Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Tetris Fiasco

This is the Tel Aviv municipal building and it has a huge 12x20 light show on it.

Every time I passed by it, I had this idea that it would be cool to play huge Tetris on it. So I looked up on Tel-Aviv city web-site and found the contact of whoever is in charge of city’s events and celebrations. I wrote her a very professional email saying I’m working in the IT industry for a long time and I’m expert on embedded systems and that me and my friends who are also very good engineers, had this idea for a project of playing Tetris on their huge light display. Her response was quick and very enthusiastic (something like: “Wow, sounds awwwwwesome!!!1”). After a few more email exchanges I got the contact of the IT guy who was responsible for the system.
The system was made by Philips, in kind of a huge array of Philips Hue mash. It had a nice controller called “Color Kinetics” that was connected to a PC running “Color Play 2.1” on Windows XP.

After checking all of the technical details, making some planning and gathering a bunch of friends to take part in the project, I sent them a proposal which I was willing to do for free, just to have the opportunity to play a game. Needless to say, I had a few limitations such as:
I could work only during evening / night hours, as me and my friends have a day job.
Even though, I see no risk to the system, the lights or anything else, I have no insurance, so they will have to be responsible for it if something goes horribly wrong.
I won’t create an App for it, just a controller connected by WiFi.
20x12 might not be enough for Tetris, so I might want to make a Snake game or Pong or all of the above.
At the beginning they were very responsive and answered most of my emails very quickly, they added more and more people to the CC, and I had a feeling everything's going in the right direction. However, at some point, they started asking for more and more paper work / technical details that didn’t seem relevant. I even got a friend who is a graphic designer to make a sketch of how the Snake game will look like:

At this point I told them I’m doing it for free, so I’m going to give them only a POC level product. I am willing to give all of my code, documents and research. Once we will have a working version they can either take everything to someone else to make a product out of it for less money, or I’ll give them another proposal (this time not for free) to finish everything. The responses became slower and slower until at some point they totally stopped. I though they probably decided not to proceed with the idea, and forgot about it..
Few months later I got a phone call from a friend who told me he saw my Tetris project and that he even got to play a game.

I was shocked. I’m not sure who gave them a better offer than a free one, or which part created the problem of actually using my proposal, but anyhow, I was quite upset that they used my idea and someone else’s implementation.
I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback about why do you think I didn’t get the job, and how should I’ve acted differently. Do you think that If I’ve asked for money and had an insurance I had better chances of getting the job? Do you think the company who was hired for the project had some connections and that’s why they got it? Do you think I might have improperly presented myself and seemed unprofessional for the job?