4000 hours of development for $75

Are you an entreprenuer? Looking to bootstrap your latest start-up? Need cheap — cheaper than offshoring! — development help?

No problem. Just take out an ad for $75 on Craigslist, and convince 100 out of 2000 applicants to spend 40 hours developing new algorithms for you as an “employment test”.

According to SiliconBeat, that’s what Become.com did. And, they’re gloating about it (emphasis mine):

“About 100 of the applicants took the challenge, which required about 40 hours of coding. Yang says that many of the concepts that came out of that process ended up in the Become.com algorithm.”

Clever hiring practice, or, a new low in employer-employee (err, candidate!) relations? Decide for yourself.


  1. Om Malik is thinking along the same lines. If anyone has a copy of the “test instructions”, please post them and drop a link: moreinfo [AT] buzzhit [DOT] com
  2. Michael Yang of Become.com just posted over at SiliconBeat, saying:

“I would like to make two clarifications on this posting.One, it is true that we
ask candidates to take a programming test as a screening mechanism. One of the
questions requires the candidate to demonstrate an understanding of hypertext
link analysis algorithms such as PageRank. Two, we do not use any of the
submitted code for our internal development purposes.”

Hopefully SiliconBeat will post confirmation of their original notes, or, a correction based on Yang’s comments…

UPDATE 2: Over in the comments section of the SiliconBeat piece, I asked Michael Yang:

“Michael Yang: When you say…

“we do not use any of the submitted code for our internal development purposes”

… does that include any of the ideas or inventions included in that code, or just the code itself? No difference in my mind if you’re just re-writing what they submitted.

Looking forward to your definitive statement.”

He replied:

“We have never used any code or ideas from the programming test. The programming test is focused on candidate’s programming proficiency rather than new ideas or inventions.”

Interestingly… SiliconBeat has posted an update (but not a retraction), saying (emphasis mine):

“Be sure to see Michael Yang’s remarks in the comments section about the controversial notion that some of the programmers’ ideas may have contributed to the Become.com code-base. Yang says now that his company “never used any code or ideas from the programming test.”

Alright, enough rumors and non-sense for the week. More analysis next week. 😉

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One comment on “4000 hours of development for $75
  1. Jeff Clavier says:

    We’re soft, Om’s tad nastier.