We teamed up again with Brent Vatne and built a fun little app that tries to turn dating upside down. Here’s how it works:
We built that in a day (thanks Twilio for making voice & SMS so easy) and it won us second place (after the awesome insanity of Negochi) and $800 (Editor - I can finally justify getting a nice pair of headphones).
Some people ask us why we go to hackathons. After all, we’ve got a startup (and families and friends) and this eats up at least a day in our weekend.
Well, a few reasons.
First, it’s really fun to meet other people in the community. There’s a big difference between people who just code and then those who code at hackathons; we especially like the latter. They’re pushing the limits of what’s possible and their energy is infectious.
Second, it’s a great chance to work on stuff we couldn’t easily otherwise justify. Spend five hours learning Twilio’s API? Non-starter at work. Ditto for exploring Twitter Bootstrap.
We don’t have a need for these right now, so no way we could take the time off to learn them.
Except we should.
We want people to download our app. Why can’t they SMS us and get a link to the app store on their iPhone? Why don’t we have a pretty mobile web site and use Bootstrap?
If we didn’t hack around every now and then we wouldn’t have realized how easy these are to do.
And that’s why we go to hackathons.
Plus, who knows, we’re growing and maybe we’re meeting some people we’ll be working with soon. Maybe some of the folks we’ve met will become advisors, partners or investors.
To finish, two nerdy pieces of advice for anyone thinking of going to a hackathon:
1) Set up a continuous integration server ASAP. We recommend Jenkins. Nothing more awesome than having your team (who you might now have known a few hours before) commit to Github and having the changes flow through to your server.
If your code doesn’t run at the end of the day, you can’t win - so why wait until the end of the day to see?
2) Use Twitter Bootstrap or a similar CSS framework. Your code’s got to run; having it look nice is the icing on the cake. Bootstrap and friends let you create something beautiful without needing a dedicated designer. There’s now officially no excuse for you to demo a crappy looking webpage or app.
Finally, here’s a photo of the day, courtesy of Twilio. Bonus points to anyone who recognizes team Placeling and Brent:
On Saturday, Team Placeling took part in an Open Data Hackathon here in BC. Many of you will - quite rightfully - be wondering: what is open data? And what’s a hackathon?
Let’s start with Open Data. All of us pay taxes to various governments in return for them delivering services. In the process of providing these services, governments generate a lot of data. Since our taxes paid for this data to be created, we should have access to it.
And access is important; it lets the private sector use the data to provide services the government might not. Here are some examples for you:
So that’s Open Data, what about the hackathon part? Here a bunch of people who like coding get together and write an app in a few hours. The goal is to ship something new before the end of the hackathon.
Which brings us to Saturday.
And BTW, iQmetrix’s offices may have the best views in all of Vancouver:
So what did we spend the hackathon doing?
Well, we like the idea of being able to find public art around you. You can do that with Placeling now, but we wanted to take it a bit further:
Turns out we’re not the only ones who think this is an interesting problem. We found some great hackers in Brent Vatne and Marc Irawan plus product talent in Josh Sorokin, Lucas and others and we set out to code.
We hit upon a few problems right away:
But this isn’t a post about what doesn’t work - as mentioned earlier you’ve got to ship something during a hackathon. And, thanks to the tireless work of Ian, Marc & Brent, we did.
You can go to VanArtNear.Me and it’ll pull up all the nearby public art, sorted by distance and pull in photos from Instagram and Flickr. Since it’s running in your browser, it’s cross-platform. And in the spirit of Open Data, all the source code is up at GitHub.
Sometimes, like with Gate to the Northwest Passage, you’ll get additional photos of the art:
Other times - like with The Discus Thrower - there’s little connection; it’s still a fun way to explore the city.
It was a great time and we had a blast meeting a bunch of other inspired Open Data advocates and seeing what they built.
We’ll see y’all at the next one!