[CA] Hackathon – Our First App

This weekend was our first Hackathon, which is basically a portmanteau of “hacking marathon.” It started with a brainstorming session where people threw out ideas. I was the first to volunteer an idea with the Donut Tracker – basically an app that could keep you up to date on the latest and greatest Chicago Donut information. It was mostly a joke.

One of the Tuesday-Thursday students, Nakyum, came up to me during voting and asked, “Are you the donut idea guy? I like it; it’s cute!” Before I knew it, she had recruited Tatsu, Adam, and Frank to help work on the idea.

Hackathon was a lot of fun. I think it helped that most of my teammates came in with the same approach toward the Hackathon – that it should be a fun learning experience. So we basically just goofed off and added features when and where we could. Have you heard of feature creep? That was basically the definition of our app.

We immediately got to hacking. We were the first ones out the gate and working on the lab computers. We set up Raghu’s example code for pulling a stream of information, and then dove into the Twitter API (An API stands for Application Programmable Interface, and it’s how websites communicate data to each other). After a bit of confusion, we found what we wanted and started pulling tweets about “chicago donut” into our app and displaying them.

This was about the time that Adam, a design student, started tinkering with the design of the page. A few minutes later, Tatsu looked up and said, “Wow Adam, good job! It looks like a website!” I also had to leave on Friday night, briefly, and I was worried that I was missing out. Fortunately, when I got back, I just found Team Donut drinking free beer from the Intelligentsia party across the hall.

As Adam said, “It’s been, what, four hours? We spent an hour talking about donuts, thirty minutes figuring out what to do, and two hours drinking. I think we did well.”

It was a lot of fun. It was Friday night when I figured out that getting to say “This is our app” is just as, if not more satisfying, than saying, “This is my app.” I really enjoyed working with Frank, Adam, Tatsu, and Nakyum. It was really great to see our collaborative efforts coming together so quickly, and then to see the elements being arranged on the fly by Adam.

So…with that said, enter the Donut Tracker. Our first app. Hell yeah!

Marvel at its glory. Bathe in its ineffable glowing mist. See if you can make it a Pizza Tracker with one easy switch.