Winner's circle for sale

FRAMINGHAM (10/20/2003) - Programming contests are nothing new. Give a dozen coders the same puzzle, and you'll get 12 different "best" solutions. But TopCoder takes the idea of code wars to the max, arranging global online competitions, onsite contests at trade shows and world championship tournaments—hosted at MIT, the coder's mecca—to discover the best programmers in the world. And now, you can hire some of that talent.

TopCoder, seeking to profit from its contestants' prowess, has created a new division called TopCoder Software that aims to hire out teams of programmers on an outsourced or consulting basis to large corporations. Prospective companies submit project proposals to TopCoder. Then, TopCoder posts these new jobs and picks a pair of the highest-rated respondents to compete for the contract. After TopCoder reviews the work's quality, the programmer with the best code gets paid a preset amount; the runner-up gets half that total. TopCoder project managers then integrate the winning code into the final product.

TopCoder promotes a component-based development methodology and encourages its developers to reuse code from its dozens-deep components library. (Outside companies' programmers can rent access to this collection for their own projects for US$1,200 per programmer per year.) The goal is to reduce programming times while maintaining high standards—and cutting costs. TopCoder Software President Dave Tanacea says his company can produce competitively priced software at a rate and quality other outsourcers—including those overseas—will be hard-pressed to duplicate. "We won't do it for $28 an hour," Tanacea says. "But we can do it for $40. And how many $28 hours will it take you to get what you want?"

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