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Facebook Tries Crowdsourcing New Hires
© Image: Young Hyun

Facebook Tries Crowdsourcing New Hires

Facebook has taken to hiring engineers through a sort of trial by fire using crowdsourcing site Kaggle. If you want to be a Data Engineer for history's largest social network, all you need to do is sign up and figure out the best path from point A (or in this case, node A) to B across a map of the internet.

Sounds easy, but it becomes a bit trickier when you consider that the map of the internet is constantly changing. If you're smarter than me and are able to predict the optimal path across the net, your prize could be a full-time gig in one of Facebook's offices in Silicon Valley, Seattle, New York or London.

There's currently 17 days left in the competition, which has so far yielded 206 entries from 49 participants.

This is actually the second such data challenge that Facebook has run via Kaggle. A similar competition held over the summer led to the hire of one new Facebook engineer.

The partnership is a good fit for both sides, considering Facebook's reputation for unconventional recruiting and Kaggle's mission, "Making Data Science a Sport." A sport where the trophy is a new, geeky pedigree in this case.

But it's also a validation of something that our resident expert Panos Ipeirotis first told us months ago, namely that "crowdsourcing is the new interview." Here's what he wrote back in the spring:

The selection of the best participants happens naturally, without the artificial introduction of a selection process mediated through an interview. The interview is an artificial process. It tries to keep out from the task the participants that are not qualified and tries to identify the ones that are the best. This is an imperfect filter. It has false positives and also false negatives. Many people are hired with great hopes, just to be later proven to be ill-suited for the task (false positives). And many good people do not get the chance to work on a task just because they do not look good on paper.

As platforms like Kaggle become a new portal for launching careers, at some point the next engineering wunderkind a la Larry Page, Sergey Brin, or even Mark Zuckerberg will come up through crowdsourcing rather than the Silicon Valley start-up scene. The real question is how Hollywood will find a way to insert Justin Timberlake into the movie version of the story.

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