I’ve recently written about some of the things I want to do this year – one of which is to attend hackathons and conferences on a regular basis – so far I have managed to act on this quite well, I’ve been fairly active in the developer community participating in Hackathons. So here, I write about my experience with the recent Hackathon events that I’ve attended.

The Atmosphere

The hacker community in London is simply amazing – everyone is very approachable, very talented and love what they do – whether it be entrepreneurship, design or programming.

The atmosphere just gives you this very upbeat feeling, you feel the buzz – everyone working hard to have something awesome to present and demonstrate.

The atmosphere is definitely something to experience if you’re a developer.

The Benefits

I feel that I have benefited a lot from joining these type of events mainly the following.

  1. Knowledge and experience – I managed to experiment with different technologies which gave me a quick insight. I also managed to talk to a few people regarding their workflow at work and why they think it benefits them.
  2. Connections – I got to meet some incredibly talented people that I definitely want to keep in touch with and possibly work with in the future.
  3. Motivation – There is definitely something special when you have so many talented people surrounding you, you can’t help but feel compelled to always do your best.
  4. Productive fun – I had a lot of fun participating in these events whilst keeping myself productive.
  5. Prizes – Probably the last thing I think about when I join a hackathon, but it’s definitely a great bonus.
  6. Food – Oh… the food, some of the food served were better than the one’s I have had in most restaurants, and there are literally piles of these in the events I attended.

The Hackathon

For Angelhack, I decided to invite my brother and one of my work colleagues to team up with to share the fun and experience of a hackathon. My brother invited some of his own colleagues who also showed some interest in joining such an event – we had a five man team, three designers and two developers, myself specialising in web applications and another specialising in iOS.

We had no idea what to build for this event, so we decided to first put our efforts into planning. Four hours had passed and we finally made a decision of creating a fun little collaborative app that allows a group of people to choose tracks for a DJ to mix.

We set out a list of features that we want to have for our app and identified the core features to try to demonstrate the idea due to time restrictions.

Core features that we identified were the following

  1. Allow the DJ to independently manipulate tracks.
  2. Allow users to add tracks
  3. These features need to be in real time

And the additional features

  1. Allow DJ’s to create a room for people to join
  2. Allow users to vote the room up or down changing their order in the room listing
  3. Allow users to vote queued tracks up or down – this then should affect the queues order

After hacking away for just under 24 hours, we managed to build the core features to demonstrate. I built a single page web app that represented a DJ room, it plays two tracks in the queue at a time and it manipulated audio from the tracks independently. We had an iOS app that controls the web app through various PubNub channels.

You can see our project submission for AngelHack here. I will hopefully find time in the next few months to polish things off and put it up on Github and online.

Ten minutes before our time to pitch – to our horror, our iOS simulator would not respond – just a blank simulator screen – a rebuild did not fix the issue – I was terrified that we would have nothing to demonstrate after all our efforts – 10 seconds before our name gets called, relief… XCode’s simulator finally worked.

We managed to impress the judges with our demo and got attention from a few people. After the demo, people approached us about our project and gave some really positive comments. We did not win anything for our app, but we had lots of fun and managed to build something great in just under 24 hours.

At least I managed to win along with another team at AgileHack.

We won in two categories – for best use of Twilio API and first runner up at AgileHack.

Big thanks to the companies that sponsor these events.