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Yahoo! Open Hack Day
Vimali Swamy
Thursday, November 1, 2007
About 100 ‘techies’ were scattered around the massive and eloquently carpeted hall in a five star hotel, either sitting or sprawled on yellow and purple beanbags, clutching and typing away on the laptops in all stages of wakefulness. This was the scenario at the Hack Day organized by Yahoo!

Yahoo! India R&D conducted the Yahoo! Open Hack Day in Bangalore on October 5-6 and David Filo, Co-Founder and Chief, Yahoo!, Bradley Horowitz, VP, Yahoo! Product Strategy Group, and few other executives flew in from the U.S. to be a part of the event and cheer the participants.

Promoting innovation amongst the ‘techies’, Yahoo! Open Hack Day saw more than 100 participants who came together and took up the challenge of developing something creative in 24 hours using Yahoo! application programming interfaces (APIs).

If the participants (hackers) thought the challenge was to trigger innovation in 24 hours, they were taken for a toss when it was announced that they just had 90 seconds to present and give a demo of their creation.

Armed with laptops, WiFi, and Yahoo! APIs, hackers worked on their creations, after being briefed about the rules and regulations and the Yahoo! APIs, which were at their disposal.

With beanbags to laze on, round the clock food and drinks supplied and Yahoo! staff to support and help, the hackers, who came in from different organizations and cities, huddled together with their teams and burnt the midnight oil.

At the end of twenty-four hours, the hackers came up with a whopping 31 innovative hacks. With hardly any time to relax, the hackers had their next task looming ahead of them – demo of the hacks.

After a few hours of preparation, the hackers had their 90 seconds of fame presenting the hack on three massive screens to a panel of seven judges and to the audience that filled the hall. Everyone saw some really cool combinations of various web services (maps, search, answers, flickr, music, del.icio.us, and others.) as well as some completely new product ideas. From parallel browsing to enhanced search engines and scribbling on Yahoo! Maps to devise war strategies to automatic updating of desktop wallpaper with a collage of your favorite images; the hackers presented a sneak peek into all their hacks.

The judges chose and awarded ten of the thirty-one hacks under varied categories. The winners were the proud owners of prizes such as I-pods, Play Stations, books, and much more. At the end of the event every one was treated to entertaining music and every one walked away with a beanbag!

Hack Day is an event where Yahoo! opens its products, platforms, and APIs to enable third party developers to build on them and create their own unique mash-ups, products, and applications. The event is a grassroots research and innovation program where Yahoo! empowers everyone to be a creator and an innovator. Hack Day is Yahoo!’s way to give something back to the community and make it even easier for them to build the next generation of the web.

Talking about the idea behind the event Horowitz said, “Yahoo! Open Hack Day is an outcome of internal Hack Day events. The aim of such an event is to provide a platform to drive innovation and help small startups to partner with Yahoo!”

Yahoo! has had a couple of regional ‘Hack Days’, which are daylong events where engineers stop everything they are doing and just build stuff that they think is cool.

“The most interesting aspect of this event was the collaboration between participants. They walked into the hall, met each other, and decided to work on a common idea. Most hacks were ideas that were thought from scratch as opposed to building on existing products,” added Filo.

The prize winning hacks:
Apart from all the fun and frolic, the hackers also enjoyed the event as it gave them a platform to learn new technologies, trigger innovative ideas, and be the proud owners of their applications that can perhaps change the face of internet applications.

“We came here without any prepration or deep knowledge about intenet applications and web services but are now going back with a rich learning experience,” said a group of developers from ThoughtWorks.

After tremendous success in Sunnyvale, California, and London, Bangalore is the third city where Yahoo! India R&D organized its Open Hack Day to attract some of the brightest minds in the country. Satisfied with the response the event received, Sharad Sharma, CEO of Yahoo! India Research & Development, said, “We are really delighted with the tremendous response and the overall outcome during India Hack Day in Bangalore. The level of enthusiasm shown by the participants was incredible. It only reaffirms our faith on the high quality talent pool in India.”

With the supportive organizers and enthusiastic participants, the well-managed Yahoo! Hack Day came to an end on a high spirit with hackers longing for more such events.

Brainiest Hack:c YaHealer!
Allows doctors to share photos of a brain scan over two Yahoo! widgets that are connected over the Web, Allows for collaborative annotation of large sets of images without either user having to download the whole set of photos.

Non-Technical (or “We Admire the Cheek”): Yahoo! Hindi Search
In this non-technical hack, the presenter pointed out that it’s a shame that you cannot type search queries in Hindi as the suggested results show up in English instead. The hacker went on to show where to get live translation.

Really Needs an Interface: Del.icio.us Tag Management
A set of command-line Ruby scripts — shown in 10px Courier— that deals with del.icio.us tags. The first script identifies duplicates, asks which to keep and automatically renames all tags accordingly. The second script allows you to create bundles of tags instead of having to do them by hand inside del.icio.us.

Wish I Had a Mac: Third Tag
A Yahoo! widget that allows you to tag files to make it easier to find them, similar to Quicksilver or Finder. The widget works both ways; in addition to being able to drag files into the widget and add tags, you can also drag text files into the widget and get a list of recommended tags based on their content.

Most Parallel: Collaborative Browsing
Using xmpp4mosh plugin for mozilla, greasemonkey, and javascript, this hack allows two or more users to surf web sites in parallel without using a proxy. The gestures of one user are replicated for the others, allowing for easy instruction or example.

Most Viral: Facebook Friend Folio
Lets you see your friends, their photos on Facebook and Flickr, and their entire profile in one page instead of having to click through a number of pages.

Most Likely to Arrive at next Hack Day On Time: Social Routing
A maps hack that uses the traffic APIs to show you how likely it is to arrive at a place on time. It also interfaces with twitter to allow you to report street blockages and gridlocks as and where they occur and offers shortcuts and alternatives based on the wisdom of the community using the application.

Best Desktop Hack: Desktop Wallpaper Love
A Windows application that creates desktop wallpaper from Flickr images, filtered through Yahoo! Buzz feeds, resulting in a daily wallpaper of what’s hot right now.

Best Self Expression: Smart Editor
A YUI Rich Text Editor that analyzes the text as you type it and uses several APIs to show you relevant photos from Flickr, News, and Amazon.com. Results can be dragged into the editor if you want to enhance your text with multimedia.

Best in Show: Maps Doodle
Yahoo! Maps with a Canvas overlay. Allows you to draw on a map — highlighting a way to walk to a certain destination, for instance — much easier than creating lines using the API. As you draw your movements are recorded, hence you can send them to a friend as a URL so that he or she can replay what you have drawn.

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