Instagram is one of my favourite web companies of the moment - not only for the service that they offer, but for the way in which they run their business. They have kept their offering focused, meaning that they can offer an incredibly impressive app experience for millions of users with only a small, dedicated team. That's not to say that as a company they're not growing however, and in evidence of this, they have recently announced openings for engineering vacancies at the company. But those that are interested will have to work a little bit harder than sending in a standard CV to get the foot in the door. If you want an engineering job at Instagram, you're going to have to complete a puzzle that the team has set. If you come up with an elegant enough solution, you'll be invited in for an interview.
The image challenge set by Instagram, detailed on their Tumblr post, involves taking a shredded image as the below :
and writing a script that puts it out as an unshredded image :
This is not a case of finding the one magic solution, but coming up with an elegant, efficient solution that demonstrates your interest in the area and ability to tackle imaging problems efficiently. And for extra pressure, Instagram have stated that they already came up with their own solution in a few hours, so interested applicants will have to contend with this too.
There are many that are likely to take issue with an approach like this, as it's certainly a fairly convoluted and extensive way of simply getting an interview. There is also a risk of course that Instagram could simply take your solution/script, not invite you in for an interview, but then use your work anyway. It's hard to see how Instagram could operate in this way however, and what this application process shows is an understanding of the way in which tech companies now have to operate. Even when you're hired at a tech company you're constantly competing among open source or crowdsource practices that mean you have to consistently prove your worth over others, that through digital technologies and communications, can very easily allow their work to impact on your product/service. Instagram are in a privileged position where they can choose the best of the best, so why wouldn't they?
Egotistical? Maybe. Ingenious? Definitely.