It was a really interesting and fun time at the facebook London Office hackathon last Friday which saw around 150 developers visiting the new London office to hack on the facebook Open Graph and using other APIs including those from Deezer, Pusher and Twilio. The day started with some introductory presentations from Facebook and the other API providers about the APIs available and of course how to actually use the Open Graph (most importantly the authentication into Facebook itself). But this was kept pretty much to a minimum so that most time could be assigned for hacking itself.
The best part of the hackathon is that rather than choosing the easiest way to win a prize, many of the developers choose to develop something which is new and away from their day jobs (me included). This means that the help and assistance provided by the hackathon supporters is essential. I was really impressed to see that Facebook and the others all had people in place at the event who not only knew their own way around their own APIs and enablers, but also how to best use those capabilities with the ideas which were being developed by the attendees.
At the end of around seven hours, each hack (32 in all) had just two minutes to present their idea and implementation to a panel of judges to win one of the seven prizes available. My app (howknackeredami) which checks your reaction times and compares them with your friends (and uses the Open Graph) to see how tired you are was pretty basic in comparison to some of the other team entries but at least it (almost) worked at demo time.
There were a couple of clever apps which I really liked including the Squirrel spotter (allowing you to post to Facebook via app or SMS whenever you saw a squirrel) and the Mum, I’m still alive app – which would send a daily SMS (and possible call) to your Mum with a synopsis of your Facebook activity to tell her you were still alive!
It was a really interesting day and it was good to learn more about the Facebook Open Graph, Twilio APIs and to meet with other developer evangelists to talk about ways in which we can start to work more together to stimulate developer engagement. It really appears that most APIs do not directly compete with others available to developers and hence the key challenge is actually to encourage developers to look around and be aware of what APIs are available and to see if they can improve on an existing app or enable an entirely new app.
I look forward to more cooperation in this area.