Bounty Hunters

By Adena Schutzberg

_Computer Associates last year moved its INGRESS database to an open source license.To promote the move, and to quickly and inexpensively bring to market the necessary (open source) migration tools to move from other databases, the company offered a "bounty" to those who offered up solutions.Good idea? The $1 million (maximum total) bounty (reward?) sent cash ranging from $50,000 to $400,000 to three teams that developed solutions for migration from Oracle, SQL Server and MySQL.

I read recently of another bounty which was not awarded.Lieca Brown, editor of POB, noted in this month's editorial that "free money" was left on the table because not a single person applied for this year's Berntsen International Scholarship in Surveying Technology.The folks at Berntsen (they make survey and other types of markers) put a bounty out for aspiring surveyors and none showed up.

Software vendors bounty hunt too, but it's sort of subtle.They run contests to see what you can do with their software/hardware.Why? It's cheap research and development, and it's cheap marketing.Giving away a copy of the software and/or other goodies in return for developing, sharing or writing about an application is a "good deal." It may also be a "good deal" for the participant as it can enhance his or her stature in the eyes of the community or workplace.In recent months contest announcements from vendors in the geospatial industry have crossed my path including GeoLeaders' Carbon Cup Open Geospatial Design Competition, NAVTEQ's Global LBS Challenge, and Bentley's BE Awards of Excellence.

Publications do the same thing.Directions Magazine runs a Web Mapping Contest each fall and a Remote Sensing Imagery Contest each summer (stay tuned; it's coming in June!).I don't believe I'm sharing any big secrets when I note that these events draw readers and create some valuable content.

Even DARPA offers bounties.Recall the $1 million prize for the 2004 Grand Challenge, a "race" for autonomous vehicles across the desert.And what about the X PRIZE, which pushed Mojave Aerospace Ventures to build SpaceShipOne to explore personal space flight?

While I must take some of these "bounties" and their "hunters" with a grain of salt, I have to admit these are clever ways of cajoling those who have the talent (or think they do) to "work for" the sponsoring organization.Those working on the INGRESS project were employees-in-all-but-name of Computer Associates.Bentley's users were, in essence, working for Bentley.And, whether they like to think about it or not, the teams in the Grand Challenge were working not only for the U.S.government, but for the Department of Defense.

Published Saturday, May 21st, 2005

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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