S/Hackathon/G

Hack + Marathon. Hack from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kludge#In_computer_science

I’m a big hackathon goer (for the readers that don’t know this). My curiosity in the Singapore tech education scene led to my application to Facebook’s Singapore Hackathon.

Learning outside the classroom has been of huge importance to me, especially because the field of Computer Science expands at such an incredible rate. Schools opt to teach theory over application many times (a good thing in my opinion — although that’s another conversation) and that makes it hard to stay current with new technology. And since learning outside the classroom is so important, I’ve discovered Hackathons as an outlet to pick up new skills, try crazy ideas, get free food, and meet other enthusiastic CS majors.

I joined a team with an NTU classmate in my Database Systems module and one of his other friends.

With teammates Yiyang (left), Danyang (right)

Since FB sponsored, we built an Instagram-driven crowd source story telling app. Our submission read (noted that this was written after coding for 24 hours and was not spell checked, grammar checked, or rewritten at all for authenticity):

Social networks, including Facebook, for the most part, support two main paradigms of generating user content. A user posts something about themselves (what they did, what they like, etc.), or a user re-posts something that someone they follow has posted. Although these two platforms allow users to communicate fluently, we struggle with expanding our horizons, connecting with strangers, and relating to similar experiences of others we might not know. One thing that Twitter has an advantage over Facebook on is in discoverability. Twitter, for the most part, being public and open, makes a way for users to conveniently “happen” upon hashtags.
Picspective changes this.
Picspective is an application that discovers and crowd sources story telling. It serves as a platform for social networkers to relate to one another and express themselves through multiple lenses. A user visits Picspective’s website and is given the ability to enter in the location and timeframe of an event. Picspective assists the users in collating a story composed of chosen Instagram posts from other users during that event, which then the original poster can share on social networks.
Let’s take a user, John, who went to a concert last night at the Victoria Theatre. He wants to post on Facebook and let the world know about how incredible the show was. He didn’t get many good pictures though (his seats weren’t close). But with Picspective, John creates a collaborative story of the event, from the close up band pic during the show, to the classic picture of a ticket before hand, John is able to convey his story and at the same time gets a unique experience seeing what others that were in his show last night saw.
Other use cases: political rallies, holiday events, festivals, school organizations. The list goes on. Oftentimes, alone we can’t begin to express what the atmosphere of an event was, but with the help of others, maybe we can get closer.
Pictures from multiple perspectives. Picspective.

Project flow:
http://raymondjacobson.com/entities/picspective_book.pdf

In any event, this post is really about my observations, not what we made and what we didn’t win (kinda dumb/goofy idea looking back at it).

Observation #1: It felt like a US hackathon. Nothing more. Nothing less. Some people running it, ordering food, announcing, judging. Some people sitting at tables in small teams writing code. Timeframe was the same. Not that I expected different since a US company was running it.

Observation #2: The venue was FB’s downtown SG office (sales & marketing only — no engineering). As maybe you could expect, most of the kids I talked to at the hacakthon were interested in internships & jobs almost strictly in the US. We’re killin’ it in the valley. A lot of US tech companies that have offices in SG (FB, Google, etc.) don’t do much (if any) engineering here and only sales/marketing.

Observation #3: The food wasn’t as good as I had hoped given it being in Singapore and given who the host was. Pizza & McDonalds were featured. The other meals were catered asian cuisine that was par with what you might get in the US. Also, the ice cream fridge in the kitchen was locked! Boo!

Observation #4: You meet all the stereotypes:

  • The kid that works by himself on a project, has a pretty slick idea that there’s no way he’ll pull off in the 24 hours. And he doesn’t.
  • The kid who can code, plays on a team, and makes something without drawing up a stereotype. His macbook has lots of stickers on it.
  • The kid who spews the same angel investor/VC/Apple/Innovation/Tech Startup bullshit that we do back in the States.
  • The Wozniak behind the Jobs that drives the team with the bullshitter.
  • The newbie that is in love with the bullshitter.

Observation #5: Almost every person submitted a project. Very few dropouts (although I heard it’s different at larger SG hacks). That’s pretty great for small hackathons. In the US, I’ve seen a lot of dropouts.

Observation #6: People didn’t seem to ask the sponsors for as much help with using their APIs than they do at US hackathons. I guess it was maybe that mostly no one used the Facebook APIs so there was no reason to seek extended help.

Observation #7: Few unique ideas at this hackathon. What won already exists or I’ve seen it pitched many times before. What lost, for the most part, were in the same boat.

Observation #8: Facebook’s office space is pretty damn nice.

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