Amit Jotwani | Front End Developer, Developer Evangelist
December 01, 2011

Hollywood Hackday - The Flashback

The Story

A room that says "Let your ideas fly" - loud and clear on one of the walls is probably a perfect setting to get some rockstar developers together, help them unleash their creativity and then sit back and see the magic unfurl. That is precisely what happened at Hollywood Hackday in Los Angeles early November.

I got a chance to visit LA for the first ever Hollywood Hackday put together by Rahim Sonawalla, Ryan Chisholm and Abe Burns. With emphasis on Music & Video hacks, Hollywood Hackday was an event that put developers in the same room as representatives of forward-thinking music and video companies.

It's not Hollywood unless...

True to it's reputation, the glitterati didn't disappoint either - Ashton Kutcher himself dropped by for a few minutes to see what the Hollywood hackers were building at his office, followed by the Scobleizer himself - Robert Scoble. It was really enlightening chatting with him. Real fun guy. I must admit, the geek that I am, I was more excited to meet him than Ashton!

The Pre-Meetup

One thing I should note that I really liked was the Pre-hackathon meetup that Rahim had put together a day prior to the hackathon. I thought it was a great idea to bring developers together before the hackathon, so they could hang out together over beer and share ideas etc. In fact, I would love to see this become a trend at other hackathons as well. Especially useful for day long hackathons I think.

Roll sound, Roll camera, ACTION!

The day began at the offices of Ashton Kutcher - Katalyst Films, with the API pitches - likes of @RdioAPI, @RoviAPI, @RootMusic and many more. I did a quick run through of I/O Docs to show how it can help expedite the process of learning new APIs quick and easy. Using Rovi's Music API & Rotten Tomatoes Movie API as an example, I showed how I/O Docs makes exploring APIs fun and reduces the time it takes for developers to make that first API call.

About 70 developers turned up and filled up the space. So much so that Rahim & his team had to scramble a bit to get everybody settled with a desk, power etc, but they were totally up for it. An hour later, all was set and the hacking began.

Hackers just wanna have fun

Even amidst intense coding, it was clear the developers were having a lot of fun. Throw in regular supply of Coffee, Bagels and Chipotle for lunch and you've got yourself some really happy hackers

Incidentally, this was also the weekend that the Day light savings time kicked in. In fact, couldn't have chosen a better time for it. An extra hour - totally useful when you are building something cool over 36 hours or so.

The Hacks

36 hours later on Sunday evening - it was demo time. To say that the place was packed would be an understatement. Really heartening to see the kind of support and enthusiasm the hackers received after 36 hours of slogging.

The hackers didn't disappoint either. A whopping 24 hacks were produced over the weekend. Really cool hacks - all of them.

It's Mashery time!

Developers really took into I/O Docs and a couple of really cool hacks were built using Mashery's API Network.

  • Orditude: Built by solo developer Teja Vishwanadhaplays, Orditude plays music by mood & location using @RoviAPI, @RdioAPI and @Quova. Teja ended up winning the Mashery spot prize for the best hack built using Mashery API Network.
  • AutoDJ: an app that lets a group of people play music using their Facebook likes and dislikes using @RdioAPI & @Echonest API.
  • BumpTrack: Uses @rdioAPI to play music and @roviAPI to find mood of the current song. Join a space. Control music.
The Climax
  1. First Prize: TuneHook - Music defines you. Use it as your profile. Share why you like a song to connect with others.
  2. Second Prize: We/J - The only hardware hack that came out of Hollywood Hackday and my favorite. We/J lets users search for songs and play them. Once their song is being played, they can use the mobile app to control the real-life DJ equipment, such as lights and sounds, including strobe lights, star and flower visualizations. You can also control the frequency of the strobe. Pretty awesome I thought.
  3. Third Prize: Karaoke Royale - Hot or Not meets chat roulette for karaoke.
Closing Titles

All in all, a great weekend - awesome hacks, great people. Add Ashton Kutcher & Robert Scoble to the mix - and you've got yourself a Blockbuster!

Thanks & Congratulations Rahim, Ryan and Abe for pulling off an incredibly awesome first ever Hollywood Hackday.

Flickr PhotoStream: here

Demo Videos (Cameraman: Rahim at Rovi)

Demo Videos (Cameraman: Jon at OpenTok)