I had my first experience at an API Hack Day this weekend, during the inaugural Hack Day LA.
As the event announcement says, Â ”APIÂ Hack Day brings developers together for an all-day coding fest focused on building apps and mashups with APIs. Developers of all experience levels can share ideas, collaborate on existing projects, start new ventures, and find out about great tools and new APIs to play with”. The events all follow a similar format, which I think Kin Lane does a great job of describing here.
I managed to get there about an hour before the presentations and the awards. The event was already maxed out at 50 developers, so I convinced Rahim Sonawalla, the organizer, to let me in if I brought beer for everyone – a win-win.
First, Coloft in Santa MonicaÂ was the perfect place to do this – a big, open working area with enough room for everyone to work and collaborate, and plenty of bandwidth. From the moment you walked in, you could feel the energy. Everyone was cranking away but seemed to have the time to stay social and help each other out.
There were about a dozen different teams of 1-4 hackers, and support groups from the sponsors SimpleGeo, Twilio, SendGrid, Factual and Mashery. Hacking ended promptly at 6:30, when Rahim and host Neil Mansilla from Mashery oversaw the presentation of the apps and the selection of the winners.
Some of the notables:
- - GeoRadio, by Brad Gilreath – enter a Lat/Long, get a playlist back using that location as the theme
- -Â Adam Ness and Arun RamakrishnanÂ with Smart Support – a call center transcription app
- -Â Jorge Garifuna with an app to allow non profits to accept credit card donations over the phone
- - and the winner, Sound Clash, by Jay StakelonÂ where you pit bands against each other to create custom play lists
It amazed me what could be accomplished in a few short hours of development on these APIs. It is great feedback for the API providers as well, as they can see the rewards as well as the challenges of using their API in real-time.
Which gets me thinking about the more ‘traditional’ companies and the amount of internal wrangling that it takes just to get an API out the door. From my experience, most of them are still struggling with the basics such as API definition, access, and support. They are a long ways from thinking about promotion and community.
Will we be successful in convincing them that they need an API Evangelist on the payroll? What other innovative marketing and promotional ideas will work? Are there examples of Fortune 500 companies already doing what it takes to attract and inspire outside developers with great ideas to create the next cool apps?
I’ll keep looking, and would love to hear from you about what you have seen or heard out there.