One Hack of a Day: a Creative Crashes the Times Open Hack Day

Let’s take a minute and give props to The New York Times. Newspapers are struggling all over, but the Times is making digital waves. I’m not just talking about digital subscriptions; the Times is opening itself to innovative development with its annual Times Open series, a Developer Network that allows developers that tap into their vast amounts of data, and, a site that showcases experimental projects from the New York Times. And then, there was this weekend’s second annual Times Open Hack Day. I was lucky enough to participate, and it was a blast.

A hacker’s view of Gotham.

Technically speaking, Saturday was my second Hack Day. Before you ask: yes, I’m a creative, and no, I’m not a developer – my boyfriend is. I attended the presentations at Foursquare’s Hack Day in September, and noticed that some of the better-received Hacks had great creative wrappers. I was also blown away by the massive amount of creative energy in the room. I spend a majority of my waking hours trying to come up with groundbreaking ideas on the social web; here was a collection of smart people with great ideas that were built in a weekend. This is the sort of place where big ideas are born. I knew I needed to get involved.

Crunch time: Hackers at work.

The Hack Day, which ran from 10am-11pm this past Saturday, December 3, was packed with friendly, creative developers. API tutorials were given by reps from Facebook, Foursquare, Mozilla, NYDoITT, RealNetworks, Tumblr, Twilio, and of course, The Times. (NYT/Nose to Tail, a presentation from former NYTer and current RealNetworks employee Michael Donohoe can be seen here.) It was worth the day to rub elbows with developers from all of those platforms, but of course the hacks themselves. The top prize went to Happy Stance for a hack that uses tweet sentiment to map New York’s happiest and saddest subways. It’s definitely worth a look; it was incredibly impressive and the clear winner. Hacker League has a complete list of the day’s hacks.

Participants were treated to Times Open branded m&ms.

What do developers eat? That’s right, burritos, tacos, and pizza. WTG, NYT!

And what about me? Ok, I’ll throw in a shameless plug. I worked as creative director/copywriter with a front end and a back end developer to build, a mobile site that sources data from Foursquare, Yelp, Google Maps, Times reviews, and NYC health code ratings to find a restaurant. It’s very much in its infancy at the moment, but I was incredibly proud of the work we did in 11 hours. We also got enough positive feedback that we plan to continue developing. So for me, the day was a success. I worked a lot, learned a lot, tweeted a lot, and met some fantastic new people. I can’t wait for next year.



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