Here goes

It feels like forever since last year's Hack24 event, but the 2018 event is finally here. I've been looking forward to it for a long time. The chance to geek out with my friends and make new friends along the way. 

It's the taking part that counts

Last year was all about winning, and we failed miserably. Not only did we fail to win, but we failed to have fun. By the end, we were all miserable. 

This year is going to be so much different. We are making a conscious effort to get up and meet other people, not take it too seriously and try our best to have fun. If we win a prize it will be a bonus, but the main prize is having fun with your mates.

Friday 9th March - 23:56pm

I can't sleep, I'm too excited. Feel like a kid at Christmas. I must force myself to sleep now as I have to be up early. Don't want to miss it.

Saturday 10th March - 09:15am

We've arrived at the Council House in Nottingham, picked up our free T-Shirt and Pass and found ourselves a table. Had a few issues with connecting to the wifi, but we're now all set. Paddy hasn't turned up yet, I hope he's not had second thoughts about coming.

There's loud music on, building up the atmosphere. I've got to be honest, it smells a bit sweaty in here already. I hate to think what it will be like tomorrow.

It will be time to go and get some breakfast soon in the dining room.

The board says there are 40 teams here today. If they each have 4 members, that's 160 hackers. I doubt they will all have 4 members. each.

There's a big table of stickers behind our table, I would love to get some, but I don't put stickers on my laptop, I just can't bring myself to do it. 

I recognise a few people here from last time, some from the meetups at Tech Notts and NottsJs, and some from the Tech Nottingham slack group. There's someone juggling behind Jamie, I might have to confiscate those balls before they land on our laptops or worse knock a drink over onto them.

Anyway, time to stop stressing about accidents, my wife's got our son for the weekend, let her worry.

Saturday 10th March - 10:25am

We've filled up on a healthy breakfast consisting of fruit, yoghurt, granola and croissants. The catering at the event is at a very high standard. We had a good chat with some fellow hackers and topped up on filter coffee. Paddy turned up by the way.

We're sat back out our desks now waiting for the introduction to start. You know that loud music I mentioned earlier, well it's still on, the same song seems to be on repeat. It's getting on our nerves already, I hope it's not on throughout the hack.

Saturday 10th March - 12:00pm

We've watched all of the presentations about the different challenges. We've been warned about setting the fire alarm off and the rules against messing with people whilst they have the PlayStation VR headsets on. 

There are four of us in our team and each of us is starting off with their own idea. We will go with it for a few hours and then present it back to the others to see what they think. We will decide which ideas are the best and worth investing more time into.

The claxon has gone off, it's time to start hacking.

Can we use Comic Sans during the hack?

No unit tests during a hackathon. It's meant to be fun

Saturday 10th March - 12:15pm

I've just been to collect the stickers for our team. They are great, and for the first time ever I've put a sticker on my laptop.

Saturday 10th March - 15:15pm

We've had our lunch. I'll be honest, it wasn't very filling. It was very healthy and impressive looking but we didn't get much. I understand they have to cater for 150+ people, but I think I'll have to go out and buy some food later.

I made a video about the giant toilet seat here

LIVE VIDEO STREAM

You can watch the event on the live stream here. As you look at the picture, I am sat middle right at the table next to the round red table.

Saturday 10th March - 16:27pm

It is interesting listening to other people talking to each other.

I just heard the guys next to me saying the following:

Dev 1: I have some bad news

Dev 2: Go on...

Dev 1: The lambda function I created has been deployed in the east of the United States

Dev 2: Not ideal

Dev 1: And it can't be moved easily

I was just thinking, if my wife or anyone else non-technical overheard that conversation, they would think they were speaking a foreign language.

Help Me

I am trapped in a room full of people typing and I can't stand the sound of people typing. There is a guy behind me with the fastest and loudest typing I have ever heard. I'm thinking of trying to get him disqualified somehow. Any tips?

Time to stretch our legs

Saturday 10th March - 20:00pm

We've discussed the progress we have made with our own projects and have worked out which ones we are going to drop and which ones we are going to keep.

We are dropping the Microsoft one which James was working on, and the Thomson Reuters money one which Jamie was working on.

Jamie is going to work on the budgeting app with Paddy and James is going to help me finish map app with me.

We've thought of some good ideas for the videos and we think they will be fun and engaging for the viewers.

It's time for our evening meal shortly, I can smell curry coming from the kitchen so that's a good sign.

Saturday 10th March - 22:20pm

Sunday 11th March - 00:02am

Paddy has had to go home for a kip, because he only slept 3 hours last night. He said he'll be back in a couple of hours. I don't blame him, I'd pop home for a kip too if I lived nearby.

Things are going well for the 2 hacks we've been working on.

The budgeting app is working well, Jamie is helping with the logic for adding items and updating the totals.

The homeless person alerting website and realtime map that James and I are working on is going well too. We now have it going end to end, with the map updating in realtime.

Sunday 11th March - 02:15am

After working with Jamie on the budgeting app, I decided I needed to go for a sleep. I've been walking around looking for somewhere to sleep. All of the usual spaces have been taken. There are people sleeping on the sofas, sleeping on the floor next to the sofas, sleeping in comfy chairs, along benches and even sleeping at their desks. I was advised to go up a couple of floors as no one would be up there. I got to the 3rd floor and it was really spooky. I filmed it for you.

Sunday 11th March - 05:15am

I managed to get a couple of hours sleep in a comfy chair with my headphones in. I fell asleep listening to Hans Zimmer movie soundtracks. I had very dramatic dreams. Anyway after that sleep I went back to help Jamie with the budget calculator some more and then we went to get some coffee. Whilst we were having coffee, we could hear what sounded like a lion snoring. It was one of the fellow hackers snoring in the hallway. I just had to record it for you.

Sunday 11th March - 11:45am

We finished coding and demonstrated hacks to the judges from each of the 4 challenges we are entering. We got some great feedback from them, they all seemed to like the 2 hacks we created. Now it's time to start editing the videos.

Sunday 11th March - 14:45am

We finished editing the videos with about 15 minutes to go, here they both are:

We went to Five Guys for some dinner for a change and we are all very full. We were reflecting on how well we thought it had gone this weekend. We have all really enjoyed it and have got a lot out of the weekend regardless of whether we win or lose. That is what we set out to do and it feels great to be able to say it is true.

There is no point taking a weekend off away from family and the Monday off work with the sole purpose of winning a prize, because most of us won't win as there are only so many prizes and 44 teams, and also because if we saved the money we spent in getting here, we could have bought the prizes for ourselves, so it's not about that.

We need to hang around and wait for the results to be announced now. Jamie and James have gone off to check in to their accommodations and I think I am going for a lie down with my headphones in.

Sunday 11th March - 17:30am

After waiting around for an extra hour for the winners presentation to start, it finally began at 17:30. Apparently it is like this every year, I know it was last year and this year was even harder for the judges because there were so many teams who turned up. They usually have a 25% to 33% dropout rate so they oversubscribed the event and nearly everyone turned up. 

The announcements for the winners of the challenges began. The way they do it, is to get the judge on stage to announce the shortlist, the runners up and then the winners. When the winners are announced, we all get to see their video.

There were some great hacks and videos this year, I can't remember them all right now as I'm still very tired when writing this.

MHR - Easter Egg Hunt

This was one by Knit Wits, who created an app which looks like a search engine, but the real app was behind an Easter Egg I can't remember the trigger, it might have been a special phrase to search for. The app was to help people who were victims of abuse like domestic abuse and masogyny.

Esendex - Help Nottingham Challenge

I can't believe it but WE WON THIS ONE! Our app to enable the members of the public to help homeless people by sending an alert to a charity or authority who can give them food or shelter. There is the public facing side which can be a website or an app, it takes the user's details and gets their current GPS details. Those GPS details are sent to a firebase database the pin shows up on a google map powered by react and shows up in realtime. The app also sends a text message using the Essendex API to alert the charity or authority that there is someone else in need.

We are so grateful to have been chosen as the winners of this and the prize we got was a cluster of Raspberry Pi's (3 of them).

Experian - Learning about money challenge

I think the one which won this did something with the Microsoft Bot framework.

Thomson Reuters - Do good with data

I think this was won by Knit Wits again for their app I mentioned above.

eLIFE - New future science on the web

I think the winning team built a chrome extension which calls api to get further information about words in the article. Their video was funny, one guy was pretending to be asleep and being silly whilst the other guy was talking seriously about the app.

Microsoft - AI for good challenge

I think this was won by $teamname.

UNiDAYS - Sounds like UNiDAYS

WE WON THIS TOO - Unbelievably we won again. They liked the name of our app You Need Aid and thought it sounded the most like UNiDAYS. We won a whole load of prizes for this, including:

  • Build a Bear Pokemon Character
  • R2D2 Droid Inventer's Kit
  • A Lego Block Head
  • A Catapult thing
  • A circuit board with LEDs
  • A rhyming book for song writers
  • An escape room experience
  • And maybe more but I'm too tired to look or remember

Here is a pic of what we won for the 2 challenges we won, plus an escape room experience ticket for us all to meet up again within a year.

Best Video

I mustn't forget to mention Team [Redacted] who won the best video prize. It's a great video. Have a look.

Summary

Hack24 for us this year has been a real success, not only because we were lucky enough to be picked as winners, but because we chose to make sure we enjoy it whatever the outcome. We were in a safe environment which is a big positive. I would never leave my laptop, ipad and phone lying around anywhere else, other than at home or work, but you get the feeling that everything is safe when you are there. I did my bit by handing in a lost phone.

Tips for future attendees:

  • Have fun
  • Talk to other hackers, introduce yourself, don't be shy
  • Come up with a good idea that meets the requirements of the hack
  • Don't research the tech you will use, when you are there
  • Put some fun into your video
  • Get out of your comfort zone
  • Help other people with their hacks
  • Have a sleep at some point
  • Don't sleep so long that you miss out
  • Don't rely on caffeine too early on, if at all
  • Go for regular walks
  • Don't panic when you are under pressure to finish your video and submit it before the deadline
  • Join in with the games and distraction

Want to thank me?

If I've helped you out and you want to thank me, why not buy me a coffee?

About the author

Paul Seal

Umbraco MVP and .NET Web Developer from Derby (UK) who specialises in building Content Management System (CMS) websites using MVC with Umbraco as a framework. Paul is passionate about web development and programming as a whole. Apart from when he's with his wife and son, if he's not writing code, he's thinking about it or listening to a podcast about it.

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