Some 270 hackers and developers from the UK, Sweden and all over Europe came together this weekend for an uninterrupted 24-hour hackathon. It was Yahoo's Open Hack 2009 and it was in London's Covent Garden.
Spotify's CEO Daniel Ek, Mozilla's Pascal Finette and even Yahoo co-founder David Filo came to the show. The idea behind it was simple: you've got exactly 24 hours to hack together the most interesting, innovative, useful or fun piece of software or hardware, using developer tools from Yahoo, or anyone else for that matter.
Some amazing ideas came out of Hack Day this year. Some of our favourites included They Work For EU -- a translation service that brings the multi-lingual debates held on the European Parliament's Web site into your native dialect; Cristiano Betta's Should I Backup My...? -- a Web site that monitors news about cloud-computing companies to determine whether they're at risk of going out of business and taking your data with them, and DrunkenTweets -- a small Web service that aggregates and archives Twitter messages that appear to have been written by the heavily intoxicated (and sadly isn't online).
In addition to the caffeine-fuelled codefest and developer tech talks, Open Hack Day was a social gathering of like minds, where everyone seemed to have 1,000 ideas a second, and over 1,000 minutes to discuss them with each other. One developer -- Jim Purbrick -- told us that although developing a great hack may win you a prize, the weekend was far more a social gathering than anything even remotely competitive.
After two days of walking around the conference, talking to some of the teams and individuals taking part from all over Europe, we were convinced. It was like the campsite of a music festival, where everyone wants to talk about the favourite band they saw that day, or their favourite songs. Only instead of a favourite band, it was a favourite PHP syntax. And instead of a favourite song, it was a different PHP syntax.
Since no-one at the event managed to develop a method to pedal back through time itself, a photographic tour will have to suffice. Over the next few pages of photos, hopefully you'll get the general picture of what Hack Day is all about, and why, if you're a developer, you should really look into going next year.
Some more legacy technology here: 'paper'. Also, a horribly misguided t-shirt with, if you look closely enough, a man inside! He and his team were working on a project they described as, "A real life version of the Mornington Crescent game made famous by BBC Radio 4 -- part adventure, part real life, part random noodles."
These Yahoo bikes had a GPS-enabled camera (actually, it was a Nokia N95) mounted on the handlebars, powered by a solar panel over the rear wheel. Every minute they took a photo, geotagged it, and uploaded it to Flickr, so you could trace your journey using an online mapping service.