Silverlight Control Builder Contest '08 complete

13 August 2008

A couple of days ago the Silverlight Control Builder Contest '08 that Page Brooks organized came to an end. He'd managed to convince a whole bunch of vendors like ourselves to pony up prizes (ours was a subscription to DXperience Universal and a $500 gift certificate to NewEgg) and had managed to amass something like $17,000 worth.

So how did it go? Well, unfortunately that was a problem. Only one person entered, Faisal Waris, and of course he won. Despite this, he didn't win with a piddly progressbar control or something, but instead created a stunning FishEyeGrid control for Silverlight -- you should certainly go and check it out. (Note, for some reason it wasn't working for me in Firefox 3, so use IE7.) Certainly a worthy winner.

Many congratulations to Faisal. The part of your prize from DevExpress is on its way.

But my post is not about Faisal's winning entry, it's about what went awry. Why only one entrant? That's a real shame. I came up with some thoughts:

1. The competition was for US developers only. As it happens, I can understand this: in the past we've looked at whether we could organize a competition in the same vein as this and the legalities can be overwhelming. Just in the US there are rules and laws about giving away prizes (for instance, the rule that everyone has heard of: "No purchase necessary"). I can't imagine what it's like in other countries; it could be there's tax liabilities or to give away a prize you have to have a legal office/address in that country, for example. Anyway, in this international, interconnected day and age it's all a bit of a mess.

2. It's hard creating controls for Silverlight. OK, I'm being more jokey than serious.

3. Silverlight is still too new for many people to have gained expertise in writing controls. Applications, maybe; controls, not so much. This is perhaps a better reason than 2. Although there is a lot of buzz about Silverlight 2, it is still in beta and not many workplaces will be using it yet, or even experimenting with it. So without work-related experience, you're left to play around with it at home in your spare time. And of course, there's a lot from Microsoft in the same space jockeying for your attention and learning abilities (WPF, ASP.NET MVC, etc). And, to be honest, not many people write controls (and most of them would be working for companies like Developer Express Wink.

4. There wasn't enough time. A difficult one this: you want to give the potential contestants well enough time to experiment and design and write something, but you don't want to make it so long that the buzz dissipates and people say "uh, what contest?"

5. It takes a lot of time to create a compelling control that would win a competition. And as we all know, time equals money. Perhaps the $17,000 of prizes didn't have enough in gift cards/money/cheques to make it worthwhile. Sure it's nice to have the top of the range products from us and our fellow prize-giving vendors, but in the end a lot of the contestant's spare time goes into this. I calculate $1000 in certificates that can be used to buy "stuff" to repay your efforts for the first prize, $475 for second place, $200 for third place. Maybe that's not compelling enough to sink many tens of hours into the contest.

6. There was no registration. Without that Page had no real idea about how many people were considering entering the contest nor who they were, so he couldn't email all the registrants a week from the end to say, how are you doing?, are you going to finish? Without that knowledge, it becomes hard to make a decision to, say, extend the contest another week. With registration, more people might have persevered -- it's like signing up for a beta, you tend to feel compelled to try it out.

Nevertheless, it was a good contest and, as I say, well organized by Page and we all got a great control from Faisal that everyone can use.

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