In an election year, the term “outsourcing” can be a volatile one. So perhaps it’s a good thing that new approaches to age-old development sourcing problems are taking outsourcing and making it about tasks, not jobs.

A perfect storm of APIs, SaaS, the Web and mobile platforms has made more precise use of non-staff software development professionals possible. Instead of signing a contract with a firm in India, Russia or China to develop or test mainline applications, development teams can use new services like CodeAr.my, CloudSpokes and uTest to get development done almost on-demand. These services bring development contracts and jobs to the freelancers, where they can bid on work, or sometimes even compete against one another to meet coding requirements.

In CloudSpokes, users can post development requirements, then choose from a typical pool of three or four finished implementations. David Messinger, chief architect at CloudSpokes, said that developers compete on CloudSpokes in order to win a set prize, typically in the hundreds of dollars range. Today, he said, the site has a hair under 45,000 users, has completed 360 jobs, and disbursed more than US$600,000 to freelance developers who’ve risen to win challenges.

“It’s more of a market-based system,” said Messinger. “I need to get this work done, and here’s the prize amount for it. Multiple people compete on that unit of work, and based on who does the best job, we pay.” Unlike traditional outsourcing models, CloudSpokes developers build applications to specifications, and only the best implementation wins. Both losing and winning entries are still posted online so that the community can critique each other’s coding skills.

CloudSpokes.com was actually constructed through this competitive implementation system, said Messinger. “The CloudSpokes site itself was built on Azure, but we decided to rebuild it,” he said. “We asked our 20,000 members, and they rewrote the entire site from scratch without us writing a single line of code ourselves. It’s not something I would recommend to a client, but we said, ‘Build this service on whatever platform you want,’ so now we’re based on Heroku, some Google AppEngine, and Amazon Web Services.” Each aspect of the site rewrite was paid for through CloudSpokes’ bounty-like system as well.

Another site that offers similar opportunities for entrepreneurial developers is CodeAr.my. Based in Malaysia, this small startup is currently in private beta. While it’s similar in purpose to CloudSpokes, CodeAr.my allows developers to submit bids on projects, which are then accepted or denied by the client. Though CloudSpokes includes the potential for work to be done without pay, CodeAr.my takes a more traditional bid-based approach.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of CodeAr.my is its focus on gamification as a method of generating interactivity, and as a quick way of identifying developer skills. A developer who has won his or her CSS and HTML5 badge, for example, can be assured to know their stuff for work associated with those languages.

Zafrul Azhar Noordin, founder and commander-in-chief of CodeAr.my, said that, upon the posting of a job requirement, “A list of interested candidates or recommended candidates will be provided by the system. [The user] can offer or assign the job to these candidates by reviewing their online profile. The secret is that this online profile is an exact match of their skills” to the job, he said.

About Alex Handy

Alex Handy is the Senior Editor of Software Development Times.