So, this weekend of mine was spent in an office in Gurgaon (1-2 hr away from my home), hacking a web service called Freya. FYI, hacking means tinkering/playing/building with the technologies, not getting access into private things and steal anything, inscribe it in your mind.
Let’s start with.. Well… Start. Hackathon called AngelHack organized all over the world anually was organized here in Delhi for the 1st time. I’ve never been to a hackathon, which is (for the readers who don’t know what a hackathon is) a competition where you spend 24-48 hours building a product - an app or web service or API or any other hack. You can take part as an individual or as a team. You can form teams with people you know or with people you meet at the venue. The methods vary depending on the rules, but the aim is to deliver a MVP in a short amount of time. Unfortunately, here around me, in every hackathon one has to make an app or web-service. Even though it’s fun doing that, I am not interested in that. I seek for events where I can work on hardware, on APIs, on data analytics etc. But alas, I have never found one.
Enough with the explaining. Let’s start.
I was in a team of five with other four seniors. Reasons for all of them being seniors were - I have pathetic class mates; never ready to do such things. Always bitch away. Chickens!! (Yeah, Shadab Zafar, that was for you too!!). Also, I didn’t know how to make an Android app or had any experience with any back-end technology like PHP either. I only have a little bit of exp in front-end languages like html and css. I am more of a system programmer where though I am not deep in expertise. So, it was a logical step to get involved with the seniors.
Q. You might ask why I even went there if I didn’t know how to hack? A. Since, I have never been to any hackathon, I wanted to experience the event; to feel the pace of environment; to present the idea to the live audience and judges and to work within a team. If I hadn’t gone to this event then I would have never gained that experience. If I hadn’t gone then I would have never known that making a web-service was so simple. All that mattered was a great idea for the product.
Again, I started babbling. I was going to tell you what I actually did.
Firstly, this hackathon was of about 24 hours that started at 1:00 pm on 7th June Saturday and ran till 1:00 pm on Sunday 8th June. There were 5 people in my team, including me viz. Mr Vipul, Mr Pankaj, Mr Hammad and Mr Safiyat. Of these the team was divided into 2 sub-teams with Mr Vipul and Mr Hammad in one and another three in one. We had 2 ideas. Mr Hammad and Mr Vipul worked on distributed CDN (I won’t tell you what it is ‘cos I barely understand it. Okay, I will tell you, but later.) Mr Pankaj, me and Mr Safiyat were working on Freya. Now two things.
Q. What was the idea? And how did we come up with this name? A. First, I’ll talk about the idea. From around 12:00 noon to 3:00 pm on Saturday we just discussed about ideas. Actually, me and Mr Safiyat were just chilling, waiting for others to think of something. They came up with CDN about which we didn’t know anything, so we thought to think of something separate. We (mostly me) came up with two ideas - one was to create a yelp like web service for India (yeah! There isn’t one). Another one was to create a platform for NGOs and Social Startups i.e. to create a common place for all NGOs and social startups to showcase what they have been up to and to provide people a place to get in contact with these orgs. We took both ideas to Mr Pankaj, as he would know how to develop these things. He liked the NGO one and decided to help us in building that. We obviously didn’t have any problem. Now let’s talk about the name - [Freya]. We had to give the name for the project to the organizers. We searched for Goddess of communication, and got results like - Iris, Saraswati and then we saw the word ‘Freya’. It seemed different and we decided to keep that name. Later I searched for the name Freya and it was completely different thing. Here, let me Google it for you (look at the first link). We were praying for judges not to ask the meaning or inspiration for the name. Well, they didn’t. Phew…
We started working on Freya around 4 pm or 5 pm. We made the database in mysql using phpmyadmin then I moved to making the front-end using bootstrap. Mr Safiyat was writing the PHP functions along with other personal chores. Mr Pankaj was just passing time laying around and helping us from time to time. It took me to complete the basic front-end till 2 am. Then the PHP code and the connecting of front-end and back-end began. I did tit-bits of coding, little bit of UI tweaking and then I slept on a beanbag (I wanted one of those for like forever and sleeping on one just made me want it more.)
Now, two things happened, which I found meaningful. One, Mr Pankaj kept asking me to do one thing or another. If he hadn’t done that then I would have done everything slowly and might not have completed the whole project. And moreover, I liked the pace of that night he was causing. Another one was, after dinner at around 9 pm, me and Mr Safiyat went to a balcony and talked for around 1 hour. We talked about what we want to do, what we have done, what is our life like. Hell, we even talked about our eyesights. It was fascinating to know all that.
After waking up on being nagged by Mr Hammad because my daily alarm disturbed his sleep. Other people in the room said that the alarm was ringing for like 1 hour, but no one cared, neither did I. We had breakfast. Mr Pankaj was awake and had completed almost all the functionality behind the web service. I looked at the code and checked every functionality for the bugs. Some bugs were corrected. And our MVP was complete. Now came the presentation round. This was my first time at this kind of event so I was nervous. Both Mr Pankaj and Mr Safiyat were asking me to do the presentation. We later settled to do it partially. So during the presentation, Mr Safiyat and Mr Pankaj did the talking and I did the demo. There were 2 rounds - 3-4 minutes for Round one and 15 minutes for Round two. We did well in Round one and were selected out of 25 other teams for Round two. You know that alone was a great thing for me and my team. Especially for me ‘cos I popped my hackathon cherry at this event. We passed for Round two along with other 9 ideas. Here our presentation wasn’t that good. We tumbled and fell (the third form of feeder song - Tumble and Fall). So in the end (Linkin Park - In the End) we failed and it doesn’t even matter that much. Well, we weren’t feeling that bad, we didn’t even expect to pass the round one.
Q. Who won? A. I don’t really know who won, but what he made was like distributed content manager. Yeah, I didn’t understand what he did. I guess he got to go to California as a grand prize for an incubator kind of program.
Q. What were other ideas? A. Some ideas were interesting like a guy made an android app through which he controlled NFS most wanted on his laptop. He also made an API for that. Another was an app through which you can broadcast whatever you write on one phone, without lag on other phones over the network. Another was a quizzing app. What else… Ah.. My memory. I don’t remember another ones. Fuck it! Lets move to the next question.
Oh.. I forgot!! I know you did too. Q. What is distributed CDN? A. It is like normal CDN (Content Delivery Network), but it works on the concept of tor or diaspora. Run by the community. The content will be hosted in the individual’s RAM which will be lost after the power off. Now, do you understand? That’s why I wasn’t telling you. I can’t explain further.
Finally, the last question. Q. What I took from all this? A. I loved the quick pace and fun of the whole process. In a short amount of time one have to create a working prototype of one’s idea. Incorporate many technologies, which you might know or might not know about. And in a short amount of time you might also have to learn the technology. You have to act quickly. And another thing you learn is working in a controlled environment with a TEAM. You learn to deliver your part on which another’s part depends. You fucking learn so many things. That’s the end of the story. I wonder why isn’t every process of learning is like this. It basically teaches the required qualities. It teaches it quickly and efficiently. What I don’t see anyone getting here is deep theoretical knowledge.