Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Yahoo Hack USA

The lead up:
A few weeks ago at DBC we were talking about upcoming hackathons. A fellow DBC cohort member mentioned one at Yahoo in Sunnyvale. I thought that was close so decided to sign up. To sign up you had to fill out a form and then within a day you got an email saying you were able to register. I think if they filled up, then you wouldn't get that follow-up email.  I was in but didn't read much about it besides you had to use one of Yahoo's APIs and could do anything.  Then I started to try to get other people to do it. Dave signed up. He asked his coworkers but none of them wanted to or they weren't in town to be able to do it.

The week of the event, 2 other people from DBC signed up and there were 4 of us. I looked and max team size was 4. We were set. I thought the guy who originally told me about it was doing another hack since he had actually signed up for 3 and preferred a different one.

I started to get nervous. I had never done a hackathon. I felt pressure because other teams of DBC folks were winning prizes. It's an all night hackathon and I knew I would need to sleep. Also the last Yahoo Hackathon in Sunnyvale was in 2008 so I felt like there was some sort of pressure from that. The following is from the page where I initially signed up so I just felt like there would be a lot of really experienced people doing the hacakthon.
Yahoo has been organizing Hack Days across the world since 2005. In 2013 alone, we held 3 amazing hack events in London, Beijing and Hyderabad . The last time Yahoo hosted a hack day in Sunnyvale was in 2008, so we are thrilled to announce that Yahoo Hack USA is coming back to our headquarters in Sunnyvale. Yahoo Hack USA is open to all developers around the country and we look forward to welcoming a diverse group of talented folks from all across the U.S. In addition to the amazing food, drinks, snacks and caffeine that Yahoo hack events are famous for, our Sunnyvale hack will feature celebrated speakers and great content to stimulate your mind and expand your hacking skills.
The night before our 2 other team members slept over so they didn't have such a long trip in for a Saturday morning. Plus I don't even know if on Saturdays trains would start early enough. The problem for me was, I didn't sleep well. I was nervous about the hack and stressing about how well the houseguests were sleeping on our couches oh and stressing about what Poly would do. My BodyMedia fit claims I slept for almost six and a half hours but it sure didn't feel like it. We headed out to get there around 9 AM. Depending on where you looked the suggestions were 8:30 or 9 with speakers starting at 9:30 so we aimed to get there at 9. We probably got there at 9:10 though.
At Yahoo Day 1:
We all got breakfast. They had Krispy Kreme and fruit. Perhaps other stuff that I didn't eat. They started promptly at 9:30 with the CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, welcoming everyone.
source: Yahoo! Developer Network
There were a couple introductory presentations and then 6 tech talks. For each time slot of tech talks there were 3 to choose from. There were quite a few interesting ones to choose from.
Once the tech talks were over, hacking and lunch began. To start hacking the put up a 24 hour clock countdown. It was pretty cool to see that.  Lunch on the other hand was not cool. They had salad with a million olives in it, sandwiches with lunch meat, chips, and cookies. I did get a vegetarian hoagie but it had so much hummus on it, it was gross to me. I don't like condiments or sauces of any sort on sandwiches. They had a few leftover donuts from breakfast so I took 1 then went up and took another.  I guess with my lack of real food Dave decided to go ask someone to make a vegetarian hoagie for me without hummus. That was pretty good but too bad I ate 2 donuts, 1 huge cookie, and a ton of chips by this point. I did get the last premade veggie one so they were already making more since I wasn't last in line but still I wasn't about to ask for something special so I'm glad Dave did.  Oh I forgot around 11 AM I ate a ton of snacks too. They had these shelves labeled "HACK SNACKS" and had chips and candy on them.

Even though on Friday night we spent an hour or so trying to come up with ideas, we hadn't decided on one so we were still deciding when hacking started. Not only that but Dave had just installed Ruby that day but hadn't tried to install Rails so we wasted time with that. We couldn't get it to work so we just used sinatra. I was guessing that other people weren't installing coding programs on their computer during the hack. They probably did that in advance or something smart like that.

We decided on an idea and maybe 2 hours later decided to scrap that idea and come up with a new one. Both ideas used flickr but nothing else was the same.

We got to hacking up a storm. I felt like we were making really good progress once we decided on idea but it did take about 2 or 3 hours before we actually got started on that.

We had dinner around 8 PM. They had 7 food trucks outside and you could pick what you wanted. I got stuff from 3 different trucks. I was extremely full to start though.  I ate so much all day that I was ready to explode.  I got a root beer float. It was odd to explain to people what a root beer float was. It just seems so common to me.
It was just such a fun vibe. The music was nice. I enjoyed looking up and seeing a clock countdown.

Then I got a headache. I think it was a sinus headache but I rarely get headaches so I'm not sure. I had to not stare at the screen for a little bit. Yet I kept only taking a 5 sec break or so because I just wanted to keep coding.

For those that weren't stuffed out of their minds, they had pizza at midnight. They also had beer. Everyone had 2 drink tickets. I gave mine away.

Around midnight I started working on the Favicon for the site. I was failing at doing what I wanted to do. I wanted to use Wikipedia's font for theirs but make it an F. Well I failed at downloading the font. Then I found a program to use and just used a font that looked nice. I made it and then decided it was time to go to sleep. After that point I looked at my watch and it was 1:30. It took me about an hour and a half to make a crappy favicon. It was definitely time to go to sleep!

You can read what Yahoo wrote about Day 1 and also see my team pictures in the last photo.

Dave and I went home to sleep but Fabián and Martino stayed. Fabián took a little nap when we left. Martino continued to work until about 3.
Fabian took the picture on the left while I was at home sleeping.
At Yahoo Day 2:
Martino was still asleep when we got there at 8:40 in the morning.

Then we got to hacking. Most of what I did in the morning was try to do something new I never did before that I couldn't get to work. Stack Overflow questions were similar and I tried answers and it didn't work. I did learn a bit about angular in the process but what I was working on never got implemented. Luckily it was only making the cursor focus on the search box on load. That's not a requirement. I know how to do it in JavaScript and jQuery but Dave said we were there to learn and not to do it the way we already know how.

We had issues in multiple areas at the last minute. Our navbar wouldn't get sticky how it was supposed to. If you copied the code into jsfiddle, it was in fact sticky. If you inspect elements, and highlight the code for the navbar it thought it was at the top of the page even though it wasn't.
The names of the branches and names of the commits got a lot funnier as time went on.  Our last commit was 11 minutes before our 24 hours were up; so we had plenty of time.

Time was up at 1:30, then we all went to lunch. At 2:30 presentations started.  There were 58 teams presenting. There may have even been more teams that were hacking but decided not to present anything.  Fabián presented for our group. He wasn't at the table when we were discussing who would present but at least he was willing.

We were number 15. I was glad to be near the beginning because hackers in the audience started really talking through presentations once they hit 40 or so. I shushed them a few times but that didn't seem to help.   Everyone had 2 minutes to present.

There was a short break. We sat and talked. There were drinks available but not like beer was appealing to me. :)
Around 5:15 awards started. A different judge announced each award. When David Filo was up there, I thought wow he is really playing up whatever team won this one. Dave said "This is us. I know it." but I didn't think we would have won. Then our site was announced. Man was I excited.  We walked up on stage and got our paper with the award on it. Everyone else so far had gotten checks. We were the first non monetary award.  Walking up to the stage Dave walked over to the stairs. I was very grateful of that. But after pictures and everything, we had to exit the stage. We were attempting to go back to the steps when we were called over to exit a different place.  That wasn't a fun step down. In the video someone took for me from their phone, you can see my arm flail in the air as I'm trying to step down. Also in the video you can see how easy it was for David Filo and Martino to just step down. From the video you can't tell how high that stage really was.

We won "Best Use of Yahoo Technology or Product" which means:
The winning team will get to come back to the Yahoo Sunnyvale campus to demo their hack to the Yahoo executive in charge of the product line that the hack falls into. For example, if you're creating a mobile app prototype, you would get to meet with our Mobile leadership. You'll also get a personal tour of Yahoo headquarters and lunch with Yahoos from product engineering in URLs, our delicious cafeteria.
All prizes were listed on the website we all had access to but that didn't mean I actually read them in advance so I really had no idea what we won. We all got red hoodies too that say hackers on the back. Too bad Dave's hoodie is about 3 sizes too small. Mine fits great though. When I'm not pregnant, it will be a bit big though.
After all the awards were complete, we took a few group pictures of all the winners and then we went outside to be interviewed. (I don't like the hands in the air one because most of my team is totally hidden.
Our team name was Team of Five and we listed our bio as
Tired of viewing pictures without context? Tired of reading boring walls of text on Wikipedia. We have you covered. Now you can explore Wikipedia via Flickr.

Explore. Wonder. Flickrpedia.
But in the Yahoo blog they wrote it up as
Best Use of Yahoo! Technology or Product - FlickrPedia Awarded to Team of Five (plus one on the way), FlickrPedia was built to let people explore Wikipedia via Flickr and view pictures with context and spruce up “walls of text” on Wikipedia with beautiful images from Flickr.
If you want to see more photos you can check out my picasa, yahoo's flickr, or just search twitter for #YahooHackUSA.

There were a few teams with people from DBC. I was impressed with everyone's hacks.


  1. Great read, was like living the moment all over again!


    Also, what was Marissa Meyer like?

    1. I didn't even post pictures of all the food.

      It's hard to tell. Her intro was just a couple minutes and then we went to the next person and next tech talk. She did stand around a bit while a ton of people got their picture with her.