A week before Build// I’ve registered to the Build Hackaton.
Hackaton is a process which people are gathered in a room, divided into ad-hoc teams and are driven to create awesome and imaginative apps in a short term of time.
Hackaton has started on Monday, a day which was dedicated to attendee registration, but the hackaton room was already packed with action, a room filled with MS techies (from the relevant Windows8, Windows Azure and Windows Phone teams) were mentoring attendees teams day and night, and attendees who were already trying to split into teams and decide on ideas.
At first I thought about creating a game, but after talking with my colleague Alon, he convinced me intto creating a version for Countdowns to WP8 (everything was needed to be created from scratch, so reusing my Windows8 app and backend was not eligible for fair contest ).
Teaming up was out of the question for me, I didn’t want other people being part of my initiative (mostly because of post build consideration), so I’ve become a one man team.
Unfortunately I had a rough start, the machine I worked on was underpowered (Acer PDC09 machine, which I took for my 1 month trip and was primarily used to read emails and download photos to) and after trying to install the WP8 SDK 3 times during that day it turned that machine is unable to run the WP8 emulate as it has Hyper-V as a requirement(boo), the WP8 SDK installed didn’t warn me, and so this has become my first input back to the people of MS which were mentoring me, it will not be the last.
I’ve literally burned a day worth of work on this.
The day after turned out the be much better, I’ve attended sessions most of the day which were tremendous help to my cause, I’ve used the Azure Mobile Services which were really easy to integrate with the client and provided me amazing Server side experience including OAuth authentications (I’ve used only Twitter, hoped to add Facebook as well but didn’t have the time), We have tried so hard to overcome those challenges using plain vanilla Azure services in the past, and this makes those so easy to use.
I’ve stayed very late that day and before turning in I’ve managed to get the basic UI done.
Thursday I’ve focused on getting the app to be in better shape, I’ve created an Intro page that explained users what is going on.
Also completed the Create new Countdowns/Edit scenario and by the last minute managed to implement an NFC interaction and put my designer friend’s (Amazing Erez Pedro) paintbrush change to the default background.
Alon has helped me to create some content (countdowns) and by 17:30 I have submitted the binaries and locked to the Azure database from future changes.
I took a long breath and went along with my fellow Codevaluers to the Build// party
During this development phase I’ve made great connection with Ariel Schapiro(@aschapiro), Microsfotie from Argentina focusing on WP8, Sam Jarawan, a member of the WP8 development team (which is code snippets for NFC were invaluable to me and helped me implement it on the last seconds, literally) and Paul Batum, a PM on the Windows Azure Mobile Services, which I enjoyed so much showing him some AMS bugs (serializing datetime for example was a nice one), so it was nice hacking past those bugs by pairing with him as well.
After coming back from the party I was happy to see an email telling me I’ve been successful on reaching the finals after they (Awesome Dan Fernandez and his team) have spent 4 hours going through all the apps being submitted.
Come Friday morning, I sat down with Alon to conceive my 3 minutes demo talk, I’ve prepared the text during a session on Unitests Windows Store apps, but when I got the Hackaton room, I’ve find out that I was going to present first, without much practice, I went along and tried to do my best.
Turned out it wasn’t that bad, and I finished 3rd . I must admit I felt a bit disappointment though the 1st place app was well deserved, but I thought that with more design and a little more features such as live Tiles I would at least be finishing 2nd. But I guess 3rd place is still great.
As a summary Hackaton provided alternative learning process and the interaction with the people there was lots of fun, showing the app to Scott Hanselman and the rest of the judges was both fun and exciting experience.
I hope that’s next conference an Hackaton will also take place.
Hope you find this piece interesting, Keep on hacking and reaching out!