Hackathons are usually greeted positively, though the way that Salesforce handled the judging of its recent hackathon seems pretty disappointing. One of the most notable issues is the rule that teams can only start working on their apps from Oct 25, and that they must be coded from scratch. That sounds fine until you realize that the winning app (Upshot) was also demoed on Oct 8 at a Salesforce meetup. Salesforce eventually responded that it was acceptable to use pre-existing code as long as the code did not comprise of the majority of the app and did not violate any third party’s rights. Only mentioning that after the winning app was discovered to use pre-existing code hardly seems fair, and still doesn’t resolve the issue that it was demoed before the Hackathon started.

To make matters worse, one of the engineers in the winning team was a Salesforce enginner for a good nine years. Though the rules state that employees as of Sept 1st 2013 would not be able to enter, and since this person was employed until sometime this year, it’s probably still within the rules, but considering the issues mentioned above, it’s certainly going to cause some discontent amongst contestants.

The Dirty Secret Behind the Salesforce $1M Hackathon

While Salesforce rules say employees as of Sep 1, 2013 could not enter the hackathon, it appears people who were employed not just as recently as this year, but who is “Formerly an engineer at Salesforce for 9 years. Lead engineer on Salesforce Analytics. Tech lead for Custom Report Types and many other reporting features” sure are allowed to participate and win. And guess what their app was? A “tool that lets you easily create and edit [Salesforce] reports on a mobile device.”

The company did get around to officially responding to the issue on its blog, even going so far as to announce a second winner for the $1 million prize. Unfortunately some folks also noticed that the folks behind the second winning app (Healthcare.love) work for a company that Salesforce has invested in. Unless the rules explicitly state otherwise, this usually isn’t an issue, but then again, we are dealing with a sensitive situation here, and the complaints are still coming in.