A Stint at Open Hack Day 2010

A long awaiting post, Yahoo! Open Hack Day 2010, Bengaluru. This happens to be my longest stint with coding. For those of you who dont’ know, Open Hack Day is 24 hrs – to build an innovative application on-spot, overnight, with unlimited caffeine and Red Bull’s and glowing laptop’s all around – Not to mention the smell of Geek Air :). Thanks to Twitter, I managed to make it to the 13th Open Hack Day.

Open Hack India

If you are wondering why am I bragging about ‘Hacking’, your probably mistaken.

Hack != Illegal

Hack is not – only – breaking into a company’s network, nor is it sneaking into a neighbour’s email.  A Hack is making something work irrespective of the circumstances. And as far as the Yahoo! Open Hack is concerned, its about finding a problem, thinking of a solution, and building a software to tackle this problem in 24 hours ! Of Course, the ‘Yahoo!’ prefix dint mean ‘Get Out if your not using Yahoo!’. The flocks at Yahoo! did mention API’s and Library’s from JQuery to PayPal and Google Charts to Google Maps. I must say, this atmosphere is what keeps it ticking!  Here is more from Christian Heilmann.

For the sake of stats, the Open Hack event saw,
3000 responses
1200 confirmed
4800 cups of coffee/tea
630 hackers
IPV6 network with 300 connections – With another 200 available on demand !
110+ hacks
40+ tech crew
210 Minute Presentations of 90 Second each.
Giveaways – iPad, xBox, iPod Nanos and Shuffles.

P.S. The Hacker’s consumed,

1,200 litres of milk
875 kg of vegetables
275 kg rice
1,900 eggs
320 kg chicken
120 kg sugar
240 cans of Red Bull

Top count prior to this event was 300 odd hackers with 72 hacks. Bangalore Geeks doubled that number. Kudos !. Twitter doubled up as a chat room (#openhackindia) with live updates on presentations and presenters, request for mobile chargers, complaints on the lack of Power Cords, Taj Food reviews  and high priority broadcasts on RedBull girls making it to the venue. That apart, there was one geek offering ideas for hacks ! Bangalore probably has the caliber to host an event called ‘Idea Market’.

Yahoo Open Hack

Presentations on YUI brought into picture YUI 3, along with the Drag & Drop library’s, the Widget Infrastructure and introduced the browser independent capabilities of YUI. Half way through, and I was already clicking away at the YUI Gallery. This was followed by a talk on Yahoo Geo Technologies. Yahoo again had a few impressive API’s here, but having used the Google Geo API’s extensively, i leaned on a comparison of the two APIs all along. And repeated mentions of the phrase ‘Even Google cannot do it’ had my spirits go low. Nevertheless, the capability of YQL amazed me with the wonderful integration of Geo APIs with YQL Yahoo has achieved. For those of you who don’t know, YQL is Yahoo Query Language, used for querying webservices with the same SQL like syntax. Sitting in a hall with around 200, I could not stop myself from thinking about the avenues this style of programming could introduce. This was followed by Fire Eagle, Place Marker, Place Finder. The Yahoo! Local API impressed me, and triggered off some ideas for my hack. BTW, yes, I went to the Open Hack Event without an idea in mind.

With all this wrapped up, the screen started ticking backwards from ’24:00:00′. A sumptuous lunch followed. The clock was racing past 22:00:00 when we opted to stay away from the talks on PayPal APIs to brainstorm on an idea. With the Yahoo GEO and Local APIs already exploited enough by the Yahoo Engineers, there was this gut feeling all along that half the people were building a location based hack.

We continued to ‘Brainstorm’ and a couple of hours down, we managed to zero in on a Contacts application. Ok, get rid of that expression! The app has some extra functionality too. To make our work easier with less redundant coding, our application saved only a couple of minimal fields for a contact – a Name, an Email and a Location. Here goes our hack. A ‘contact’s LinkedIn extracted data was supposed to show up, along with a ‘Visit’ option. The Yahoo Weather and Traffic APIs were supposed to help us decide if it was a good time to visit the contact, and if it was, Yahoo Maps would help us with directions and the Yahoo Local API was supposed to help us suggest a few restaurants to catch up with the contact. This is what we though could be completed in the remaining 18 hours.  With everyone in high spirits and with our work distributed on a Google doc, we started off. We ignored calls for OAuth presentations and dinner for another hour before tummy’s started growling.

Our Hack,

  • Location based contact management soln.
  • LinkedIn, Yahoo Weather, Yahoo Traffic, Yahoo Maps, Yahoo Local API integration
  • HTML 5 GeoLocation API
  • Built on Flex and Java, with a tinge of HTML and JavaScript

Apart from a few interruptions caused by tea breaks, visit to the fuse-ball board, a twitter post blaring about a pool side party happening below, followed by a visit (The Trinity Hall seemed to be strangely empty around this time), RedBulls and Tropicana’s, We gelled well with the Yahoo APIs. Around this time, a few posts on twitter read, ‘My Hack Complete’ and ‘My First Hack Complete’. Would have loved to know more about these ‘I’m First’ hacks. We sailed smoothly enough to ignore midnight snacks until we ran into problems with Flex – JS Bridge and OAuth (Regretted to have missed the presentation!). Sleep, teamed along with Bean Bags seemed to take over us, with Red Bull being our only medicine. As the clock ticked 4, our heads seemed to be too heavy for our necks, and speeds were reduced to a couple of lines per hour. By the time our eyes opened wide, it was obvious HTML 5 GEO APIs and OAuth demanded more time than available.

About our Hack, It was never presented, cos we never completed. Though we’ve extended our timelines from 24hrs to 24days, work has been far too consuming to sit down and code to honor our own idea. Already hoping to be well equipped for the next Yahoo Open Hack. Don’t intend to extend timelines that far though. Will post once the application is complete.

We Missed,

  • An Idea soon enough.
  • A file sharing system in place – There were teams having SVN in place.
  • Playing with APIs prior to the event

Overall, a wonderful event by Yahoo, great arrangements. Check out a few pics here.

Great Job, Anil Patel and Team.

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4 Responses to “A Stint at Open Hack Day 2010”

  1. Sup dude, I was browsing google and searching for an article to read and came across your blog. I am very glad I did, you posted some excellent information. Did a quick bookmark on this page and will likely be checking back every once in a while to see if you post any more stuff. Cool stuff keep up the good work.

  2. jeethendra

    Excellent dude … Hope you guys had a great time. Great to hear those events are hosted in Bangalore.

  3. I came to this article by google search, because after watching “The Social Network” I got some inspiration regarding coding and so I was searching for some articles on coding, gr8 article..! 🙂

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