HackJeanSpot 2016

HackJeanSpot 2016

(This post may contain shitty technology puns)

HackBeanpot is still the best hackathon I go to every year (I however only go to up to three hackathons so there isn't that much competition). The main reason HackBeanpot is so great is because there is so much time to do things. We didn't have an idea until 3 am on Saturday. Before that it was just a torrent of shitty ideas including:

  • Text Unix command line commands to a phone number. Receive a phone call with the output.

  • Forgot your headphones and you want to watch Netflix on the train? Call a number and listen to Netflix over the phone.

  • Various Slack ideas (Slack for Slack, Slack command line, Command line Slack, Slackathon?)

  • Call a number to order an Uber, so Uber as a taxi service

  • Fake personal assistant, Archer style

  • Spin up a bunch of DigitalOcean servers and then send the terminal bell to each one. However since DOcean servers are virtual it would be virtual beeps across the globe.

After bullshitting for a couple hours we decided upon Close Call (currently doesn't work). (Hotline Ring?). Do you have trouble waking up in the morning? Are you horrified at the thought of reviving old Facebook status updates? Do you like sending money to strangers at hackathons? Then Close Call may be the right service for you. Enter a time we should call you to wake up at and your phone number. Sign in with Facebook to relive your 15 year old memories.

If u donate money to wikipedia u can get a tax deduction. This must mean wikipedia is a reliable source if it is trusted by the government.
Sanders Lauture - November 13th, 2009

Sign in with Venmo to potentially send money to the one of the creators of Close Call (Andrew, Nat, Tevin, or I). When it's time for your wake up call our service calls you, warns you of your potential consequence and then tells you to enter 6 digits to deactivate the alarm. If you don't answer the call or hang up before entering the combination the service enacts the consequence.

Our stack was a typical hackathon stack (stackathon?). Python Flask for front end routing. MongoDB for storing user authentication information. Python backend for interfacing with Facebook and Venmo. Redis for scheduling calls. And C# for talking to Twilio. C#? Yeah.

I like C# way too much. Only recently have you been able to use C# cross platform on OS X and Linux so I decided to try it out by build the Twilio calling backend in C#. Being able to program in a language I am fully comfortable with at a hackathon was really really enjoyable. Until I hit a huge issue where my shit was sending out XML but the Content-Type header wasn't set correctly so Twilio wasn't parsing the XML properly. It took me around 4 hours of trying stuff to get out of the pit (bit?) of despair and fix it (along with running into a variety of other weird things).

The other side of trying to fix endless errors is the few hours where you're completely in the zone while coding. Fingers moving fluidly over your keyboard while your thoughts become code. I usually never get that feeling during hackathons because I usually program in languages that I'm not fully comfortable with. Learning new things is always great but sometimes you just want to curl up in a blanket, put headphones on, and be fully comfortable while coding.

Integrating the Twilio backend with the Python core wasn't too difficult. After an hour or two of debugging we got a request on the website to travel through our code, call one of our phones, and then travel back to post an enlightening status update from our past selves on one of our Facebook walls'. And then when we were demoing to judges things starting breaking, as is tradition.

The rest of HackBeanpot was great. I think HackBeanpot is always great because the organizers let the hackers hack. They don't shout announcement through a mic, there aren't 20 API talks. It's just a gathering of ~150 awesome people wanting to build cool shit. I do wish that the opening ceremony/talk was shorter though. This year's HackBeanpot might be my last hackathon for a while though. Hackathons are really draining. Constantly working for hours on end and then getting only a couple hours of sleep is only really fun the first few times. But if I could do it again I wouldn't change anything. I've enjoyed every fucking HackBeanpot I've gone to even if I'm basically dead Sunday night.

I'm thinking about helping out for next year's HackBeanpot. It only makes sense to give back after getting so much. There were so many first time hackers this year. I told someone in one of my classes last semester about HackBeanpot and told them they should sign up. I talked to them before hacking began and they said they didn't have a partner or an idea yet but 2 days later they won a prize. I can't wait for next year's HackBeanpot even if I might not participate.

Long live HackBeanpot.