I decided to charge a modest fee ($1.99) for it in the AppStore.
The contest rules are not clear on that point, since they talk about being allowed to sell the app “elsewhere”, even during the contest period.
So I interpreted the AppStore as elsewhere, and I was planning to issue promotion codes for the judges so they could get the app for free, to evaluate for the contest.
Charging for it was primarily a hedge against not winning, and secondarily as a way of recouping some of the time and effort that went into making NYC*Fun (though on both counts, I wasn’t expecting to make a profit).
But, alas, the contest organizers felt that was unfair to “all New Yorkers, whose tax payer dollars were used [to make the NYC.gov Data Mine available]“.
That logic seems odd when it comes to iPhone apps in this contest.
If I am a tax-paying New Yorker without an iPhone, all I would have are contest videos of all the iPhone apps.
That’s hardly a way of providing me benefits in return for my tax dollars.
But beyond this single app in this single contest (and perhaps legally, the contest rep was correct in that I could not charge for it in the AppStore and still be eligible), the experience struck a chord because of another phenomenon I’ve been witnessing on a broader scale recently: the devaluation of software as a paid profession.
The undercurrent of my conversation with the contest rep was this: the City’s effort (i.e., time and money spent to provide the data) was more important than mine, even though most of information in the Data Mine is unusable without significant rework (reformatting, normalizing, and the like).
That’s a rant for a different day, though.
This episode did remind of my days in design engineering, and why contests in that world generate little enthusiasm.
The principals of the firm I worked for scoffed at the idea of entering contests, dismissing them as run by cheapskate clients who wanted free work.
The subsequent leverage those clients had with the contest “winners” was also significant, since the tacit threat of bringing in the runner-up firm was always there for the length of the engagement.
Perhaps the smartest people in all this are those who run Challenge Post, the private company hired by the City of New York to run the contest.