ἀλλ᾽ ἄγε θᾶσσον
ὄτρυνον πόλεμον δὲ κάρη κομόωντας Ἀχαιούς,
– Iliad Book 19, Lines 68-9.
Translation: “Come, rouse the Greeks of flowing locks to war.”
This weekend Hamilton and I made the trip to Greece to attend the Athens edition of this year’s BattleHack – and, BattleHack being BattleHack, we weren’t disappointed by any stretch of the imagination. It was a delightfully warm weekend in a beautiful city, and an awesome venue was chosen as the stage for a great weekend.
The Braintree team were characteristically welcoming of us, and we can’t thank them enough for their hospitality, friendliness and effort in putting on yet another incredible hackathon.
The Opening Gong
Hackers streamed in though the opening doors at 10am on the Saturday, eagerly awaiting the moment they can put fingers to keyboard and build something great. They were met with – most likely – the finest breakfast and coffee to have ever graced Greece. It may seem like I am exaggerating, but the catering at Hub Events was beyond exceptional. John Lunn, Senior PayPal/Braintree director, the judge and king of BattleHack, spoke the truth: no contestant will go hungry.
After breakfast, the introductory talks took place. John Lunn ran through the format of the weekend: at 12.45, the gong would go off, meaning contestants have exactly 24-hours to build their hack. Hacks would be judged on how well their ideas and final products integrated PayPal or Braintree and any of the partners’ APIs in an application in a way that could impact society for the better. In the meantime they would be lavished with food, drink, workshops and massages.
The MC of this event, Alberto López, introduced us as partners, along with JustGiving and SendGrid. Hamilton gave a power-talk about how to use Pusher to create some realtime magic, where he led the audience through how to get the most out of Pusher for their hacks by triggering server events, client-events, presence-channels and so on.
As planned, the gong struck at 12.45, and the hackers got down to it!
The Closing Gong
Hamilton and I were amazed by the level of commitment shown by the attendees. Almost everyone was there all night, fuelled by Red Bull and the midnight snacks prepared for them. We were happily on hand to help with anything Pusher- and non-Pusher related until the early hours. Throughout the morning there was much excitement and frantic coding as hackers wanted to apply the finishing touches to their projects before the final gong.
When it came, everybody had lunch, then sat down to view the presentations. Each team had only two minutes to showcase their app, before a quick round of Q&A from the judges, John Lunn, Georgios Kasselakis, George Psistakis, and Olga Paraskevopoulou.
A Very Honourable Mention
QuizJob – by Dimitrios Zorbas, Fotos Georgiadis, Giannis Hatziioannidis and Javier Gonel – took on the very noble and important aim of tackling the serious problem of unemployment in Greece. It used the power of realtime to create a multiplayer quiz application, where jobseekers could answer questions to prove their knowledge in certain fields of expertise. Prospective employers could pay to put up specific questions, which people could then answer, allowing the company to seek out apt candidates.
It was awesome to see Pusher be used in a way that so cleverly attempted to solve a problem. It was difficult not to award them the Pusher prize – but at the very least, as BattleHack overall runners-up, their achievement was rewarded with an Xbox each!
The Winner of the Pusher Prize
It was, as I mentioned, incredibly difficult deciding the team to be awarded the prize of the best use of realtime. Nonetheless, for their variety and ingenuity in which they used Pusher, we had to give an Ollie each to the creators of Local Heroes.
Theodore Keloglou and George Antoniadis produced an app that let people publish requests for help with certain tasks, as well as let them advertise their own skills. They used Pusher to notify users requests for help and acceptances of requests. What’s more is that they allowed the two parties to communicate via chat! They also implemented a smart notification system, sending in-app Pusher notifications when the user was online, and SendGrid emails when they weren’t – not dissimilar to the mechanism documented in Smart Notifications using Pusher and SendGrid blog post we put out recently.
So, a congratulations again go out to Local Heroes! It was a very well-polished app that made the most of Pusher to set up an engaging platform that could work for the greater good.
The BattleHack Athens Champion
Even though they did not use Pusher, it would be wrong not to mention the deserved champions of BattleHack Athens. They will be going to the World Finals in San Francisco in November, to compete with the winners from other cities to be crowned the ultimate hacker for good.
Tekcit – by Basilis Koulis, Konstantinos Zacharakis, Nikolaos Dimos and Nikos Kostoulas – came up with a powerful idea with thousands of uses: an online service that enables people to identify themselves using only their face.
Instead of carrying tickets to events, movies, on public transporation, airports, conferences – they created a system on a Raspberry PI with visual recognition software that identified customers through facial features. The demo was pretty incredible in how accurately it worked – even when one of their team had large sunglasses on!
Clever, technically sophisticated, and an amazingly useful product: they thoroughly deserve to go to San Francisco in September and compete to win the great prize of $100,000.
A wholehearted thank you to all the contestants who participated, and, of course, the Braintree team for organizing the event! We can’t wait until BattleHack Tokyo!