Microsoft seeks top Canuck developer

Calling all .Net developers: here’s a chance for you to take home a huge cheque, earn some code cred and show off for a software giant.

Microsoft Canada Co. is holding a contest to find the top Visual Studio .Net jockey. The match, dubbed the Last Developer Standing Contest, is a summer-long, nine-round event that ends with someone taking home $25,000.

The sign-up deadline is approaching fast — April 18 if you want to be in the running for the top prize. Sign-up details are at the end of the article, but first, some context.

According to Craig Flannagan, Microsoft Canada’s senior marketing manager, the Last Developer Standing Contest is as much a chance for his company to check out the best this country’s developer community has to offer as it is a chance for a developer to get rich.

“We have a vested interest in having developers be more effective with tools and with building applications on our technology,” Flannagan said, describing the contest as a kind of intense development practice session.

“We also want to give recognition to the great Canadian developers out there….This was just a fun way to do it, something we’ve never done before.”

The Last Developer Standing Contest is something of a pilot for Microsoft, Flannagan said. Canada is the first market for it, so certain details remain up in the air.

For instance, Microsoft can’t say how many people will take part and it can’t say for sure how long the event will run. It’s a matter of the contest’s set-up. It could end after one round, or it could go the full nine bouts.

Here’s how it’s supposed to work: After registering, participants get access to online training materials — Web casts and documents collected from the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) library — and a 10-question test on the Web for round one. Everyone who achieves the top score on the test advances to round two.

Rinse out the losers and repeat nine times — that’s how Microsoft aims to find the nation’s top developer. Each round also has smaller prizes, like Xbox gaming systems and books from Microsoft Press, Flannagan said.

If just one person gets the top score on round one, the contest ends with that person taking home the grand prize.

In the ninth round, Microsoft’s judges rapid-fire questions at the remaining contestants in a live, online meeting. Get a question wrong and you’re out. Thus goes the elimination to find the ultimate winner: He or she who answers the most questions takes the title.

The tests cover everything from an intro to .Net development, to building apps for Windows, creating Web software and designing for mobile devices. The idea is to bring contestants from basic to more advanced tasks by the contest’s end, Flannagan said.

Amanda Murphy has signed up for this Web event. She’s a project manager at Infotech Canada Inc., an app development firm in St. John’s.

“Being in Newfoundland, I’m familiar with the concept of being disconnected from resources and opportunities,” she said. “Contests like this are really good for giving people here and in other remote locations a chance to participate, show off their skills, show off their talent and learn some things they wouldn’t necessarily get a chance to otherwise.”

Contest wins can give developers a leg up, according to Frank Wong, vice-president of business development at Meta4hand Inc., an Edmonton-based wireless software provider.

The company won the Leapfrog contest for mobile apps in 2003 with its product SynapBridj. It lets people access data on a server from handheld devices, like smartphones, and display the info on any screen, so users need not deal with the squinty-small display of the handheld for presentations and such.

Wong said the Leapfrog win helped propel Meta4hand. “It gave our company some validation, and access to…labs, meeting facilities and, most importantly, industry contacts — folks we wanted to work with, like device manufacturers and operating systems.”

But it pays to be discerning when it comes to joining contests, Wong said. “The greatest challenge is matching your goals to the contests. There are a lot of contests out there; you have to find the one that’ll give you tangible benefits.”

Murphy said the Last Developer Standing Contest is right up her alley. “I enjoy training and there generally isn’t enough free training or opportunities to learn something….This is a chance to do a contest related to that.”

The Last Developer Standing Contest starts in May and ends in August. To sign up (it’s free) visit All participants who sign up before April 25 are eligible to win the round-by-round awards, but only developers who sign up by April 18 are in the running for the $25,000.

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