By Josh Catone

PHP Framework Plans Socially Responsible Coding Contest

By Josh Catone

I know from personal experience that a programming contest is one of the best ways to shed light on a web application framework. In the early days of the Ruby on Rails framework, it was sponsoring “Rails Day,” a 48-hour coding competition, that really jump started the growth of the Rails community site I own. That competition brought so much attention to the framework, that a good deal of it spilled over to the competition’s sponsors. Rails Day has since given way to the annual “Rails Rumble,” which we wrote about in October.

Over 500 people competed in this year’s Rails Rumble, and the competition got coverage in a number of large blogs and mainstream computer publications. So it’s no wonder that Symfony, a PHP web application framework, would want to emulate that contest model in order to spread the word about their project. Today, Symfony’s Community Manager Kris Wallsmith announced on the project’s blog their intention to hold a similar 48-hour programming competition in a few months. Symfony’s version of the Rails Rumble, however, comes with a twist.

One of the great things about these programming competitions is that they demonstrate just how quickly developers can use the framework to go from idea to deployment. When the Rails Rumble was finished, for example, there were over 100 complete, actual applications that could be used to promote the Rails framework as a good web app development platform.

Unfortunately, though some teams have continued work on their apps, the vast majority of the applications that were created have been left to gather dust and were never actually used. As a learning and promotional tool, competitions like the Rumble are great. But they also represent a lot of man hours wasted on projects that more than likely aren’t going to actually help any real users.

Wallsmith doesn’t want that to happen with Symfony’s competition. So instead of just creating random applications during the frenzied two days of competition, participants will be creating apps for a specific cause. “The applications we create during the course of the competition will be gifted to different socially-minded organizations around the world,” says Wallsmith. “Once the fun is over, our work will live on and hopefully do a lot of good.”

Symfony has put out a call for both sponsors (prizes and infrastructure) and “socially-minded organizations” that are in need of an interactive web application. Development team registration will open shortly and the contest is scheduled to take place a few months from now.

  • As a 48hr “Let’s show off what our framework can do and lend a helping hand to the community” project, that’s an excellent idea. As a contest, perhaps not so much. I guess it depends on h ow it’s structured, but most of those organizations receiving the apps would likely have some very specific requirements that would place a lot of constraints on the developers. This could take away a lot of the creativity and freedom that, for instance, makes Rails Rumble so great to participate in. Would developers get to choose their apps on a first-come-first-serve basis? That could certainly give those registering early an unfair edge in any competition, as they would have their pick of applications, while everyone else scrambled over the leftovers. As I said, it depends on how the Symphony folks plan to structure their contest.

  • I actually think thats brilliant as it has the double whammy effect of evangelizing technology AND putting it to good use, especially by institutions that can all the volunteer help they can. It turns techies into civic volunteers at the same time. Competitions inherently force us humans to bring out the best in us. But at the same time, if its for the greater good, there should be a way of not just delivering a product, but one that is commercial grade for social organizations.

  • Anonymous little punk

    You know what’s awesome. This just goes to show how much of little #####es the RoR crowd is. I posted a question on the most popular RoR forum about Django (kinda like RoR, but far superior) once and everyone there cursed me out. They’re like a bunch of sweaty basement kids. I’m happy to see somebody pwn RoR, and do some serious good in the process.

  • This is a nice idea, I hope a lot of people enter.

    Symfony should get more press than it does. It’s a nice framework. Delicious, Yahoo! Bookmarks and Yahoo! Answers all run on it. As does my W3Counter service.

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