Tom Scott
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Ideas That Vodafone Probably Didn't Want

This post updated on 1st December 2010 – read update.

Victory by Default

A lot of companies have been running developer competitions lately. Some of these have been great, and others haven't. It looks like some of these companies are just trying to get cheap labour – with short deadlines, specific briefs, and prizes significantly less than it would cost to hire an actual agency to churn out just one idea.

I came across the mWomen Mobile App Challenge, run by the GSMA and sponsored by Vodafone. It has a worthy cause ("make an application that will help women in the developing world"), it has $20,000+ in prizes... and as of writing this, it has no entries.

I'm really hoping some worthy applications do arrive before the deadline expires, but just in case — here you go, Vodafone: here's some apps for you!


Ridicomp allows women in the developing world to lift themselves out of poverty and change their lives forever — by linking them to ridiculous developer competitions with no entries that are sponsored by enormous first-world media companies.

New competitions can be submitted by any users that find them, and are removed from the site when they expire. Ridicomp is a low-end mobile app, written in XHTML MP. It'll work from any WAP 2.0 phone, including handsets from years ago, and it's incredibly lightweight — the data required will easily load over any 2G network.


Taxulator is designed for women in the developing world who've recently been let off an enormous tax bill. Say that a woman in the rural parts of Zambia owns a company called... oh, I don't know, "Blodafone". And say that her company has recently been let off a tax bill worth billions of dollars in a shady deal with the government. The question is obvious: what do you spend the money on in order to help your community?

Fortunately, Taxulator will help - calculating how many schools and libraries could be built with the money, or what part of the world could be given clean water. Of course, it also offers the option to plough the proceeds back into your company and give a big dividend to your shareholders.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

I've submitted these through the formal app competition process, and they're in compliance with all the rules — I even filed a 500-word brief for each of them, despite the fact that the competition form field where you enter the 500-word brief only allows 128 characters.

They're currently awaiting approval; I'll let you know what happens.


Just so you know: I'm not intending to take the mickey out of mWomen or any charitable organisation. In fact, I hope that this might spur some last-minute entries that are worthy of winning the prize.

Questionable, barren developer competitions on the other hand... I'll happily mock them.

Update, 1st December

I've heard nothing back from the Mobile App Challenge folks, which is a bit disappointing; I was hoping, at least, for some kind of response. The apps haven't been approved, needless to say. But even if they were, there's no chance they'd win — in the meantime, several new entries have arrived! They include one that appears to fulfil all the challenge requirements in good faith.

I've had a few comments expressing cynicism about the competition in general (hello, The Register!) but I don't know enough to remark any further about that. I also don't have the heart of stone required to chase up the joke any further and cause whichever poor sod's administrating the competition any more grief — so all the best to the entrants, and let's hope some good comes out of it!


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