Hackference Birmingham logo Birmingham’s first combined Conference and Hackathon was a great success.  It was an intense 3 days of discovery and coding that left me with lots of new friends and lots more shiny things to add to my technology to-do list.  The combination of a great line-up of speakers sharing their experiences and a weekend of hacking left me inspired and highly motivated.

Talking Heroku & Git

I gave an impromptu talk on getting the most out of Git & Github after one of the speakers became ill.  Git is a powerful way to manage your source code but because of that power then there many ways developers can get tripped up.  I cover a lot of tips and tricks about using Git on my personal blog and will be presenting a talk on Git for Force.com developers at Dreamforce this November.

StephenBrown90 Sep 04: @jr0cket you are my hero for introducing me to .gitignore_global.

Once developers are comfortable with the basics of Git, then deploying their apps on Heroku is as simple as git push.  With so much to talk about Git & Github I didnt get chance to speak much about Heroku, however many of the other speakers referred to Heroku in their talks or were using it for their demos.  I was using Heroku myself for my Git & Github tutorial, a simple markdown content site with minimal CSS all running on Heroku so it can be quickly updated and pull requests easily created by others to enhance the workshop.

Meeting old friends & making new ones

I had chance to catch up with Matthew Revell from Basho, Phil Leggetter at @CaplinSystems, Joe Nash from Nottingham University @HackSocNotts, Adam Yeats from Pusher, Cristiano Betta from PayPal and Andy Piper from Pivotal.

I made lots of great new friends too.  Mike Elsmore the organiser, Syd Lawrence, JonJo Whitfield, LornaJane and many other people who’s names I have forgotten (sorry my head only holds so many).  Its as much the people who make an event as anything else and the developers at Hackference Brum were awesome.

Hacking with Heroku

Boxxed - Birmingham We spend all weekend at Boxxed for the Hackathon part of the event.  Its a great space with plenty of tables, sofas and huge bean bags (courtesy of …)

The hackathon started with the sponsors talking about their API’s and platforms.  I also gave a quick overview of Heroku to show the assembled developers how quick it was to deploy an app.  Once you have an Heroku account and the toolbelt installed you can simply push your application code to Heroku from your commits in your local Git repository.  Heroku detects the language and framework you are using and your app is deployed for you.  All this is done in a matter of minutes, so you can either continuously deploy your app throughout a hackathon or deploy it to Heroku at the end.

I was kept busy during the weekend helping people with using Git and making the most out of Heroku and all its addon services and data stores.  It was enlightening discussing different architectural designs with so many teams. It was amazing to see the diversity of applications and languages were deployed there, although it made the judging more challenging.

Hackathon prizes

There were quite a few prizes on offer at the Hackathon, including a trip to Berlin to visit the developers at SoundCloud.  This prize was won by Super Pirate Battleships for there amazing real time analysis of music from SoundCloud to construct the game obstacles and power-ups.  I think people would have played that game all day had there been time left.

Uber team managed to reverse engineer the Uber API so they could track their fleet of cars from anywhere in the world.  It was a great app and a very slick presentation, especially since the team consisted of a 19 year old and a 16 year old.  Harvey Nash gave them an android tablet each as a prize.

Spirit of the Hack prize was given to Andrew Nesbitt for bringing along a huge number of Node Copters for everyone to play with.  Andrew also came up with a great developer oriented game, Code Tennis, based on the game Layer Tennis in which graphic designers take it in turns to add a layer of graphics to a shared picture.  In Code Tennis you compete against your opponent using a Github repository, taking it in turns to push commits to the repository.  If you cant push commits up within the short time frame you loose points.  It seems a great way to learn those Git skills.  The Code Tennis app is also deployed on Heroku.

The full list of hacks are on the Hackference section of the Hacker League website.

In Summary

This was a great event and thanks must go to Mike Elsmore @ukmadlz for pulling this event off pretty much single handedly, an amazing feat for his first time round.  Thanks to everyone else involved, you all made it a marvellous event and I am looking forward to next year.

In the mean time, why not run your own hackathon, its easier than you think to get started.

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