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The Risks of Entering Programming Contests 154

snydeq writes "Fatal Exception's Neil McAllister warns developers of the hidden risks of entering programming competitions, which are on the rise since NetFlix awarded $1 million to BellKor's Pragmatic Chaos in 2009. 'Web and software companies offer prizes for a variety of reasons. Chief among them is simply to raise awareness, interest, and participation in a given software platform or service,' McAllister writes. But the practice of offering and entering software prizes is not without concerns. Privacy implications, class-action lawsuits — many of the prizes leave participants vulnerable to prosecution. Worse is the possibility of handing hard work over to a company without reward. 'Contests like the Netflix Prize are sponsored by commercial entities that stand to profit from the innovations produced by the entrants. Those who participate invest valuable time toward winning the prize, but if they fail to meet the deadline (or to produce the leading results) their efforts could go completely unrewarded. Depending on the terms of the contest, however, the sponsor might still be able to make use of the runners-up's innovations — which, of course, would be a whole lot cheaper than hiring developers.'"
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The Risks of Entering Programming Contests

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  • Re:GPL (Score:4, Informative)

    by 0racle ( 667029 ) on Friday August 13, 2010 @02:37PM (#33243870)
    The GPL does not preclude that, though it would still most likely disqualify you from competition anyway.
  • by catbutt ( 469582 ) on Friday August 13, 2010 @02:39PM (#33243904)
    I think it's only fair to point out that the terms of the netflix contest (which I participated in and got a lot out of) are such that you own everything you produce. I think you may have to licence it to netflix if you win and take the $million, but if so it is non-exclusive.
  • Risks are everywhere (Score:1, Informative)

    by Palmsie ( 1550787 ) on Friday August 13, 2010 @02:42PM (#33243944)
    These types of risks aren't inherent in devoting time merely to a contest, they're everywhere. You're at risk of unveiling your ideas at soon as you sit down for the interview and answer the question, "so why should we hire you?". You may have a great idea, spill the beans, and then not get the job only to see the company adopt your idea. Similarly, whose to say that when you implement a new idea in a company that they don't fire you and hire someone else once the system is implanted. While these are unlikely events they're similar types of risks and they're everywhere.
  • never seen one (Score:3, Informative)

    by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Friday August 13, 2010 @02:44PM (#33243982) Homepage Journal

    I've never seen a netflix popup/under. perhaps you didn't install enough plugins to block ads and garbage. it's useful for more than netflix, like the million of "your computer may be infected" ads.

  • by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Friday August 13, 2010 @03:13PM (#33244348)

    >Probation period? Who signs on to a job like that?

    Almost everybody at almost every level. Even when the opportunity has long-term prospects, the offer is usually on a contract basis where the employer defers the option to hire to a benefits-eligible position. This is pretty standard in programming jobs nowadays.

  • Re:GPL (Score:3, Informative)

    by reebmmm ( 939463 ) on Friday August 13, 2010 @03:33PM (#33244626)

    I am a lawyer, but not your lawyer. It seems to me that order would matter.

    If you assign your copyright first, then there is no GPL issue. The GPL simply wouldn't apply. The assignee (i.e., the new owner) did not need the license to use the software. And even if GPL did apply, they are under no obligation to continue distributing it and you have given up your right to do so (e.g., you sold all your rights to them).

    If you make a GPL transfer first, and the assign second, you could have a copy of the software that could subsequently be transfered under the GPL. The real obvious issue is that a properly prepared assignment reps against this scenario. You are likely going to be in breach of the assignment.

  • by sorak ( 246725 ) on Friday August 13, 2010 @04:01PM (#33245028)

    I've seen it at a few places, but never worked for large corporations. There was a job secured by a headhunter, where you weren't technically an employee of the company until 90 days had passed (although you did get paid). Then there is my current employer, who didn't provide health insurance for 90 days. I don't think I've ever had a job that gave out Health Insurance without a 90 day period.

  • Re:Pardonez-moi (Score:3, Informative)

    by Imrik ( 148191 ) on Friday August 13, 2010 @08:03PM (#33247446) Homepage

    It's not the fact that you might not win, it's that they can still use your entry (without paying you for it) if you don't.

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