Salesforce created quite the stir by offering a mammoth $1 million to winners of a hackathon at its annual Dreamforce conference.
The winning mobile apps were announced yesterday afternoon and awarded cash prizes by Salesforce cofounders Marc Benioff and Parker Harris.
A thread on Hacker News has subsequently erupted, with developers claiming that the whole thing was rigged, including the judging process.
Angry commenters say that the winning team and the runner-up have been working on their apps for weeks. A commenter referred to the second-place winner, healthcare.lov, as far too “polished.”
The hackathon rules state that team can start work on their apps on Oct. 25. The apps must be created “from scratch.”
Thomas Kim, one of the engineers behind the winning submission “Upshot,” appears to have demoed the app on Oct. 8 at a Salesforce meetup.
“These were entire business models in addition to apps,” said Matt Parker, a developer who participated in the hackathon in an interview. “In hackathons, a single hour is an incredibly unfair advantage, let alone the months I believe it took to develop Upshot.”
Moreover, it has been alleged that Kim had previously worked at Salesforce. This may demonstrate favoritism, and some have argued that it gives Kim an unfair advantage, as the apps were all built on the Salesforce platform.
However, one former Salesforce employee, who also participated in the hackathon, rallied to Kim’s defense. “I personally know a bunch of the dev relations team. No leg up there. I thought our submission was pretty good, didn’t win, oh well,” a commenter who goes by Coppenheimer pointed out on the Hacker News thread.
Salesforce is expected to issue a statement in due course. When asked for comment, Salesforce referred me to a blog post by Adam Seligman describing the rules for the hackathon here.