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Salesforce ponies up ANOTHER $1m to settle hackathon headache

Second contestants will get cash prize for disputed coding contest

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Cloud kingpin Salesforce.com is preparing to shell out $1m to settle a dispute over a hackathon contest at last month's DreamForce conference.

The company said that it would add a second winner to its developer contest while still upholding the original ruling that led some in the developer community to cry foul.

Healthcare.love, a project that created a mobile application to let users view and track their US medical care coverage, was added to the Grand Prize ranks from last month's hackathon contest. The company will get its own $1m grand prize payout.

The decision comes in the wake of an investigation by Salesforce into the contest, which ended with allegations that winning contestant Upshot had relied heavily on code written long before the contest started.

Critics had charged that the winners had violated the rules of the hackathon both for their use of pre-written code and the ties that one team member had from a previous stint with Salesforce. The investigation cleared Upshot of both charges, stating that the code used by the company was permitted under the rules of the contest and that the employee in question left Salesforce long before the contest deadline.

Still, the company said that it had not given that information to its judges, who were ultimately not aware that Upshot was using the pre-written code and were unable to factor it into their final decision on a winner.

Meanwhile, Healthcare.love was cleared of any wrongdoing over a possible conflict of interest from Salesforce owning a stake in its parent company, a tie that the firm found to be "immaterial" to the companies, and not significant enough to impact any strategic decisions.

"After reviewing the hackathon rules and judging process, we have determined that both of our first prize winners met our eligibility requirements," said Salesforce chief legal officer Burke Norton.

"We have also determined that we did not do a good enough job of communicating with the entrants about use of pre-existing code, which was allowable under certain circumstances," he said, "and that we weren't clear enough with the final round judges about the use of pre-existing code."

The ruling ties up a loose end to what was otherwise a banner year for Salesforce at its annual developer conference. The company reported more than 130,000 people had registered for a show that brought much of downtown San Francisco to a standstill and included the launch of the Salesforce1 platform and a spirited keynote address from founder and CEO Marc Benioff. ®

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