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Sep 27, 2010 | TechCrunch Hackathon SF Highlights

I found out about TechCrunch Disrupt on Tuesday and motivated by a way to get in without forking over the $3000 entry fee (or even $200 for students), I found out about the accompanying Hackathon. The Hackathon is an event where people get together and code an entire project from basic idea/conception to final (demonstrable) product in under 24 hours. I wasn’t sure if anyone else was willing to jump on the bandwagon at the last minute, but I managed to ask Daniel, a classmate of mine in the CS147 Human Computer Interaction class, if he was interested in joining. Scrapping my first idea of making an app that allows people to register bikes automatically (in order to prevent theft), we decided that an app that automatically adjusts your music volume based on where you’re located would be a great one-day hack. He brought along his friend Arturo, and together with a friend of mine who also joined in a bit, Makoto, we hunked down for the long haul at the San Francisco Design Concourse.

The sign outside, Saturday around 1pm. We wouldn’t see the outside for another 24 hours!

The event began officially at 2pm. During the course of the day, different companies like Facebook, Groupon, Twitter and Yahoo demonstrated their APIs in order to help developers. There was plenty of food and drinks as well. There were also some latecomer developers to the event, looking for partners to work with, which I thought was pretty neat. In the startup and developer world that San Francisco is a part of, I think nothing brings home the friendly atmosphere more than the fact that people want to collaborate and compete in a friendly manner.

We started the day off trying to determine how best to approach the iPhone app development, given that none of the three of us had any solid iPhone app development background. I eventually convinced the rest of the team to go with PhoneGap. Essentially PhoneGap allows you to develop web-based applications that use JavaScript calls to speak natively with the iPhone’s native SDK. There are some things that aren’t covered by PhoneGap (like app volume!) so not knowing how to approach that was daunting.

Our setup. I was borrowing a Macbook for the event.

There were apparently about 450 participants, forming eventually 86 different teams, each doing a different application/website or hack.

The area where everyone was coding throughout the night. Photo courtesy of TechCrunch

The area was pretty warm during the day but became really cold in the evening. It was probably around midnight when our team finally overcome a large hurdle of managing the iPhone’s volume using the app, a feature that came about largely with Arturo’s expertise.

They fed us a lot of snacky foods as well as free food from a nice midnight Taco truck.

Demoing our iPhone app on Sunday. We had just 60 seconds to show off what we had spent the last 20 hours doing, so it was a bit of a challenge.

At 10am on Sunday they officially closed the Hackathon, and everyone had to stop coding. We submitted our requests to demonstrate our app in front of hundreds of attendees.

They really enforced the 60 second rule.

After 24 hours awake everything seemed a bit hazy, but we were nonetheless excited and nervous to demonstrate our app. The TechCrunch folk were really severe about the 60 second rule to demonstrate our products, so it seemed a bit unfortunate when people with fairly decent ideas would be cut off at that mark. Still, we were able to cover most of the details of AudioNorm, and it was what I thought to be rather decent attempt. I have to say that none of the Hackathon would have been nearly as awesome without Daniel and Arturo’s help, so an awesome kudos to them!

Also a final shoutout to Brian, who provided us with a developer provisioning profile that allowed us to push the app to my iPhone. Without the key it would have been impossible to demonstrate the audio feature (since the simulator doesn’t work with audio). Brian was working an hack that allowed you to play PacMan in augmented reality with your friends.

The main screens of the app.

The code will be available on Google Code shortly.

This entry was posted on Monday, September 27th, 2010 at 11:59 am, EST under the category of Uncategorized. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.