Hackference 2016

October 25, 2016

Hackference

This year, Alex Pate and I (Alex Booker) headed to Birmingham on behalf of Pusher for the alleged final Hackference . I say “alleged” because for the last three years running, it has been said that each Hackference is the “final Hackference” and it’s turned into a bit of a running joke ?.

Hackference – for those of you who don’t know – is a conference and hackathon based around learning and inspiring people to hack. The event spans 3 days and is comprised of a one day conference and a two day hackathon, where hackers can hack through the night if they want to (Alex and I aren’t that hardcore; we went to our hotels midnight!)

Conference

This year, the conference part of Hackference was held at The Electric Cinema, which is the oldest working cinema in the country. There, speakers took to the stage to present on a cinema screen, while the audience got to sit in comfortable cinema chairs ?.

Whilst the projector didn’t always produce the sharpest image, no one in the audience seemed to mind because attending a conference in such a charming cinema was such a unique experience, the trade off was worth it.

If you couldn’t make the event, or you just want to relive the experience, The Electric Cinema have an interactive 360 tour, which you can take here. There are also plenty of pictures on Twitter, where the conference hashtag, #hf2016, was the 10th most popular in the United Kingdom on that day!

Hackference is a two track conference, meaning there are always two talks happening at the same time, and it’s therefore impossible to watch them all. Fortunately, there was someone recording all the talks, so we’ll all be able to enjoy the ones we missed soon. In fact, Jonathan Kingsley‘s talk called “Cracks in the Facade” is already on YouTube:

The talks that we did manage to watch including “Servo: a browser engine for the 21st century” by Soledad Penadés and “Living Standard” by Remy Sharp were all excellent!

Later in the day, Mike Elsmore, Jessica Rose, Samathy Barratt, and Terrence Eden competed in a hilariously fun game of Just a Minute (TechJAM), with Andrew Faraday as a host.

Around that same time, it was also announced that there was an online Hackference quiz where the questions were all asked by sponsors. Whoever got the sponsor’s questions right won a prize from them. We at Pusher asked “How many real-time messages does Pusher send a month?” (answer: 160 billion) and “What is the average height of Alex at Pusher?” (answer: 5″ 11′). Dan Jenkins answered our questions correctly and was awarded a couple of Flic wireless smart buttons – congratulations, Dan ?!

Hackathon

Whilst The Electric was an amazing venue for the conference, it simply lacked the space for the hackathon part of Hackference so, on the following day, everyone headed to Impact Hub Birmingham to hack on some code.

The morning started with a short introduction by Mike and then a little presentation by each of the sponsors, in which we talked about our APIs and the features we thought could be used to build awesome hacks. I gave a little presentation on Pusher, the slides for which can be found here.

We saw some amazing hacks that used Pusher throughout the weekend, so when the time came to choose a winner, it was a hard decision to make. After some careful deliberation, we chose two joint winners: teams “School of Code” and “In Your Face”.

School of Code built a web app that enables one or more programmers to collaborate and create music together, using code. Spectators could also join to enjoy the music. They used Pusher to make it possible for developers to collaborate on the code in real-time, much like we do with our pair-programming plugin for Atom, atom-pair.

In Your Face built this really fun app whereby members in the audience would be presented with an emotion like happy, sad, or disappointed and would then have to take a selfie whilst emulating that emotion. Everyone’s selfie was rated and whoever’s selfie was the most accurate won. They used Pusher to broadcast a message to start the game on the connected devices.

Each member of the winning teams got a Parrot minidrone.

Conclusion

This is our second year in a row sponsoring Hackference and like last year, we were really impressed with the diversity, organisation, and the quality of hacks. Seeing the enthusiasm some people have for Pusher is incredible and it motivates us to continue crafting the best developer experience we can.

We met so many incredible individuals throughout the weekend from a range of different backgrounds, many of which were students. Pusher are always looking for talented people to join our awesome team. If you think that’s you, I would encourage you to check out our current job openings.

Hopefully we’ll see you at Hackference next year, you know, if there is one ?!