Coding, Hackathon, New York City

Winning at TechCrunch Disrupt’s Hackathon — 1st Place for Microsoft Outlook Hack

On Friday, May 1st, I was moving to a new apartment with a big ol’ U-Haul truck. On Saturday, May 2nd, I was at Techcrunch Disrupt for the hackathon, aiming to win. And win we did.

Disrupt Logo

Earlier that morning, Jeff and I discussed some potential ideas over coffee, omelettes, and flapjacks. We came down to one: create a timesheet automatically by scanning your sent e-mails and evaluating your past meeting invites. Some people know how infuriating it can be to create a timesheet for clients, because if you don’t log your time immediately, you can forget what you spent the time doing in the first place. So, this was a hack to solve that problem.

One line I was sort of OK to wait in.

 

When we started, I was already physically exhausted, but my brain was still fresh, and I was ready to rip.  Because we were a small team of three, we knew we had to make something with a reasonable scope.

Max productivity!

Max productivity!

We hacked and hacked, as those who hack are wont to do. And this is the rest of the story in pictures:

Backstage before the pitch!

Backstage before the pitch! 

The pitch video! http://techcrunch.com/video/holy-timesheets/518803556/

Making those bills.

Making those bills.

And this was my reward!

And this was my reward!

Jeff put together a nice write-up of the win here.

And that’s a wrap.

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Coding, Hackathon

Winning 2nd Prize (Place?) at Music Apps Hack Weekend!

This past weekend, Spotify and a few other brands put on an amazing hackathon at SPiN NY. Yes, there was ping pong, and in fact, there was a ping pong tournament. Other things that were there: lots of Mountain Dew, lots of alcohol, lots of Doritos and lots of McDonald’s. All four of those items helped everyone get through the weekend, and they were there due to the epic sponsorship of the whole event.

The event kicked off on Friday night with a live performance from “Blood Orange,” which turned out to be really awesome. I showed up the next day around 9 a.m. for the breakfast, which was provided by McDonald’s. McDonald’s did a good thing and gave all of the leftovers to a shelter.

As I was sitting down reading about the Spotify API and trying to figure it out, a guy sat down next to me. He started talking with a friend of mine — and my friend told the mysterious gentleman that I could use some help (it was true). Spotify’s API was all JavaScript, and I’m not as familiar with OOP JavaScript as I wish I was. Thus, I was introduced to Toby at about 11:30 a.m., and we started working together at about 12:00 p.m. (late start).

We were setting out to build the Spotify Apps game. The idea initially came from my girlfriend, Tal. She told me about Apples to Apples, the boardgame, and we discussed tweaking it so that it was a music game. I thought it was a pretty good idea. And we worked out a few of the game mechanics on Friday night. As such, the core concepts of the game were known by Saturday. However, before I met Toby, I was considering working on something else that was a bit easier, I must admit.

But I did meet Toby, and we started hustling — setting up a GitHub repository and planning out the project in a Google Doc. At around 2 or 3 p.m., Tal showed up. She lent a hand on the user experience and game flow. She also began to design some of the core elements. We had a functional, working name by about 4 p.m., but none of us were completely sold on it: “Songville with Friends.” It was more of a joke in the beginning, and it was one that we thought would help us earn a laugh or two from the crowd. However, after an evening brainstorm, we ended up changing our name to SongJitsu. At that point, we had a good handle on the branding: Ninjas. And that branding is awesome. 

Tal began to redesign the pages in accordance with the many game states (complicated? check.). Meanwhile, as the designs came in, I was coding them on the frontend. Toby was working on the backend, building it out in Ruby. I had some experience with Ruby in the past, but I didn’t think I was going to be much help to him, so I kind of stuck myself on the frontend coding (there were 570 lines in styles.css). I did a quick count on some of our code, and we have over 1,500 lines (that doesn’t count rewrites, haha… ha… CRY).

We kept kicking ass throughout the night, and were, overall, very impressed with the event. Around 9 p.m. on Saturday they held a ping pong tournament, but before playing, there was a demo from two pros. They were AMAZING. And one of them even stripped down to his spandex underwear.

Around 9:30 p.m. or so, Doritos came by and informed us that we had won the services of a Doritos intern from the hours of 10 p.m. to 9 a.m. on Sunday. Additionally, we had $375 to spend on anything we wanted, except for booze and drugs, and we could send the intern to do anything for us. Wise as we are, we sent the intern to go find us ninja costumes for our presentation. Nothing was open, so she fashioned us some red bandanas, which we ended up losing anyway. Either way, it was a really neat idea that Doritos came up with, and it kept things interesting.

Code. Code. Code. Somewhere between 3 and 5 a.m., McDonald’s ordered pizza for everyone. This was humorous. It was greatly appreciated, slightly confusing, and unsurprisingly, it wasn’t Domino’s. Instead? Fat Sal’s.

Code. Code. Code. 5 a.m. Things were coming together. The app had an interface, Tal was telling me to move pixels, I told her to go to sleep (she did and I changed the pixels anyway).

“Code.” “Code.” “Code.” It’s 7.am now. Tal is sleeping, but about to be woken up. Toby and I aren’t writing our greatest code anymore. Sometimes I just stared at the screen. We ask each other questions and sometimes there is no answer.

7:30 a.m. I wake Tal up.

“Let’s all take a moment to examine the horrific posture in this room.” — Toby at 7:35 a.m. I try to sit up.

9 a.m. now, and I’ve hit the 24-hour mark. We have 1.5 hours left till the defined “stop coding” time. We still have a lot of things to work out, specifically, connecting to the Spotify API and getting the player working in our app.

10:30 a.m. Still coding. They blow a whistle or something, and everyone pretends they didn’t hear it. We still haven’t gotten the player working.

10:45 a.m. The player works! I finalize a JS/jQuery function that runs when a player wins. The function name: win_and_slide();

12:00 p.m. We’re actually done. The app works for the demo. I’m tired. Toby is tired. Tal is tired. The whole room is tired, and people are getting set up to present.

We’re on deck at some random time. Between 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. I didn’t have a watch on and forgot about my phone. I start thinking of everything in terms of an #id or .class.

We get on stage, present, and things go well. Then we wait. The judges go to vote and prize-giving ensues. Some people win DVDs and Mountain Dew skateboard decks. They announce that the $5,000 prize goes to: “SONGJITSU.” Tal starts screaming and jumping up and down. In my head, I call the function win_and_slide();. Toby is stoked — big group hug, lots of smiles. All of that teamwork paid off.

We collect the oversized check and take photos with it, and we admit that we will probably be eating Doritos for the rest of our life.

After the event, I head to go grab some food with Tal at a diner. I fall asleep at the table and am virtually sleeping while walking. It was around 5 or 6 p.m. by then and I’m pushing being up for 32 straight hours. We get back to Tal’s place and I fall asleep in about 30 seconds.

I woke up today at 8:30 a.m. and got ready for work.

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