New York has been hacked

openhack2009Since New York is the city that never sleeps, it's no surprise that a sleepless night of coding didn't phase the developers who attended Open Hack Day NYC. They produced some of the most creative and progressive hacks we've seen at these hackathons.

First, a quick review. We have hosted Open Hack Days since 2006 to foster collaboration and innovation within the developer community. This was our ninth event, preceded by shindigs at our California headquarters as well as in Taiwan, London, Bangalore, and São Paulo. We provide the hands-on workshops, tech talks, food, beer, Red Bull, and various hackery diversions, and developers stay up all night long to deliver creative mashups that they demo before a panel of judges.

About 300 developers attended our inaugural NYC event (sporting a greater proportion of blazers and ties than we're used to seeing), which kicked off Friday morning with a keynote by Clay Shirky, a New York University professor and social media guru (here's a video interview we grabbed). After a day of workshops and training sessions, developers adjourned to a hacker lounge with a steampunk theme. Victorian bird cages dangled power cables above each hacker table. A bright red wall was hung with gilded portraits of various well-known innovators. A Victorian maiden was hacked with a monitor for a head, displaying the latest tweets with the #openhacknyc tag on her face. Chalk boards featured ornate steampunk-inspired drawings that would have impressed H.G. Wells. And, of course, there was the table of hacker snacks and a beanbag-filled corner dedicated to Guitar Hero.

Before the hacking began, we hosted a geek's open mic event with Ignite NYC. For two hours, participants had five minutes on stage to talk through 20 slides that automatically rotated after 15 seconds. It was a bit like the everyman's TED. We heard about Moby Dick written in Japanese Emoji, the violence of the media, how to save journalism, what "open" means, patents, surprisology, benefits of living in colonies at sea, the New York Times Index (yes, it's still printed on paper), clothing made of scissors and agave leaves, and the tyranny of a flavored chewing-tobacco lover on YouTube. There was even a visit from the Spaceman from Outer Space (who apparently wasn't a fan of Alien IV).

By Saturday afternoon, about 100 hackers persevered and submitted 40 hacks. Without further ado, our winners:

  • Best Overall - InsiderTrade.org: You can sign up for instant alerts about insider trades for the various stocks you follow. It's live - try it.
  • Best Overall, Runner up - TVitter: If you're a Mystery Science Theater 300 fan, you'll love this one. The team hacked our Connected TV widget to produce an app that lets people watch TV together and throw out comments that others can see.
  • Connected TV (1st place) - Recipe Finder: This app lets you find and display recipes and even includes a countdown timer so you don't burn your cupcakes while you get engrossed in Glee.
  • Connected TV 2nd prize - Fantasy Football Widget: Brings the #1 fantasy sports league to your TV.
  • Connected TV 3rd prize - Couch Potato RSS: This app lets you follow your favorite RSS feeds while you're surfing TV.
  • Best UI - Inhabited Web 2.0: Brings a social filter to individual websites by letting you see where people are congregating on a web page - "perhaps next to a great deal, interesting news story, or funny video."
  • Best Mobile - Community Bulletin Boards: This app brings community bulletin boards to your iPhone so you can find, create and add to message boards based on location just like physical bulletin boards that one sometimes finds in parks, on streets, in shops etc.
  • Accessibility - Audio Texter: An app that allows blind and visually-impaired people send and receive SMS messages.
  • Best Food/Hardware Hack (tie) - The New York Toast: From Team MakerBot, we had a 3D printer that printed news, weather, and photos in peanut butter, jam, and frosting... on toast. News for breakfast.
  • Best Food/Hardware Hack (tie) - Delicious Cake: Since Team MakerBot found cake mix in their grocery bag and an extra supply of wire and LEDs, they spawned another team that created a cake that showed sentiment (positive and negative) for del.icio.us URLs. It was not eaten. This team included Diana Eng, overall winner of our very first Open Hack.
  • Hack for Good - Power Trends: A platform that helps consumers save on their energy bills and helps energy providers predict load but leveraging social media. It measures energy usage for participating towns, who compete for prizes for being below their power consumption baseline.

Here's a quick video recap of the event:

For more of that just-like-being-there feeling, you can view our Flickr photoset, other photos from the event, and check out tweets here.

Up next? Taiwan. We're coming to hack you. This weekend. Get ready.

Nicki Dugan
Blog Editor

Photos: 1. Hack maestros - Eric and Havi, 2. Winning hackers, 3. Best overall hack - insidertrading.org, 4. Judges, 5. YDN stickers, 6. Peanut butter printing, 7. Steampunked emcees, 8. Winning hackers, 9. Last minute hacking, 10. NYU's Clay Shirky keynotes, 11. Hacking a nap, 12. Hacker heart, 13. Eli hacks the stickers, 14. Steampunked Twitter display, 15. Hacker lounge, 16. Creating the NY Toast