are in much shorter supply, especially once you leave the confines of Silicon Valley. 

That's why cloud systems integrator Appirio is merging its crowdsourced app development contest platform CloudSpokes with recent acquisition TopCoder, as it moves to connect customers with the developers who are going to enable them to build better apps and move into the 21st Century. The combined platform, which will operate under the better-known TopCoder banner, will bring over 600,000 users into a unified community that will offer expertise, tips, and most of all, competition for application development.

"You don't have to be Twitter or Facebook to take advantage of these skills," Appirio co-founder Narinder Singh said. 

TopCoder, in operation for more than a decade, making it one of the oldest sites of its kind, boasted over 500,000 users. In addition to freelance job assignment postings, TopCoder offers academic articles and how-to for developers, making it a major destination for developers of all skill levels. Appirio purchased TopCoder in September of last year for an undisclosed sum with an eye towards bolstering its own contest-driven developer market. 

The CloudSpokes model is to help an enterprise break a project -- maybe a backend for an e-commerce site, or a social networking app for smartphones -- into discrete chunks, then put those parts up as contests for developers to compete for cash prizes. In 2013, CloudSpokes listed over 2,000 challenges, and the two platforms awarded more than a combined $8.5 million in prize money, Singh boasts. Customers have included large enterprises like NASA and Comcast, who prefer to find the talent to solve an identified problem rather than hire an outside contractor like Accenture to reinvent the wheel for a much larger fee.

Where CloudSpokes specializes in developers working in "cool" languages like Node and Ruby, TopCoder's community includes data scientists, designers, and developers working in a broad range of technologies, Singh says. The combined community can help customers tackle a much wider array of problems. 

For the IT department, this approach can alleviate some pain in application development and stretch a budget, but it's not a complete replacement for expertise. For a company based far from any technology hub, TopCoder provides an avenue to connect with talent that would otherwise be inaccessible. But even if you're hosting your application in Heroku, Google Compute Engine, or Amazon Web Services, you need somebody who knows what they're doing to administer the infrastructure and generally manage an IT architecture. 

The rest of the year will see Appirio deepening its investment in TopCoder, with the TopCoder Open -- its annual programming tournament -- getting moved to San Francisco from its original home in Florida to add a little more Silicon Valley style to the proceedings. Basically, Singh is promising TopCoder will see more prize money, more developer engagement, and more projects in a broader range. 

In short, the new TopCoder's competition structure is a potential third way to bolster an existing IT effort across technologies and platforms without having to contract a pricey service provider. But it's not a total replacement for an in-house development shop, and it's certainly not a total outsourcing solution. 

This story, "TopCoder lets developers compete to build the best app for your business" was originally published by CITEworld.

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