This is an exciting time to be a software developer; the open-source community has never been stronger, with a wealth of open source projects you can participate in. Contributing to open-source projects is good all around: It’s a great way to develop (or showcase) your skills, to learn about collaborating with others, to become acquainted with the latest technologies in an informal setting, and sometimes, to do something good for the world at large. But just cruising through GitHub viewing and editing source code is not necessarily the best way to figure out where to pitch in. What if there was a way to discover software challenges you could contribute to, and possibly even win prizes and recognition for your work? ChallengePost offers one such way.
While ChallengePost doesn’t make the headlines all that often, the site was covered by Wired, Mashable, and a bunch of other tech news sources you already know. In other words, this is a service with a pretty serious footprint. It already carried challenges by Samsung, Evernote (a MakeUseOf favorite), and even the White House. You’ll note that all of these challenges have their own unique domain names, but the ChallengePost interface remains largely unchanged within the challenge itself.
If you’re just looking for an interesting opportunity, though, you’ll want to start from the ChallengePost homepage:
The homepage itself carries just five featured challenges. At the time of this writing, all challenges featured on the homepage carry monetary prizes, with the lowest being $1,200 for the Chart.js Personal Dashboard Challenge and the highest being $50,000 for the Kii Cloud App Challenge. Note that it’s usually not a “winner-takes-all” affair: The Kii challenge, for example, awards $16,900 to the first-place winner, $12,700 to the runner-up, $9,200 to the third-place winner, and $11,700 to a “Popular Choice Award” winner.
If none of the featured challenges captures your imagination, don’t fret: Simply continue to the Discover Challenges page, where you may view a full list of challenges, as well as filter and search for particular types of challenges. The selection is truly impressive, from a challenge calling you to Gamify Asthma and help asthma-suffering kids with tech, to one for developing new ways to discover books, with lots of challenges in-between.
ChallengePost offers two types of challenges: Online challenges, and hackathons. Let’s look at an online challenge first:
This is the HarperCollins BookSmash challenge mentioned above. As you can see, at the time the screenshot was taken, there were 50 days remaining in which participants could submit their solutions and ideas. Scrolling down the challenge page, you will find detailed instructions showing you how to enter the challenge, and explaining what it’s all about (in this case, the challenge is finding new and interesting ways to use HarperCollins’s OpenBook API).
Each challenge has a panel of judges, also shown on the page, each with a one-liner and a link for more information about that particular judge. Judging criteria are also laid out, albeit in somewhat vague terms (“Quality of Idea”).
Much like a Kickstarter project, each challenge includes a tab for updates, with posts by the challenge holder. There’s also a forum for discussions, although it’s not always the most lively of communities — the forum for this particular challenge has a scant 6 discussions, each with just a handful of replies. The Resources and FAQ tabs are more rewarding, each offering lots of information.
The other type of challenge offered is a much more social affair, although it does require you to physically show up at a certain location in a given time. I am referring, of course, to the venerable tradition of hackathons:
The particular one shown above is for Hopper, and has already happened at the time of this writing. The hackathon page is still useful after the fact, though: It carries a submission gallery where you can browse the work done and get a feel for what went down in that particular meeting of minds and keyboards.
Hackathon-type challenges appeal mainly to those who live in tech-dense areas like San Francisco, New York, or LA. Unfortunately, even if you do live in one of those areas, finding a hackathon to take part in can be a frustrating experience: ChallengePost does not offer a “hackathon map” plotting out where you can find each hackathon. This simple addition would have made the hackathon feature much more useful — perhaps ChallengePost could set up a challenge for developing it.
Programming Is Not Just About The Code
At its best, computer programming is about solving real-world problems, and making people’s lives better in various tangible ways. It’s also about creativity, and communication, and a sense of belonging to a wider community of minds all creatively working together. That’s the sense of collaboration ChallengePost strives to offer. While different challenges call for different skill sets (so not everyone can take part in every challenge), once you find a challenge that speaks to you and calls for skills you have, it can be a fun experience that could have you coming back for more once you’re done. If you’re a coder looking for an interesting project, take ChallengePost for a spin.