The Global Mobile Hackathon Recap

I’ve been meaning to write about my awesome experience at my most recent Hackathon for awhile but alas, time has that funny way of eluding you.  Well, as promised, here it is.  I’ll start with this simple but truthful statement:

Hackathons are pretty great.

Hackathons are a great way to get together with other developers and practice the art of building entire projects on the fly.   I witnessed this once again when I had the opportunity to go to the Global Mobile Hackathon for the FOCUS100 conference a few weeks ago.  Hackathons are usually 24+ hour events where developers spend the entire time focused on building [ideally functioning] products of their choosing and competing for prizes.  This one was no different, although my live-blogging responsibilities as part of the social media team for the conference prevented me from being able to participate.  Not participating ended up working in my favor as it gave me the chance to roam the room and chat with multiple individuals and teams working on interesting projects of varying domains.  The theme of the event was exploring mobile apps in a global context and, as a result, the project ideas ranged pretty widely.  One group worked on a recipe app that would accompany ingredients with their respective nutritional information for Nigerian recipes whose nutritional value was often more difficult to measure.  Another group built an app that used geo-location APIs to locate the nearest health food options available based on your current location.  I met an awesome newbie BlackFemaleCoder named Natasha who spent her time at the hackathon learning JSON and interacting with social media APIs. Having come from a background in teaching, Natasha was new to programming and was a few weeks into a coding bootcamp program that was teaching her the basics.  I found speaking with her to be incredibly interesting and inspiring as she spoke on her pursuit of an eventual startup as her motivation for learning how to code.  Her desire to be self-sufficient in both the technical and business realm echoed similar advice I provided during my tweetchat a couple weeks ago with Digital UnDivided on black women getting into coding.

During my conversation with Natasha at the Hackathon, she conveyed her commitment to pushing through the process of learning to code while also admitting to its difficulty.  We spoke on how it required understanding the balance between independent learning and knowing when to ask for help.  As to what motivated her to keep going as a programmer, she said the following which I thought was really inspiring:

[Before] I was a perpetual student but I reached this field and realized I didn’t want to do that anymore.

After that delightful conversation with Natasha, I engaged in a series of other awesome techy conversations that made my day.  I found myself in the midst of a spirited philosophical debate that started off with the ethics of proprietary versus open-source software and eventually moved to the benefits of UNIX versus Windows.  Through that discussion, I met another awesome BlackFemaleCoder named Tara from Microsoft and a Linux-kernel and Free and Open Source (FOSS) evangelist named Patrick.  It turned out Patrick was part of the team that wrote a piece of software called Rabid Neurosis back in the 90s which was a predecessor to Napster.  After mentioning his involvement with Rabid Neurosis and the deep controversy that surrounded the software at the time, he discussed how that experience led him to being more committed to supporting free-and-open-source software.  I think it’s awesome who you end up bumping into at these kinds of events.

All in all, I was super glad to have had the chance to attend this Hackathon.  If you ever have the opportunity to attend the FOCUS100 Hackathon, or any other hackathons in general, I highly encourage you to do so!  Even if you’re not programming, you end up learning so much and meeting a ton of really inspiring people.  Definitely an event not worth missing.

As an aside, thanks to those who responded to the last Coding Project post!  I will definitely be posting about my projects as I continue my journey through Hacker School so keep a look out!