Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Inmobi Hackathon 2014 : Experience and review

Last week, i attended Inmobi's hackathon organized at their Bangalore campus. It was dedicated to Aaron Swartz, a brilliant computer scientist who gave up his life while fighting surveillance and for a free and open internet world. Therefore, the hackathon was named as "FreedomHack". It all started the week before when one of my friends called up to discuss an idea which he thought was really worth implementing and wanted to know my opinion. Realizing that it was worth our time, i agreed and we formed a gang of 3 guys who registered to attend the 24 hour hackathon.

I reached at sharp 9am (yes, it was on Saturday and it is difficult for us engineers to get up early). However, i was excited about our idea and took all the required hardware with me in a back-pack. My team-mates also reached within 10-15 minutes. If i recall correctly, there were around 44-46 teams consisting of 3-4 members each. We were given our ID cards (labeled "Hackers"), were asked to give our notebook's serial number after which we were alloted a big space to work.

My ID Card

My Team(from left): Saurabh, Harshit & Me

We spent the first hour planning our hack on what we really wished to achieve and how we would divide the work among ourselves. Our app was called "Go Green". It had two use-cases:-

i) Given two points (a departing point and an arrival point, be it any city or location in the world), our application would mark those two points on a map and would display the best path to follow such that the carbon footprint is minimized.

ii) If one has already traveled in the past and his/her gmail account contains a copy of the ticket (the ticket maybe booked by famous travel websites like makemytrip.com/yatra.com), the application would fetch all travel details from one's email and show them within a single page. Then, if the user selects any of those journeys, the application would again plot the starting and end point of the journey and show the carbon footprint of the trip.

The basic idea of creating this application was two-fold:-

i) To make the users more aware of the increasing carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere and how they contribute to it.

ii) Help users in planning their future trips smartly by suggesting the best path to travel to minimize carbon footprint.

Furthermore, the application could generate revenue by displaying advertisements suitable to the mode of travel. So for example, if air-travel is involved, advertisements related to offers by airlines can be published. If one travels by road, then bus travel agencies can post their ads and so on.

Central point for free beverages
Inmobi offered us a feast throughout the event. They served breakfast, lunch on both days and dinner on the first day. Beverages and snacks could be consumed anytime by us throughout the event. In the evening, they also served burgers from McDonalds. Plus, we also got free Tshirts. There were some talks by invited persons on how to create better hacks and how to take our ideas to the next level. I felt that there should be no interruptions between the hackathon as it breaks concentration and rhythm. Talks are good at the start and end of the hackathon, but not quite in the middle.

Workspace allocated to each team

Anyways, we completed 25% of our application by the first day's evening. The struggle started when we encountered issues during integration. We spent considerable time in optimizing code and how data from the lowest php based layer could be handed over to the upper layer which would ultimately be displayed in the User Interface. At around 2:30 am after several cups of tea/coffee, we started resolving our issues and by 6am, we had completed 90% of the application. It was the result of the good initial plan which we had laid down when we started. Demos started at 10:30 AM on sunday and the hackathon concluded by 2:30PM.

My teammate trying to get a nap (for hardly 5 mins)
It was a great experience. I learned a lot during a short time and saw some clever hacks by my peers. Thanks to everyone at Inmobi for organizing a wonderful event and giving us an opportunity to display our ideas. Lastly, thanks to my team-mates for staying up all night and helping each other in bug-fixing and even encouraging when one felt a little low.
Technorati Tags: inmobi, hackathon, experience, 2014, review