Neil Mansilla | Director, Developer Platform and Partnerships
October 10, 2011

A Tale of Two Tech Cities - Hackathons in Las Vegas and Salt Lake City


Mashery recently co-hosted hackathons in two cities with emerging Web tech communities -- Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. One city, famous for its roots in gambling and entertainment. The other, established around Temple Square and majestic mountains. Two seemingly divergent origins and cultures that have something very much in common - energetic developers with wonderful skills. Between the two events came a deluge of original hacks created in a single day.

ReCommerce Day, a hackathon focused on retail e-commerce apps was held in Las Vegas at the El Cortez Hotel & Casino. Zappos, Mashery, SendGrid, Chargify, Twilio and Etsy were the event API sponsors. 40+ hackers attended including college students, professional designers and seasoned developers. ReCommerce kicked off with an evening of API introductions, food and drinks, followed by group zip-lining the length of Fremont Street. Zappos topped off the evening with a late night after party -- exactly what you need for an early morning start to a hackathon, right?

At 8 AM the next day, the conference room was full with hackers organizing into teams and immediately getting heads down on their projects. Zappos team members were everywhere, helping developers with their API, catering food and providing a lively atmosphere that reflected their deeply admired work culture. Even Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos came by to check out the activities. After 11 hours straight of hacking, an amazing 19 apps were submitted by the 7 PM deadline.

The winner of the Best Mashup award went to Terence Carrol (@terencecarroll), Renaun Erickson (@renaun) and Richard Hoppes (@richardhoppes) for their app Pik With Me, a cross-platform app enabled groups of people to style and arrange outfits using products from Sierra Trading Post and Zappos. Their live demo was amazing: one guy on an iPad, another on a Android tablet, and a third on a PC -- each of them collaborating, selecting and dragging clothes and accessories around the canvas in real-time across all three platforms. Sierra Trading Post debuted their brand new API at ReCommerce and was used in nearly half of the submissions, including the winning app.

The winner of the Most Fun and Weird award was Tyler Singletary (@harmophone) for his app titled Rotten Huevos. His app used the Rotten Tomatoes API to check the level of scariness for a film to gauge whether you need to expedite your next order of underwear using the Manpacks API (who also awarded him with a 1-year supply of underwear). Tyler took home an 11" Macbook Air and a $250 Zappos gift card.

The runner-up for Most Fun and Weird went to Shannon Peevey (@speeves) for his app called ServerAdminDowntime (open-sourced on GitHub), which provided an ASCII-based command line interface to the Sierra Trading Post API, including navigation menus, keyword search and product images in full ASCII glory. Shannon won $250 cash and $250 in gift cards awarded by Sierra Trading Post.

The winner of the Best Overall award went to Shavonnah Tiera (@shavonnahtiera), Mark Johnson (@markjohnsoncc), Mike Manzano (@bffmike) and Mark Cicoria (@MarkCicoria) for their app titled 1st World Wants and Needs. Their app utilized the Twitter streaming API, pulling down what people "want" and "need" and then providing an elegantly designed interface showcasing matching products from Zappos, Sierra Trading Post and Etsy. They took home an Apple Thunderbolt 27-inch monitor and a $500 Zappos gift card.

The winner of the Mashery award went to the students from UNLV who created PriceDora's Box, an app that helped users put together random outfits using the Zappos and Sierra Trading Post APIs -- with an added gamification element of price guessing. Mashery awarded these young hackers a $250 Apple Store gift card.

"Vegas Tech" is the battle cry of the Las Vegas tech scene, which was alive and kicking at the first inaugural ReCommerce Day. There were a large number of UI and UX people on hand that collaborated well with core code developers. Most of the attendees came with the hopes of connecting with other people and dreaming up something new to build on APIs they've never before used -- embodying the true spirit of a hackathon.

The week after ReCommerce Day, Mashery headed to Salt Lake City for the API Hack Day at Neumont University -- which I will cover on my next post.

p.s. more photos from ReCommerce, and the Zappos team's Storify article.