Earlier this year, I headed up to Seattle for Sports Hack Day. The event was full of incredibly talented, creative hackers — and I had such a swell time, I vowed to get back as quickly as possible. Lucky for me, just last week, the Emerald City hosted the the MoDev Tablet conference and hackathon. Again, Seattle tech did not disappoint, and in fact, uncovered some new surprises for me.
The MoDevTablet event was about (wait for it) the tablet market — development, design and marketing. One of the sessions I caught was by Alfonso de la Nuez from UserZoom. He spoke about the importance of usability and prototype testing for tablet applications, covering not only his company’s solutions, but mentioning several other useful tools. We learned about unmoderated remote usability testing, and how this can supply objective statistics and honest user feedback.
I also caught the closing keynote session with Betsy Flounders Novak (@betsyflounders), the head of brand partnerships at Rovio, the makers of the Angry Birds franchise. Have you ever wondered how the Angry Birds game has garnered over 1.5 billion downloads, and manages to stay fresh despite being several years old? Betsy explained how “fan”-centric Rovio culture is, and how it is their fans that they are most loyal to.
At the close of MoDevTablet, we imbibed with libations on the deck of Pier 66, overlooking a beautifully sunlit Puget Sound.
Hackathon at Amazon
The next morning, the MoDev crew head down to one of the comfy offices of Amazon. Mashery was joined on the ground by other hackathon sponsors Buddy, Amazon, and Microsoft. The venue had the feel of a comfy coffee shop lounge, and an upscale residential living room. In fact, looking back, I’m not sure if the kitchenette wasn’t a fully operational coffee shop on weekdays.
When polled, nearly half of the crowd had never been to a hackathon. As soon as the platform pitches were finished, teams formed without need for prodding. They spread throughout the building, carving out their own private work spaces away from the central public area. With only six plus hours to build an app, getting heads down and focused was the right idea.
Dads, Children and Women
There were ten teams of developers at the MoDev hackathon. Three of them were comprised of an adult with one or more children. Four teams were made up of women. Hacker diversity can help bring a lot of character and fun into an event, and MoDev was no exception.
A majority of the ladies were part of Code Fellows, a coding bootcamp in Seattle. They’re about half way through their program, and by the time they come out, they’ll be RoR hacking machines.
The Notable Hacks
As I mentioned, ten teams formed, and they were hacking for prizes, including the chance to compete at MoDev @ CEA Las Vegas for the $100,000 prize in early 2014. Here’s a list of notable hacks and winners:
- Rainbow Smash by Humberto and his two children, Adelae and Elias - a cloud based Pokemon game built on iOS and Firebase. WIth their game, you create your own characters and battle. They were awarded free tickets to the next MoDev conference and also picked up a Jawbone Jambox speaker from Microsoft.
- To the Finish by Bethany Rentz (@bethanyrentz) - an app that socializes the training for a marathon or any running event. Bethany used the Active.com API to search for local runs. She built the app in C# for Windows tablets, and won a Surface RT tablet from Microsoft.
- What’s the Movie? by Nox, CK and Robert, a team of gamers. Their app was a movie trivia game built using the Rotten Tomatoes API. This team also won a Surface RT tablet from Microsoft. They also took home a Beatz Pill speaker from Buddy.
- The Hunt by Meredith Underell (@meredithu), Ellen Musick (@EllenMMusick) and Emma Hardman (@emmaoclock) - a scavenger hunt game built using the Rotten Tomatoes API. This team was comprised of three ladies that are enrolled in the Code Fellows program to learn Ruby on Rails. They took home the Mashery hackathon prize — a Google Nexus 7, and a $100 Amazon gift card.
- Geocash by Sankal and Dustin - think geocaching, but instead of trinkets, you find and leave behind Bitcoin. Dustin is big into Bitcoin, and they both ended up building a very nice app/platform. Geocash took home the grand prize — an all expense paid trip for the team to CEA Las Vegas 2014, and a chance to win $100,000 at the MoDev hackathon.
Thanks to the MoDev team for holding a great set of events in Seattle. And of course, the biggest thanks goes to everyone who came and participated, deciding to spend a beautiful Saturday in Seattle hacking together in Amazon’s living room.