Hollywood Hack Day & Popify.tv

Hollywood Hack Day
Hollywood Hack Day was June 9 & 10 and we took the AuthorityLabs dev team on a road trip from Chandler, AZ to Hollywood, CA for a little developer R&R. That’s right, R&R for us is a weekend of little sleep, lots of pressure and presentation on what we accomplished to a room of 150+ people.

The team (myself, Matthew, Dave and Steve) headed out of town Friday. On the drive to Hollywood we discussed ideas, concepts and strategies for the weekend. Sticking to our strengths we decided on aggregating all of the concert data from around the web and sharing that info based on your location. Step 1 done. Off to the bowling alley for some pre game fun.

Saturday morning we arrived at io/LA fueled up on Red Bull and mingled with the room full of other developers looking to win the grand prize. The API sponsors took the stage to demonstrate their APIs that would be available to us for the weekend. That is when we found out about JamBase. JamBase aggregates concert data and shares it by location. Step 2. Pivot.

With the demos over the competition begins and we promptly scramble for a new idea. We settle on one, go back inside and get to work. Every member takes a small piece and prototypes it. By dinner we have the functional pieces working individually and an initial design. After enjoying some food we start gluing it all together.

By 2:30 am we are all ready for sleep and confident in our progress so we crash out for the night. The following morning we are back at io/LA and everyone notices that the herd has thinned a little. Not sure if people are just sleeping in or dropping, but we push on with our app.

By lunch everything is ready but we have a glaring API issue and are spending way too much time rescuing and handling errors we should not be seeing with only 4 users. But the show must go on. We still need to get our presentation ready, register the app for judging and get the server up and running for the demo.

At 5pm, one hour before the demo, we feel good. The server is running, presentation notes are ready and we are handling the API issues. We take a little time and mingle with others, show off what we did and just breathe.

The demos start at 6 and for some reason I read the terms of service on the API giving us issues and voila, buried in the legalese is the sentence I need on caching of similar queries in a specific timeframe. Too late to fix, but now we can avoid the issue during the demo.

PopifyWe demo our app around 8:30pm. Popify is a spin on VH1’s Popup Videos, Pandora’s radio stations and TRL’s on screen IMs. The premise is simple. Type in an artist’s name and you will be shown a video by that artist. We run the demo live and the audience has fun sending crazy messages through the app and seeing the popup details.

At the end of the event we are awarded the Rovi prize, but the real prize for us was the experience. In as little as 16 hours we had a “polished” working app that we were able to present and continue to use after the event. New members of our team got a chance to work with each other under the pressure of a tight deadline, the team learned new technologies and gained the confidence of pulling the weekend off. We all came back energized and ready for work with a little more wind under our wings.

In my opinion all development teams should get out to at least one hack-a-thon a year. These events allow team members to work together on something outside of the day to day office work while having a good time. Experience has shown that everyone comes back with more energy and excitement and new bonds between the team are built. Don’t waste your time with team building events, go to a hack-a-thon.

About Mike Benner

Mike Benner is the CTO here at AuthorityLabs

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