Yahoo! OpenHack India 2011

When Rohan Prabhu asked me to apply for Yahoo open hack this time, I really wasn’t sure what I would do there when this guy and his other super coder friends make something awesome and win the competition. Nevertheless, I applied and was surprised when I got the invite(nothing big, almost every student who applied got it), waited for another month before the competition day actually arrived. In this waiting time I was thinking of many ideas to implement, invariably most of them pointed to a news application(i’m still confused why!!). I was initially going to be implementing my idea alone but eventually was given a chance to join Rohan’s team and I was happy that at least now something useful can be made. Had a brain storming session with the two other team mates one night before the event and decided we’d build a dynamic newspaper of sorts!

All ready next day I set out towards Hotel Lalit Ashok which was the event location this year. Parked my bike got my ID card and the schwag 🙂 and met up with the other guys. Then there we had another brainstorming event before coming up with Pineapple Playlist. Well in short the idea was to make a playlist creator that enabled the user to get content from YouTube, vimeo and his local hard drive and create a playlist on his browser[support for HTML5 required]. The work was split up into UI(front end), middle ware and back end. Aneesh and I were in charge of the front end, nothing much just had to create drag drop and dynamic updation and creation of playlist using JQuery. Got started on it, well forget the technical aspect for the time being.

There were a lot of technical talks scheduled for the day, many of them were by the father of Javascript, I’m not kidding Douglas Crockford was there! First time I had seen him, but the way he presented his talks were simply superb, to say the least you can differentiate between a donkey and a horse by the way it runs. He was a class apart from all the other presenters! Thoroughly enjoyed listening to him. Well his talks were roughly about 45 mins to 50 mins long. We had unlimited beverages and snacks throughout and indulgence was inevitable. We took a break every half hour for an hour and hardly worked instead working hard!

The other awesome part of this hackday was the brilliant spread be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner! The food was simply brilliant, ate till we all were more than full, and then worked hard and got ready for the next meal. Enough of the all the other stuff? Get back to the hack we built? I think that is a good idea, trying to remember what exactly happened is a big pain.

Well the hack was to be built in approximately 23 hours and 35 minutes after our team meeting and split up of work, we got to it right away, the UI was getting ready pretty quick, Rohan and Abhishek were working on the core of the hack and everything looked real smooth except that we did not have internet, so all our testing had to be done on the local system. Internet collapsed at the venue in the same way our Indian batting lineup does under pressure. Well we managed with the internet connections on our phones(dead slow but something is at times better than nothing), steadily built the various modules of our application and then Aneesh and Abhishek decide to take a break, they slept well and I did nothing but pretend I was working. Well at around 4 the next morning, Rohan was done with his module too and then we had around 6 hours to integrate everything into one single project that would run on the browser. Abhishek, well I must say is a pro at web designing, the way he worked was so effortless. I’d probably take a year to accomplish what he did in the next 3 hours, we fit in all the pieces and it seemed to work fine but it looked really messy. Abhishek used his css magic and boy he made it look pretty. Rohan was the guy behind the logo, don’t you think its awesome? Well we all definitely liked it, and with exactly 1 second remaining we got done with the hack and submitted it online.

We had a lunch break and after that we had to present our hack to a panel of 2 judges, who would give us exactly 2 mins to put forth a pitch and also give a small demo. I was going to pitch for out team “Number 56” aka “JellyBeans”, i was a bit nervous but finally managed to talk pretty easily to the judges and finished in exactly 120 seconds, they seemed pretty impressed with what was built and I was pretty sure we would make it to the next round. There were around 170 hacks there and it took around 2 hours for everyone to finish the preliminary presentations. The result was to be announced a couple of hours later as to who were the teams in the top 50, that would be presenting on the multiscreen stage setup. At around 6:30 pm Anil Patel walked in with the results and I got a bit nervous again, Rohan and Aneesh had fallen asleep, as the results were announced and we got to know that we were part of the top 50, we screamed so loud that Rohan probably thought someone had stabbed him or something, Aneesh gave his usual “oh come on I’m sleeping here” look. Well after that there was only one place to go, the STAGE! I was going to present it again and just 5 minutes before presentation one of the push to the online server had got disrupted throwing the whole application out of place, thankfully enough we had made 2 older versions of the player, only a few updates were missing in the 2nd version as compared to the fully built 3rd which failed to run. Thankfully we found that out and in time were ready for the presentation.

As I walked on to the stage, the purple light hit and my face and I thought I should just jump off stage and run away, well for the sake of the other 3 team mates who worked so hard, I was ready to face my fear. “Number 56” called the lady coordinating the stage event, brrrr my legs made a good little tango step. After this point what happened only god would know, I have no idea how but in exactly 90 seconds I was done with my presentation and I was pretty satisfied with the way I presented,  people did say that i screamed on stage, but hey I don’t remember stammering even once so I was like “whateve dude”. We had a band performing after that, quite a few dances by an awesome dance troupe, enjoyed that every bit and all of us were really happy with what we had done over the last 30 hours. The results of the final presentations came in an hour after, we did not expect too much given the fact that after seeing the innovation and awesomeness of the other apps we were stunned! We waited for the result cheered for the winners and then took our bean bags(yes we all got bean bags!) and made our way out to the parking lot.

The fun did not end here, I had to go on my bike alone and had no one to carry my bean bag, and boy its huge there was no way i was going to reach home alive carrying that. So then I asked the security guard of the hotel to help me empty it partially, he obliged and to say the least we messed up the whole place, thermocol balls all around. Seeing the chaos at the main gate the security head saw this on camera and called to find out what was happening and this is where the security guard said i fell down from the bike and it all fell down! Smart guy eh, well i emptied half of the bag and then managed to reach home safe. Been having a lot of thoughts of the hack we built at OHI, should we improve it, add features or let go. Well I will be putting up a better screen of the app with audio, but for now try watching this PineapplePlaylist youtube and in case you want to use it for yourself PineapplePlaylist. There are a few bugs in this version like you need to create a playlist first, else application crashes, this update will be fixed in version 3 that will be up soon.

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