Startups like Stripe, Weebly, and Cue have spent weeks of valuable engineering time building programming challenges. And tens of thousands of engineers spend their valuable personal time playing them. Why? Because programming challenges require coding ability (just like startups). Also, challenges are fun because the participant gets to solve problems quickly (just like startups) unhindered by anything other than their own ability (unlike big companies).
Programming challenges are a fantastic way to connect great people with great jobs, particularly great jobs at startups. For example, more than half of the hires at Cue have come from our two programming challenges.
Stripe has run two massive capture the flag contests: extremely elaborate security challenges that test an attacker’s ability to discover and exploit security holes. CTFs are really hard. Really. Hard. So hard, in fact, that out of 10,000 entrants in the first CTF, there were only 200 completions.
Greg Brockman, who ran the CTFs, remembers that it took a lot of work. “We pulled all-nighters to get it ready, and then had to deal with babysitting the machines as things were getting forkbombed.” Greg noted, “we were very conscious of security and about separating the CTF from Stripe itself.”
The CTF took on a life of its own. “People reimplemented the levels and hosted them elsewhere… we expected 10-100 people to poke around… and then O(10k) people did it,” Greg said.
Stripe’s second CTF featured a leaderboard and a pre-announced start time, making it a race to the finish. “We couldn’t go to sleep until someone had solved it, otherwise maybe it’s just too hard” recalled Greg, but finally a user, identified as “wgrant,” solved the challenge, and the Stripe team “went home and slept.”
Stripe attracted people who loved to code by making their challenge really hard (also by giving them t-shirts). The company has made several hires through the CTF.
On the other side of the programming challenge spectrum is the single, innocuous line in Weebly’s job listing for a front-end web engineer: There is a puzzle embedded in our jobs page…
Weebly’s first engineering hire found Weebly because of the puzzle, and every subsequent hire must complete it as a prerequisite of being hired.
Despite being a requirement, most people don’t see it that way. CEO David Rusenko notes, “It’s seen less as a gatekeeper and more as a fun thing. It attracts great people instead of cutting down on the applications.”
Last month at Cue, we released The Colossal Cue Adventure: It’s part programming challenge and part homage to text-adventure games of the 70s and 80s; and it’s all bad jokes.
One of the things we have learned about how to make a successful programming challenge is to make it fun. When the Cue Adventure hit Hacker News, the comments section quickly evolved into a nostalgia board for Zork, one of the games that the adventure emulates. From a programming perspective our adventure is pretty easy – we added a bonus level for the diehards – but we mostly just wanted to strike up a conversation with like-minded people. A person who spends time writing code to complete an old-school game is a person we want to talk to.
The best startups create an environment where each team member is their own limiting factor. Not politics, overwrought processes or organizational apathy. This is why talented people join startups, forsaking giant salaries and free massages for the opportunity to ship amazing solutions to hard problems on a daily basis. It’s this kind of person who is attracted to a programming challenge.
If you’re an engineer looking for a new opportunity, consider trying a few programming challenges to see what you can learn about your potential employer. If you’re a founder considering launching a challenge, do it. Make sure it stands out somehow. Each of the above challenges stood out in some way – nostalgia, competition, or curiosity.
Weebly, Stripe and Cue still get results from traditional hiring methods, like recruiters and employee referral bonuses. Comparatively, a programming challenge may seem like an incredibly large investment of time and effort. Devoting a week or more to creating a challenge is a difficult decision – especially when you’re already short-staffed! While programming challenges are admittedly high effort, they are also high reward (just like startups).
Read the original post: How Stripe, Weebly And Cue Make Programming Challenges That Are Good For Recruiting
Facebook Director of Product Blake Ross is leaving the company, he announced in a Facebook post yesterday afternoon.
For those of you who weren’t reading TechCrunch in 2007, Firefox co-founder Ross and Joe Hewitt came to Facebook through its acquisition of Parakey, a web OS that was still in stealth at the time. Parakey was Facebook’s first acquisition. Hewitt, who spearheaded many Facebook Mobile projects including iOS, left the company in 2011.
Ross worked on many projects at Facebook in his six years there, starting out as an engineer, founding the growth team with Chamath Palihapitiya and others, and even cycling through Facebook Questions. He started out as an engineer and moved his way up to a Product Manager and then Director of Product role.
From Ross’ eloquent ‘Goodbye’ note (we’ve heard he’s not actually leaving until next month):
Hey everyone, I’ve decided to leave Facebook. I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to learn from and grow with you.
I’m leaving because a Forbes writer asked his son’s best friend Todd if Facebook was still cool and the friend said no, and plus none of HIS friends think so either, even Leila who used to love it, and this journalism made me reconsider the long-term viability of the company.
Also because, after scaling a website in a dorm room to a platform connecting a billion people in 196 countries through revolutionary high-efficiency auto-cooling datacenters, you guys will probably never figure out how to sell a Quiznos turkey club on a phone.
In all seriousness, even after switching to part-time at Facebook, it’s just time for me to try new things. I was 14 when I came to the Bay Area to work at Netscape (socially stunted badge pic below). That’s half my life building software in a 10-mile area of Northern California—a rather long stretch considering I spent the first half of my life learning disciplines as varied as standing up, eating, and getting Bar Mitzvahed.
My parting advice: Cherish the launch days. To be surrounded by such bright people, brimming with optimism, forgetting to eat, is a blessing. It’s the kind of manic hopefulness that adulthood is supposed to drain out of you, and I will miss it most.
Launch day is also a great day for Legal to find out what you’re launching.
Guys, thanks for everything. You’ve all brought a lot of joy to this stone cold heart.”
We’ve reached out to both Facebook and Ross for official confirmation, and will update this post when we hear back. There’s also no word on what “new things” Ross will be trying after his stint at the social network. Also, if anyone is wondering why there’s a “Blade” at the bottom of his Facebook badge, it’s a pretty funny inside joke.
View original post here: Director Of Product Blake Ross Is Leaving Facebook
Editor’s note: Taylor Buley is a senior developer at Conde Nast’s PARADE. He’s a former staff writer at Forbes and graduated from University of Pennsylvania and Stanford. Follow him on Twitter @taylorbuley.
On Thursday Lars Rasmussen, Google Maps co-inventor turned Facebook Graph Search guru, took to Reddit for an “ask me anything” open thread. The Australian native avoided questions about the competitive landscape for Graph Search but spilled a near complete history of its development inside Facebook.
The Facebook engineer had a good time doing it, too, judging by the 18 smiley faces he riddled throughout.
Graph Search is Facebook’s foray into the search market. Instead of matching pages to search terms like “San Francisco + sushi restaurant,” Graph Search instead takes natural-language sentences like “my friends who like sushi” and finds results expressed through your social network. Facebook is betting that by using personalized data, they can provide more relevant search results than can mechanisms such as Yelp reviews or Google Page Rank.
Rasmussen writes that he was interviewed by Facebook in late 2010, around the same time Google announced the shutdown of Google Wave, a product launched by Lars and brother Jens. But it wasn’t until a half-year later that he was pulled onto the Graph Search project.
“Zuck asked me to work on search in the late spring of 2011,” he writes, recounting the first of three walks with Mark Zuckerberg. The Facebook founder “had a very strong vision for what he wanted and how compelling a structured search product over the content people have shared on Facebook could be.”
In another answer regarding the timing of releases, he explained how his team “showed the original prototype of what we much later named Graph Search in the early summer of 2011.” This prototype only took a few weeks to build, he said, but the project did source code from “previous prototypes of structured search products that were not based on natural language.”
Thus we know Facebook had played with the idea of a non-natural-language search product at least some point before the summer of 2011. This lends credence to rumors that circulated in 2010 of a search project built atop the freely indexable Open Graph tags standard it launched in summer of 2010.
What held up Graph Search development between the early prototypes and the January 2013 launch? Too many smart people at Facebook, perhaps. In a question regarding the “best and worst” of working at Facebook, Rasmussen discusses the pitfalls of having a company “chock full of passionate, brilliant, opinionated people.” The problem? “Sometimes it takes longer than I’d like to arrive at an answer.
“I think it is fair to say the project took longer to get to the beta stage than I predicted when we started,” the engineer candidly confessed. “Pretty much all projects I have ever worked on have had this property Time flies when you are behind schedule!”
But perhaps the delay was for the better. A vanilla search engine built atop Open Graph tags would have done little to innovate in the search space. Instead, in January Facebook rolled out a novel breed of search powered by natural-language queries and social data at a scale not available to, or indexable by, any competitor.
So what about Graph Search’s competitors? Members of the press have fingered Yelp and Google, among others, as possible competitors against Zuckerberg’s search vision. But when asked which companies Rasmussen and his team view as direct competitors, the engineer held back and merely proffered a smiley face.
Facebook Graph Search has yet to roll out to all users, and Rasmussen writes that part of the reason for the partial rollout so far was to allow live A/B testing on real users — a process that circumvents the possibility of endless internal discussions. “Without live usage we’d just be arguing all day,” he writes.
The company is apparently now discussing the future of Graph Search. According to Rasmussen, his third and latest walk with Zuckerberg came just last week and its purpose was to discuss the future of the search product.
The rest is here: The History Behind Facebook’s Graph Search
Another day, another 3D printer on Kickstarter. But the DeltaMaker, which launched its campaign this week, is a little different from some of the others we’ve seen to date. It’s not the cheapest, and it’s not the one with the most recognizable branding, but it is relatively affordable and has a slightly different mission than most, with a design intended to shine in public spaces, rather than hidden in an industrial workshop.
DeltaMaker’s founders believe that the process of digital printing is at least as interesting and valuable as the products it creates, and their backgrounds reflect their interest in the actual engineering that goes into printing a 3D product and the hardware required to make that happen. The Orlando-based company consists of Zach Monninger, a mechanical engineer and MBA; Craig Rettew, an electrical engineer; Robin Lopez, an aerospace engineer; and Bob Houston, a software engineer. If ever there was a group of people who were all about the process, this is it.
DeltaMaker gets its name from the fact that it’s a so-called “delta robot,” which is a three-armed design used in industrial and manufacturing applications of all stripes, since it can precisely position the business end (or extrusion head, if you want to be technical) along X, Y, and Z axes. The delta robot design is not only functionally effective, it also makes for a visually interesting printing process, one that DeltaMaker suggests will play well in your tastefully decorated sitting room, in classrooms and in waiting rooms and gallery spaces everywhere. The idea is not just to educate, but also to entertain; the founders envision a 3D printing process captivating the attention of a group of kids waiting to see the dentist, or keeping guests entertained at a dinner party if your table conversation gets dry.
Accordingly the DeltaMaker is relatively simple in its design, keeping things basic with a tall aluminum structure that’s only 9-inches in diameter, and a 360-degree viewing angle of the building chamber itself. That design likely won’t change too much from current prototype to shipping product – it’s already on its 4th revision and the team says they’re in the final stages of detail engineering.
As for pricing, the early bird pledge level of $499 for a fully assembled, working unit sold out incredibly quick. Now, you can get in at a minimum of $1,099, but those are also special tiers. Even if you come very late to the game, pricing for Kickstarter backers tops out at $1,599 for a fully assembled unit, which is still not too expensive for the 3D printer category.
DeveloperAuction, a startup that’s trying to change technical recruiting by letting venture-backed companies bid on top engineers in auctions, is seeing some momentum after coming out of beta last week. The company put a call out for engineering candidates on Hacker News last week for an auction today, and saw about 7,500 applications.
They also just picked up a new COO in Sujay Tyle (pictured left), who was a Thiel fellow and previously a vice president of business development at mobile gaming company Scopely.
DeveloperAuction is trying to reverse the way that in-house recruiters attract top-flight engineers. Developers that are actively interested in leaving their current companies and have good credentials can apply to be part of a batch of 150 or so candidates. Venture-backed companies like Dropbox and Quora will then bid to offer them interviews. (They usually have to be Series B-funded or later, with some evidence of traction.)
These companies try to lure engineers for interviews by sharing compensation details like salary and equity. Developers can pick and choose which interviews they want to take. If the engineer follows through and ends up taking a job with the company, the employer pays DeveloperAuction 15 percent of their base salary.
That fee ends up being a little bit less than what a standard recruiting agency might charge at 20 to 25 percent. DeveloperAuction also splits their bounty with the candidate, sending them 20 percent of the 15 percent commission on their first day of the job (plus some balloons and Dom Perignon).
A big question though is how far this model can scale. DeveloperAuction is already profitable, but how many high-caliber engineers are around? Tyle says that if the company ran three simultaneous auctions per day for entry-level, mid-level and then VP of engineering or CTO-like roles in 10 cities, DeveloperAuction could be a business that generates millions of dollars per month in revenue. During a recent October auction, engineering candidates attracted $78 million worth of offers, (but this isn’t actual cashflow since the candidates have to choose which interviews they want to accept and DeveloperAuction only gets their fee if the person ends up working at a new company in the system).
The screening process is still also very hands-on. In the first couple of auctions, the company limited candidates to those who had come from an elite school like MIT or had passed technical interviews at Google or Facebook. For the one this week, they’ve opened up applications to developers all over the U.S.
They’ve hired developers to go look through the GitHub repositories of candidates to check the quality of their work, and they look through resumes to see whether a prospective hire has spent time at a well-regarded tech company like Facebook. On top of that, they have to make sure the person is actually looking to leave, not just use a competitive offer to raise their own salary.
The model also seems relatively easy to copy and there have already been a few clones that have popped up. But Tyle says they have first-mover advantage and enough connections to make sure that they attract the very best instead of second- or third-tier quality candidates.
“The system that wins is the system that can curate the best engineers,” he said.
The company was founded when Matt Mickiewicz, who co-founded 99Designs and Flippa, and LiveOps founder Douglas Feirstein, ran into each other at a conference and started complaining about how difficult it was to hire decent engineers. They started thinking about how to apply auction and game theory to recruiting and from that, DeveloperAuction emerged.
They’re fundraising now, not necessarily because they need the capital (since the company is already profitable), but because they’d like more connections to the portfolio companies of VC firms.
“Many of the biggest firms have internal talent teams, and we can take their portfolios and help solve their recruiting needs,” Tyle said.
Here is the original post: DeveloperAuction Grabs Nearly 8K Applicants For Its First Auction Out Of Beta; Adds Thiel Fellow As COO