Hackference 2014

Hackference 2014 organised by the wonderful Mike Elsmore (@ukmadlz) was my first real hack.

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After all these years? Well, I've been to Code Retreats, Coding Dojos, Open Space Code Days - even run some myself, but never a true hack day. This was also the case for around half the other attendees. The big difference compared with the other coding events - FUN. In fact the closest events I can remember like this was were the TRS-80 User Group in Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes.

The format of Hackference was the same as last year - a day of conference talks, then the weekend which consisted of: 3 hours preparation and API talks, 24 hours hack, then presentations and prizes.

I had no idea what I was going to build, my first thoughts were of something productive, useful or even worthy. But after the talks and guidance from great guys like @cbetta I realised that I should just do something that was FUN.

I eventually teamed up with Daniel @LimeBlast of birmingham.io fame, to help build his idea - a game called GPSpy (or G P Espionage) which created missions based on GPS tracking which triggered Twilio phone calls to give you the next clue when you were sufficiently close to the destination. Lots of fun and maniacal laughter. We got an honourable mention in the summing up :-)

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What I learned:

  • GPS is really inaccurate and suffers from noise which makes your position bounce around. So much that we couldn't set indoor points - but had to create positions that took us up to the Tesco store about 1Km away.

  • Twilio's API has now got a great feature set. And I can see lots of ways to use it in commercial projects.

  • If you walk up to a destination and the phone in your pocket rings - that's quite impressive.

  • When, like me, you work on enterprise projects that last many years - it is very rare to open up an IDE and start with a completely blank sheet. This was the biggest lesson, no existing infrastructure, no small increments, nothing.

  • Such Fun. Much Code. Wow.

I'll definitely do this again.

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