Hey, I'm Josh Kayani, a student and fledgling software developer. Here, I rant and rave about tech and other topics.
A few months ago, I attended my first hackathon: Hack NC, a statewide “hacking” competition sponsored by MLH (Major League Hacking), held at the UNC Chapel Hill campus. The whole event was filled with conferences/talks, networking and corporate PR stuff, and free food, all with the pretense of developing something cool within 24 hours.
A few friends from high school and I decided to form a team, and immediately we carved out a space in an available lecture hall and got at it; a bunch of wireframes/sketches later, we had a basic idea of what we wanted to do. The premise was simple: create a web app that let people meet up for meals, a problem we saw worthy of a technical solution – given that we were all college students. Of course, something like this requires a full setup: a database to handle accounts and users, obvious front end UI and logic, and something server side to glue the two together. Hack NC graciously gave us all we’d ever need, including a domain from Namecheap, and hosting/services from Amazon Web Services – unfortunately, we hadn’t ever used any of this tech before.
In retrospect, we clearly bit off way more than we could chew, and within a few hours we were well aware of it. Something as simple as “Sign in with Google” was a feature I worked for hours on implementing, feeling like a complete knucklehead at the very end when I realized how dead simple it was. Around 2 AM Sunday, we had a pretty UI, and limited log-in functionality to show for a days work. Oh, and projects had to be turned in 10 AM Sunday. Shoot.
I wouldn’t dare call it a waste of time though; I got a bunch of swag (read: stickers) for my laptop, a coupon for a free domain with Namecheap (you’re looking at it right now), and a lot of experience in working in a hackathon environment; I can’t recall having ~ 15 Chrome tabs of AWS/Python documentation open in any other setting. I had a blast, and can’t wait to do it again next year!