The 2018 Topcoder Open (TCO), the world’s ultimate programming and design tournament, took place in Dallas Nov. 13-16 and featured the best technologists from around the globe competing for cash prizes and international rank. Companies of all sizes shared perspectives on digital transformation and caught a glimpse of the most coveted programmers on the planet. A handful even provided current software development challenges their in-house IT teams face for Topcoder Community members to solve.
I caught up with Dave Messinger, chief architect of Topcoder, for his take on why 2018 brought one of Topcoder’s most challenging tournaments.
Jessie D’Amato Ford: What’s your history with Topcoder?
Dave Messinger: I’ve been with Topcoder since December 2001. It’s a fast-paced, innovative environment that thrives on creativity and speed, which mirrors the spirit of our unequaled Topcoder Community members. Today I run Topcoder’s technology platform, which is the core of our crowdsourced software development work with enterprise customers.
Ford: What were a few highlights from the 2018 TCO?
Messinger: This was Topcoder’s 17th annual event and it was especially competitive. We had 100+ finalists from 34 countries, with first-time competitors coming from Morocco, Hungary and Nicaragua. Topcoder ran 1,600+ challenges and awarded more than $2.5 million in prize money. The companies attending were impressed by not only the caliber of technologists competing and how much they accomplished in such a short period of time, but also at the efficiency, accuracy and speed of crowdsourced software development.
Ford: Tell us about one finalist you kept an eye on while at the TCO?
Messinger: Thomas Kranitsas (Topcoder handle: thomaskranitsas), from Greece, graduated from school and served in the Greek Air Force. Now in his third year as a Topcoder Member, thmaskranitsas has been a Code Review and Copilot on crowdsourced software development projects for companies. He sees Topcoder as an opportunity to work with the newest technologies, solve real-world business problems, earn money and meet the “best developers and designers in the world.” He finished 5th in the TCO’s First2Finish competition, with only 4.55 points separating him from the winner.
Ford: How has crowdsourcing changing the way software is developed?
Messinger: When Topcoder first opened its doors, the skepticism surrounding crowdsourced IT was overwhelming. Like many technology innovations, crowdsourcing had an uphill battle. It was a completely new way of developing software and managing teams—it, too, changed for the better over time. Fast forward to 2018 and now crowdsourcing is mainstream. The internet and cloud computing helped democratize development by allowing anyone in the world to access to the same resources and become familiar with multiple platforms. Other technology advancements and techniques, like microservices and DevOps, have also allowed more developers, designers and data scientists to collaborate on software projects with little ramp up time, which reduces costs and increases efficiency (both important to global organizations).
Ford: What industries have been quick to catch on and why?
Messinger: Topcoder has customers in almost every vertical imaginable because the methodology for developing high-quality software with a crowdsourced model is applicable to anyone. Crowdsourcing works best when developers can easily access SDKs, APIs and development environments. The 1.4 million (and growing) Topcoder Member Community has been working on projects that drive significant industry change.
Ford: How does the TCO recognize and reward Topcoder Members?
Messinger: There are multiple rounds to champion before Topcoder Members earn a finalist spot at the TCO in the U.S. (and we’ll fly the finalists in from wherever they are in the world). The collective intelligence in one place is astounding! It’s also a great opportunity for technologists and companies to pick up new software development techniques, as well as discuss the latest trends. Topcoder Members are passionate about helping businesses solve IT challenges.
Ford: What skills are companies looking for in today’s developers?
Messinger: Companies are not only looking for the best developers, but also for those who can clearly document code and collaborate well with the rest of the team. Topcoder’s viral nature and crowdsourcing methodologies hone in on those skills no matter where someone is working.
Ford: What’s ahead for The Topcoder Open in 2019?
Messinger: 2018 marked Topcoder’s first use of automated testing as part of our TCO development track and we’ll be expanding it in the future. TCO 2019 will bring Topcoder’s first test-a-thon competition: our QA community will participate in a live QA challenge to identify bugs in live tournament style. It will be exciting, for us and the Community, as well as companies watching these master technologists at work.