Everybody wants to be a hacker. In a world where Kanye raps about tweets and movie stars are startup investors, hackers are the newest “it” kids, and the stakes for attracting hackers get higher by the minute.

So we weren’t too shocked when Salesforce announced today it’s conducting a mega-hackathon — a 20,000-person circus with a million-dollar cash prize — set to take place during its annual conference, Dreamforce.

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High level but hands-on

Our upcoming DevBeat conference, Nov. 12-13 in San Francisco, will have a lot more on this topic. Featuring hacker legends like Stallman, DHH, Rasmus Lerdorf, and Alex Payne, it’s a hands-on developer event packed with:

  • workshops
  • teck talks
  • live Ask-Me-Anything
  • hardware hacking

It’s all aimed at boosting your code skills, security knowledge, hardware hacking, and career development. Register now.

“Bringing that dev energy to the enterprise is really exciting,” said Salesforce dev marketing VP Adam Seligman in a call with VentureBeat this morning.

While most of Dreamforce’s 100,000 attendees will be shelling out for full conference tickets, Seligman asid, “We have a $99 hacker pass, too, so this is an awesome way for anyone to get in and code.”

In addition to the $1 million grand prize, $90,000 will be distributed among four runners-up.

There are no restrictions for the prize money — the winner (or winning team) could buy a house or have a memory-erasing weekend in Vegas or build a startup.

“We want every developer to have a shot at winning this million dollar prize,” Seligman said. “I think if you’re a developer and you pull off a winning app, you’re probably going to start a great company.”

But, he stressed, “This isn’t just about the money. … Even if you don’t win, you’re going to learn a ton.”

Apps have to be built on the Salesforce platform, which includes Heroku, Force.com, and ExactTarget. Apps will be judged based on four criteria: Use of the Salesforce platform, user experience, innovation, and actual business value.

“We’re looking for mobile apps of all different kinds,” said Seligman. “We look at the [Salesforce] AppExchange [for business apps] and survey our customers, and it feels like everything is being turned upside down, and with a great idea, you can change how everything works right now.”

That sense of upheaval scares some and excites others. There’s an imaginary line drawn between stodgy big-co developers and hip, hoodie-wearing startup developers, but the line is as imaginary as those stereotypes.

“Companies everywhere are starting to take the excitement they see in startups and figure out how to put that in their businesses … to not be lame,” said Seligman.

“Salesforce can bring that energy to the enterprise, and this hackathon is a great way to demonstrate that. And dammit, it’s going to be fun.”