The HackForGood Evenings — San Francisco

May 20, 2011

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A few weeks ago we opened our Orchestra.io San Francisco offices and to celebrate we decided to put together an interesting event that would reflect our respective personalities and our company mentality.

After various discussions over a few beers, our advisor Jonathan Siegel said: Why don't you throw together a hack-event to help homeless people?.

Starting from there we realised that the idea and purpose of writing software to help the lives of the people around us was exactly what we are about but more importantly, this was an idea that should happen more than once. The HackForGood evenings were born.

The following day, we decided to put a simple descriptive page together and organised the event on Eventbrite. Once this was in place we plainly announced it on Twitter to see who would be interested. After having received over 30 signups in 2 hours, we knew that we had hit a nerve and decided to make this event a success. We started by contacting some of our friends at SimpleGeo, Github and asked them if they'd be interested in participating. They loved the idea! Later on that day, another one of our friend at Tropo contacted us and voiced their interest in helping with the event by providing prizes to the winning team as well as t-shirts and stickers.

Everything was ready and people were starting to arrive. The night started slowly and the schedule got pushed back by an hour. Around 20h00 (8pm), after amazing bratwursts, beers and geeking around, we all started gathering around the workshop.

We started off by presenting our sponsors and saying thanks to Jonathan Siegel for providing the awesome location, bratwurst, kegs, huge monitors, etc. At this point, we were ready to form groups. We had groups of 2, 5, 4, some people stayed on their own and others decided to simply hang around and geek-up or play ping-pong. Either way, the coding had begun, the hacking-groove was on.

As the night was progressing and moving ahead, we asked the teams to present and explain their ideas. The purpose of the mid-event interruption was so that everyone would have an understanding of what was going on, what had been discussed and invented.

Two more hours of intense hacking passed by and we asked the teams to gather up and demo their applications and ideas. Around 23h30 (11h30pm), when the teams were finished demoing, a private vote was held in order to decide which team had the best idea. As expected, every team member voted for their own idea so the organisers and sponsors had to vote in order to break the tie.

The application that came on top is named 911Stealth. The idea, as briefly explained on their Twitter page is:

911 Stealth is a mobile app for contacting local emergency services when you are unable to use your voice.

For precarious scenarios where you may be unable to use your voice, the application will submit your geo-location information to the server and track your movements. Using Tropo, the application would also dictate your movements and actions to the emergency respondents on the other end of the line allowing them to track you and locate you more rapidly.

The winning team, @911stealth distinguished themselves by writing their code using CakePHP, hosting it on Github, creating a mobile app for the iPhone, creating the respective Twitter account as well as designing a logo, a general branding style, using Tropo and having the code ready to be deployed on Orchestra.io. It is important to keep in mind that all of this of which was discussed, planned and executed within 4 hours. Each member of the winning team won an Amazon Kindle thanks to Tropo and Orchestra.io

Many good ideas emerged from this event and we are going to follow up with individual blog posts on the Orchestra.io blog detailing each idea and how far the teams got. In the meantime, I would like to personally say thanks to everyone involved. Thanks for participating and helping improve the lives of others.

We're looking forward to seeing you in our future HackForGood evenings and if you have any question, or have any application idea you would like to share for future HackForGood evening events, feel free to send me an email or ping me on twitter.

About Coallier David

p. Let me inroduce myself a little bit here. I am a Software Architect located in the Montreal zone and the CEO of agoraproduction a company with 2 employees and that is starving to achieve the best performances on the web! p. I am a strong believer of open source and a major php contributor. I work on many PEAR (See them "here":http://pear.php.net/user/davidc) packages, and various other projects that can be found at both : "free packages":http://agoraproduction.com/index/pages/packages and "my blog":http://blog.agoraproduction.com p. I am currently looking for 1 software developer with about 4-5 years of experience, if you think you could be the one, then contact me :-) p. David

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