Whoops... I Just Asked a Question and Now I Won a Prize...

Ok, the title sounds like what happens on developer conferences when you ask a technical question and suddenly the speaker pulls out a t-shirt or a book and hands it over to you. No, this one’s bigger… much bigger.

Back in summer, I participated in the Microsoft Visual Studio Extensibility Contest with my add-in GhostDoc (did I just hear somebody yawn in the background? I’m sorry ;-). I thought to myself “Hey, GhostDoc is a valid entry according to the rules, it has a working setup, nice documentation and people like it, why not give it a try. Version 1.9.5 is almost finished, entering the contest shouldn’t be much effort”.

Ok, forget about the “not much effort” part. The organizers wanted the projects as source code, to compile the projects and pass the result to the judges –  I guess to be able sort out at least some of the more obvious trojans that jokesters would send in. Releases of GhostDoc are built using a combination of a commercial tool (Visual Build) and a couple of custom-built tools and I couldn’t/didn’t want to give out my complete build environment, template-based documentation generation, CHM-builder, etc.. So most of the work consisted of building a package that could be copied on a fresh machine and would successfully build the MSI. Sounds easy, but it’s the small details that cost way too much time.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining; my colleague Jens Schaller wrote an add-in (SonicFileFinder) specifically for the contest from scratch and he definitely pulled some all-nighters and others have invested a lot of time as well.

Anyway, when I was notified I didn’t win I wasn’t too disappointed – I was happy that I received an USB stick for participating and left the contest behind me.

But of course I wanted to know which cool add-ins won, so I visited the website from time to time. Yesterday I saw the winners were announced. The projects of the participants that didn’t win (including me) were listed on the site as well, but without a description, just with a download link. Interested in the other add-ins I wrote a mail to the organizers suggesting to add description texts as I didn’t feel like downloading all add-ins just to find out what they are doing. And out of curiosity I asked what had happened to the third place in the add-in category, suspecting some sort of mixup during the authoring of the page.

Well, some time later I received a mail telling me that one of the first three contestants was “no longer eligible” and that the next of the runner-ups moved up on third place – and that was me! Wow, what a surprise… An hour later the website was updated, with GhostDoc now on third place. Unfortunately the list of the runner-ups are still without description texts, but I guess that’s coming later.



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