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Yahoo Hack Day '06 (Part 2)

The way Yahoo executed this event was quite clever:

Step 1: Invite hundreds of hackers to use and abuse your web-based services APIs. Entice hackers to produce with slick prizes: 32" LCD TV from Sharp, iPods, etc.

Step 2: Have the very people who wrote those APIs on-site and available for questioning. This proved extremely useful, says Tantek Celik, who consulted Yahoo Mail API developer(s) while working on his hack. In the process, Tantek's team ended up doing real testing of the API and hopefully was able to help the API dev-team improve its service.

Step 3: Profit?!

I think the attraction for both earning social merit amongst peers and possibly earning yourself a shiny new Sharp LCD TV was more than enough to help guide the brainstorming process. That is, Yahoo Mail team gave away a prize for the best hack using Yahoo Mail. Flickr did the same, as did other Yahoo groups.


Yahoo Hack Day '06 (Part 1?)

Update: The keynav hack for X11/Xorg/XFree86 can be found here

This event was absolutely beyond any of my expectations.

I was expecting a Mashup Camp-style event with a hundred or so people. I certainly wasn't prepared for the event. Heck, I knew very little about the event before showing up.

Entertainment and Hospitality

Beck. Beck. And more Beck. Beck put on one of the best shows I've ever seen. The crowd was about 500 strong, I'd guess. The stage effects had the help of Puppetron, who synchronized marionettes of the band with the band's movement. Very cool. A summary of what Beck did during this concert can be found in a review of another Beck concert. Bears on stage. Seriously. Awesome.

To quote Beck Puppet, "I'm about to hack a bitch." Puppetron and Beck did a sweet hack video for the event.

Other hospitality perks included many kegs of beer, tons of pizza, fifty-six dozen Krispy Kremes for breakfast, and an extremely well organized staff.

Before the event

One of the rules of the event is that you ought to invoke one or more of the available Yahoo! web API's in your code sorcerery. Prior to arriving, I wasn't sure I wanted to do a web-based hack, so I was planning on not using any of the APIs. I also showed up with no ideas. Hacking without a plan? Seemed to work out. I found out at sometime around midnight during the event that there would be prizes for the best hacks. My hacks would clearly not qualify, but whatever, I was here to hack :)

Hack Day

I started with working on my binary screen partitioning tool. I haven't found a good way to explain this application in words yet. Look at my slides (link at bottom of this post) and it'll show you a screenshot-based demo. I added a bit of more polish to it. I got bored after I ran out of code to write, so I offered coding services in exchange for not being bored to Kevin Marks.

Idea bouncing led to me playing with the API. The end result was something I term "jokeware" - a filesystem driver for storing real files in It was built as a joke just for the sake of trying it. It worked. The more technical details can be found in my slides. If you want to look at the code, you'll have to use a decent webbrowser that supports "data:" urls. View "" on And, yes. I am actually storing raw data in It's a hack, and I think it's hilarious. It's not fast enough to use to store anything meaningful.

Personally, I think my two projects are totally slick. Read about them on my slides:
My Slides for Hack Day '06

I can't remember all the hacks I liked, but those I remember are here:

  • Purse Hack. Pedometer + microcontroller + camera. Takes pictures every 100 steps.
  • monologr(sp?) - record an audio stream while selecting images from flickr to create slideshow with an audio story.
  • YahooSpace - bridge Yahoo 360 with MySpace. Society is doomed.
There was press everywhere at this event. Yahoo's PR folks did a fantastic job of selling the existence of the event to the press. Local news, Wall Stree Journal, etc. Journalists for publications as far as Germany were here. At the end of the hack session, news coverage was shown on the projector. Atleast three news channels covered the event.

The event was a huge success. To any of you Yahoo folk reading: Thanks for an incredible event. Same time next year? ;)