eBay Widget Contest rules change for Flex developers

I just checked the eBay Widget Design Contest rules page again, and was happily surprised to see two important changes to the rules that now make it feasible for Flex developers to enter the contest. You are now allowed to use open-source code licensed under the MIT or BSD licenses, and your widget can be up to 400 kb. Below are the changed portions of the official rules:

Widget may not exceed 400kb in size

Widget may not incorporate any open source code except for Adobe Flex under the MPL license, or any open source under MIT or new BSD license in addition to source code published by eBay under CDD license;

Awesome. The wording seems a little odd to me (ahh, lawyers…), but the intent is to allow the Flex SDK, any MIT or new BSD code, and the eBay toolkit code that eBay released under the CDD license. So now you’re free to grab any number of open source projects and use them in your entry. Note that this doesn’t apply to every open-source license (understandably), so make sure you don’t get your hands on anything with those nasty GPL viral licenses. But the MIT inclusion covers a huge library of open-source Flex code that’s out there.

They also raised the file-size limit from 200k to 400k. If you’ve developed Flex apps, you know that you’re not likely to have an app less than 200k. I think 400k is a much more reasonable limit, and opens the door to Flex developers.

I’ve been called out.
So I originally bitched and moaned about how I wasn’t going to enter the eBay widget contest because of the restrictive rules about no open source code. That same day I got an email from someone at eBay, spoke with someone on the phone to explain my issues, and now they’ve gone and changed the rules to be accommodating. I was very impressed with eBay’s concern and willingness to listen to developers. So now I guess I have to enter the contest, right? Unfortunately the truth is I probably won’t get my act together to create an entry, but now the only excuse I have is that I’m too busy. I’m going to try to carve out some time to make an entry, but god knows if that will actually happen. When I originally complained, I was hiding my busyness/laziness behind my rant about the rules. Now eBay has gone and done everything I wanted to make the rules better, and I feel like my bluff has been called.

So to all the Flex developers out there, go win ten grand by making an eBay widget. You can use Flex, you can use whatever cool open source code you can find. You’ve got until February 22 to make some cool shit. A big thanks goes to eBay for being awesome and listening. Thanks guys, you rock.


Why I won’t enter the eBay Flex widget contest

Today I was looking over the details of the eBay Flash/Flex widget contest and thought maybe I’d whip something together and enter. I figured I could probably throw together some eye-candy nonsense using PaperVision, Box2D, fire effects, etc etc and make something that looked impressive. Might be worth a shot at a cool $10k. Then I read the details a little closer and found this clause:

  • Widget may not incorporate any open source code except for Adobe Flex under the MPL license;

Fuck that. I use open-source projects in nearly everything I do. Literally everything. This becomes an issue when dealing with consulting work for clients, and I bring this question up right away and ask what kind of restrictions the client wants to place on the use of open source code. On one hand, the client usually wants 100% of the code to belong to them, they want the IP, and using any open-source code in the project is frowned upon. On the other hand I explain the cost of having to build from scratch all the stuff that I can get for free from these open-source projects, and when it starts being thought of in dollars then we usually arrive at an agreement to allow open-source code. Note that this only applies to MIT and other completely open licenses, if it’s not MIT I usually won’t touch it with a ten foot pole.

So eBay wants to run a contest where you can’t use open source code. That means no 3D engines, no physics engines, no custom component libraries. If you wanted 3D you’d have to build your own custom 3D engine. Umm, no thanks. It’s funny because they make the explicit exception for the Flex framework, since if they didn’t do that you wouldn’t be able to make any Flex app at all.

Hell, if you take that clause strictly, you probably can’t even use eBay’s own Flex Toolkit, which is licensed under the Common Development and Distribution License, which is an “open source license based on the Mozilla Public License.” I hope every entry in the contest gets disqualified 😛 Come on guys, the Flex SDK is about to be open source, your developer toolkit is open source, and yet you want to say we can’t use open source code?