Saturday, September 26

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My HackNY Story: Why I Gave Someone a Free XBox

This weekend I attended my second HackNY Hackathon at NYU’s Courant Institute. HackNY is an organization, started by two computer science professors, whose goal is engage, educate and retain top college talent for New York City’s startups. They’re an excellent organization that has done a great job recruiting excellent students to New York City Startups. Their Hackathons–held once a semester–bring together over 300 students from all across the East Coast (and some students even fly out from the midwest!) for 20 hours of hacking. I’ve met some of the most talented students at HackNY’s hackathons, and I’m thrilled that 10gen can support the work that they do.

This year, 10gen sponsored buses to transport students from Philadelphia and Boston to New York City for the weekend and we offered on-site support for students using MongoDB. My colleague Barrie and I represented “Women in Tech” and MongoDB during the API presentations and walked students through the basic CRUD to help them power their hacks with MongoDB. It was awesome to represent women at the hackathon, but I was disappointed we were the only ones. Still, we were very graciously invited back to change the ratio in the future.

But, I got myself into a bit of a bind. While going through MongoDB’s resources, I showed the students our various drivers at API.MongoDB.org and joked:

Yes we have an Erlang Driver. If anyone builds a hack with it I will personally buy you an XBox.

That got the crowd going! While I kicked myself in the foot for promising such a luxe prize, I thought it might actually be cool to see some Erlang hacks. The rest of the day was spent helping some students boot up their computers with MongoDB and connect to various drivers. All of them were in love with Mongo. They were shocked and awed at how simple it was to set up. One guy didn’t believe me when I told him he could just connect to a DB and start adding data in three steps. A few students asked me for advice on which language to use with MongoDB, and I was able to show them some open source ODMs, like Mongoengine and Doctrine, that could help them get started with their projects.

The students then spent the night hacking, and ended up with some really cool projects that you can find on the Hackerleague page. Some of my favorites:

Quill: A real-time, async blogging framework similar to Jekyll (open source FTW) Fourthquare: A Lisp wrapper for the foursquare API Essay Beefer: A tool for adding quotes, references, bibliographies and more “Beef” to your essays (a college student’s dream!) Ordr.ID: An Arduino-powered tool for ordering and paying for delivery (using the Ordr.in API) cLoudspeaker: The winning hack! An agent for connecting multiple computers together as a massive crowdsourced speaker. Kaushal, one of the hackers, will be working with us at 10gen HQ this summer! 10gen awarded a novelty prize: the Not-Quite-Erlang award, to Aditya who built Fourthquare. I’m going to order his XBox tomorrow :)

Cheers to dead languages at Hackathons. I’m not sure if this is going to be a 10gen tradition at HackNY, but, we’ll see. We have a few more awesome things up our sleeve. I’m looking forward to the next Fall hackathon at NYU.