The Will Code for Green contest calls for submissions that help "deal with the worsening global economy or... improve the ecology of the planet Earth." Two $10,000 grand prize winners and three $3,000 runner-up prizes will be announced at the 2009 Gnomedex technology conference, which takes place August 20-22, 2009, in Seattle, Washington. There is a catch: Entries must use Bing APIs. But is that catch really so bad or unexpected? Gnomedex (and blog network Lockergnome) founder, Chris Pirillo, doesn't think so.
However, the API stipulation isn't the only sticking point. The rules of the contest also state that all developers submitting entries grant Microsoft "irrevocable, royalty-free, worldwide right" to use their apps. And once the IP passes into Microsoft's loving arms, it's basically anyone's guess if or how it will emerge.
Again, from the official rules:
Understand that we cannot control the incoming information you will disclose to our representatives in the course of entering, or what our representatives will remember about your Entry. You also understand that we will not restrict work assignments of representatives who have had access to your Entry. By entering this Contest, you agree that use of information in our representatives' unaided memories in the development or deployment of our products or services does not create liability for us under this agreement or copyright or trade secret law
This is one of the reasons so many developers are wary about submitting their data to tech megacorps in the first place.
"I can't really speak to the legalities of it. That's Microsoft's side," said Pirillo in a phone conversation this evening. However, he could and did talk about how Microsoft used the contest as a platform to encourage developers' and users' considering and adopting Bing.
"When we started formulating the contest, it became apparent that they [Microsoft] would like to get developers to use their API."
Addressing the fact that many in tech have strong anti-Microsoft feelings, Pirillo said, "They're always going to take that bias [against Microsoft]. They form opinions pretty quickly. It's something that I don't think is invalid... But I don't see [Microsoft's stipulation for the app contest] as such a horrible thing, especially if there's money on the table.
"If the search results are basically the same [as Google's], they're search results. Bing works pretty well. They've got their work cut out, going against a juggernaut, but their results aren't invalid...
So Bing isn't Google. What's your point?"
As far as the overall contest is concerned, Pirillo said, "We don't know what kind of response we're getting. I'm expecting a little shopping, a little travel. We're hoping to see a lot of creativity... I love cool mashups and supporting entrepreneurs, not simply financially, but by spreading the word."
Pirillo continued to say that he expects the apps presented to be both "fun and functional.
"You never know what's going to come of the efforts you put into them, but if no one had an opportunity, nothing interesting would happen. At least we're doing something. It may not be much in the grand scheme of things, but for one individual, it could mean a lot."