Amit Jotwani | Front End Developer, Developer Evangelist
December 21, 2011

Awesome DC Hackathon at USA TODAY HQ: MoDevEast


Quick, what's the first thing that comes to your mind when you think Washington, DC? - White House, Washington Monument, Smithsonian and a gazillion museums? All right answers about history and power, but now you can add "awesome developers" to your list.

Earler this month I got a chance to represent Mashery at the first ever MoDevEast Conference and Hackathon Conference - a two-day event targeted towards mobile developers, marketing professionals and technology enthusiasts that took place at the magnificent USA TODAY/Gannett headquarters located in McLean, VA.

Organized and run by Pete Erickson from Disruptathon in association with the USA TODAY API and mobile team, I was blown away with the quality of the developers that attended and the apps that were built inside 10 hours at the hackathon was held on Saturday. Pete has been organizing local DC MoDev developer meetups regularly for a few years now. Using the MoDev meetups as a platform, he's been able to build a solid developer community, which really helped in getting developers through the door for this inaugural event.The event was essentially spread over two days - MoDevEAST conference on Friday followed by a hackathon on Saturday.

Think like a Platform

On Friday, there were a slew of speakers and break-out sessions that covered all major mobile platforms from both a business and technology perspective on topics like mobile advertising, designing for touch screen devices, and device-specific development.

Our very own Delyn Simons gave an enlightening talk on APIs, aptly titled - "Your API is so 2006" and urged API providers to "think like a platform". It was received extremely well. In fact her presentation was the one of the most shared links on LinkedIn the day after and Slideshare bumped her presentation to their homepage. Talk about touching a chord!

Explore the world of APIs

I conducted an API Workshop session introducing attendees to the world of APIs. The idea was to give a quick run through of what APIs are, how they work, why we need them and how to get started, followed by API Explorer demos featuring USA TODAY, Klout, and Univision APIs to show how easy it is to start exploring the world of APIs without writing a single line of code.

The Hackathon - MoDevHack

After the great success of the conference, the stage was now set for an all-day hackathon on Saturday. The tech talent represented in the DC metro area was impressive. The day started with the likes of USA TODAY, SendGrid, Mashery, PayPal and eBay's X Commerce, Blackberry, AOL, NPR and Microsoft all giving quick demos of their API platforms, encouraging developers to use them.

Teams were then formed and 17 hacks were built in little over 8 hours of intense hacking. Ten of the hacks featured Mashery-powered APIs, including USA TODAY, Patch, Univision, Appinions, 3taps, WeatherBug, and Rotten Tomatoes, were built in little over 8 hours. Here are some apps that used APIs from the Mashery API Network -

The Hacks
  • Awesome Price: A mobile app that uses 3Taps API to search for postings on ebay and Craigslist
  • Let's Tour DC: Built by solo developer Ramesh, the app lets you take an audio tour of DC using and get news around your location using USA Today's News API
  • LocalLocos: Uses USA Today's News API to pull up local events/news around you, using appMobi XDK.
  • NewsNet: Uses USA Todays's Breaking News API to pull top 10 breaking news articles & then pulls google images to go with them.
  • NovellaStory: Built by Tim Carlson, Erik Bursch, Igor Birman, a blackberry app that pulls articles & videos from Univision & USA Today's API
  • PlansWithFriends - An iOS app that pulls events and movies around you using Rotten Tomatoes & Weatherbug APIs
  • SnapShotz: Created by solo developer Vic Pethe, an iPad app that provides a visualization of USA Today's Snapshots API.

All 3 of the Hackday winners featured API data from the Mashery API Network!

The Mashery Spot Prize: (JAMBOX bluetooth speaker) was won by @Techniumuse, a solo developer who created OpinionViewer - an app that provides upto minute polarized chart of opinions on a set of topics around a certain location using Appinions & USA TODAY's API

Best Overall: Census is right - a mobile game that lets people guess the census of a city/state using USA TODAY's Census API

Youngest Hackers

One of the teams that deserves special mention is RoadTrip, which comprised of Tommy - all of 10 years old and his younger brother Ian who were hacking away with their father. Their original goal was to build an Android app that would do a bunch of things in response to 6 simple questions that are frequently asked by kids when they are in the backseat of the car, ranging from getting weather using WeatherBug's API, getting sports news using USA TODAY's API or even getting the app to remote control a toy car using Arduino. Pretty ambitious, they admitted. They weren't able to build most of that given the time, but it was heartening to see them hack away all day with their dad and then Tommy presenting what they had built with so much confidenece and virtually no stage fear. Priceless. In fact, they ended up winning Mashery API Explorer merit badges and the Best Design award for their Android app's home screen. Hopefully we'll see Tommy & Ian again at the next MoDevEAST hackathon.


It was great to connect with developers and help them build so many apps using Mashery API Network. Met some really awesome people - Robert Diamond (AOL Mobile), Saranyan (X.commerce). Heck, even got I/O docs running on Blackberry as a native app. Not to mention great productivity session with Tim Falls & Elmer Thomas SendGrid over couple beers post-hackathon! Fine end to a fabulous weekend.