Hack U at the University of Texas, Austin

Apr 2, 2010

I love Austin. It's a fine city with weather so great in March that it makes me scared to visit in June. This was our first time at University of Texas in Austin, but we had an awesome visit.

This time we brought a mighty party of folks from Yahoo to do some classes. I gave a talk about how to optimize web applications for mobile and how YQL can be used for that.

We also got the excellent Mr Doug Crockford talking about the good parts of JavaScript. Also joining us were my colleagues Jeremy Hubert and Allen Rabinovich. Jeremy talked about his exciting job as a search prototyper, testing new ideas on a deadline. Allen gave an excellent introduction into YUI 3 and YQL by taking the students through building a Flickr search application from scratch.

On Friday we all started hacking in the basement of the CS department. They have a pretty awesome space for the Association of Computational Machinery (ACM) club down there.

We had a lot of fun staying up late (and then getting up early again to do the second shift) with all the hackers. Of course, the hackers mostly didn't get any sleep, or caught it on the couches. It turns out a total lack of sunlight does warp time, and everyone mostly just kept on trucking.

First Place Winner: Search Wars

Search Wars is a game that challenges you to try and identify the most popular search terms against an opponent. Every time a search term wins, you have to use that term as part of your next guess. The twist that Search Wars introduces is to search within a specific site. So rather than guessing the most popular stuff on the internet, you are guessing the most popular thing on the site.

The judges were particularly impressed with the way Search Wars used the visuals of the site they were searching and that the team implemented a live game across the internet using their server. Well done, team "Super Awesome": Russell Bicknell, Gaurav Sanghani, and Andy Brown.

Second Place Winner: Dirty Deed

This hack took real-world customer contact data (or test versions of it) and created a system to help sales reps clean the data up. It created a scoring rank for how dirty the data was and created incentives for reps who cleaned their data.

The judges liked the real-world application of this data, and thought it used a very elegant JavaScript interface to allow batch-cleaning of the data. Great job Dwayne Smurdon, Josh Steuart, and Tye Harrison. Take a look at Dirty Deed.

Third Place Winner: RiffNotes

Riffnotes created a rich environment for students to produce notes for their classes. They made extensive uses of YUI and YQL to provide an interactive environment, which the judges felt was very visually pleasing and showed off their strong coding skills. Well done to team "Halfway there" members Paul Marbach, Chase Coney, and Tucker Bickler. Try out Riffnotes.

There were too many other great hacks to count, so well done to everyone else who won a prize. We hope to see you all hacking soon.

Tom Hughes-Croucher
Yahoo Developer Network Hackmaster