Topcoder: Get Paid Working on Challenging Problems

From my last post, I talked about a gaming platform that allows you the improve your programming skill by playing games. Today, I am exploring another site of similar genre: Topcoder.

During the writing of my previous post, I was thinking to myself that since I was spending time solving puzzles using my programming skills, why not getting paid doing it? It was for this reason that led me to explore alternative sites that reward programmers with money for solving problems. Topcoder is one of such sites. A site where you get paid working on challenging problems.

Based on the description from the site itself:

Topcoder gathers the world’s experts in design, development and data science to work on interesting and challenging problems. Members are provided with opportunities to demonstrate their expertise, improve their skills, and win cash, while helping real world organizations solve real world problems.

Topcoder is established online since 2001. Actually, it is not built for programmers only. There are challenges from three major areas to work on: 1) design, 2) development and 3) data science. The first kind of challenges are for designers, the second kind of challenges for developers and the last for data scientist and statisticians.

Example of challenges on Topcoder

Example of challenges on Topcoder

Anyone who joins Topcoder can start working on any challenges he/she feels comfortable with. This means that you can start working on any challenges right after joining. For each challenge, there may be many competitors submitting solutions, however, only the best solutions (top one, two or three solutions judged by the host) will win the prize (cash $$$). Winners take all.

High success rate on challenges

Based on my observation, there are actually not many competitors for each challenge. Most of the challenges have less than 50 registered competitors and even less submissions (competitors that manage to submit a solution). This means that chance for you to emerge as a winner is very highly probable.

To test this assumption, I participated to some of the “challenges”. They were actually fun sweepstakes (sweepstakes are like lucky draws where the lucky guy wins). I participated in four of the challenges. After losing the first two, I won the third challenge!

My first win on Topcoder

My first win on Topcoder

So my assumption was right, the probability to win cash on Topcoder is very high.

Here is the detail of the challenge that I won.

Cash $250 for 1st place

Cash $250 for 1st place

It is a challenge from IBM and it requires participants to use IBM Bluemix. What is Bluemix? Just like at Amazon, we have AWS (Amazon Web Services). At Microsoft, we have Azure. And at IBM, we have Bluemix which is a cloud service from IBM.

So once you were registered for an account on Bluemix, you would need to build a web app using one of Watson‘s features: language translation. Watson is the Artificial Intelligence engine developed at IBM.

This is the example demo you start with. And this is my “winning” solution (this site will be unavailable after several months when my trial at Bluemix expires). Add a button or two and you could win $250 under two hours of work.

Apparently IBM is doing something right. It is for this reason that Warren Buffett is acquiring IBM stocks all these years (Ok, I am a bit biased for the the reason mentioned above).

Thank you Santa Claus (IBM) and merry Christmas!