Parse By The Sea

Sat 19 October 2013 by Jim Purbrick


A few weeks ago Facebook London hosted the Parse By The Sea hackathon at the Brighton Dome as part of the Brighton Digital Festival. The idea was to take one of our internal hackathons on the road and invite members of the public to join us, turning a hackathon in to an open studio offering a glimpse of an important part of Facebook Culture.

The Dome cafe bar was a great venue with the Founders Room soon packed with eager hackers listening to presentations and watching live coding demos from API partners Withings, Deezer, Pusher, Unity and Parse. Soon the rest of the Cafe and Mezanine were collonized by teams of hackers. The WiFi and 100Mbps connection supplied by Metranet held up admirably to the 12 hour pounding dished out by 100 hackers each with multiple devices and before we knew it it was time to head back in to the Founders Room for the prototype forum where hacks were presented and prizes awarded.

Deezer were delighted by the number of high quality music hacks including Party Relative Track Evaluator by Paul Blundell, Music Puzzle by Alice Lieutier, Flapdoodle by Ryk, Charlie, Phil, Luke, Matt and PlayHear by Joe Birch, Ivan Carballo and Mark Dessain.

Inspired by the talk of life logging at dConstruct this year I decided to work on a music based hack with Andy Pincombe from Facebook and Sara Gozalo from the BBC. Mood Music analyses the mood of your music listens using the EchoNest API and plots it alongside a sentiment analysis of your Facebook status posts. We didn’t get far enough along to draw any conclusions from our experiments, but it would be nice to see if music listens are a trailing or leading indicators of mood and maybe even build a Samaritunes app which determines the songs which pick you up and suggests them to you if you start to get down.

Other interesting hacks included Batsh, a compiler which generates bash and Windows batch files, Identify by Saqib Shaikh, an app which identifies objects by their bar codes for blind users, and Ninja Ear, an audio based game for blind users that moves objects around the stereo field.

The clear winner of the Parse and Facebook prize was Frictionless Photo Sharing by Ben Chester, Nick Kuh and Jose Jimenez. The app automatically saves new photos to albums and pushes them immediately to other devices sharing that album. The team managed to build iOS and Android versions of the app overnight and it was was amazingly slick: Nick demoed the real time photo sharing by taking pictures of the prototype forum audience and having them appear immediately on another device connected to the demo screens. A worthy winner of the Parse Pro account and Facebook ads prizes which we hope the team use to get Frictionless Photo Sharing in to the iOS and Android app stores and on to everyone’s devices.

There are a few things I’d change if I organize something like Parse By The Sea again. We normally run internal hackathons overnight on Thursday and wanted to stick to that schedule for authenticity, but it meant that lots of people who wanted to come couldn’t make it: if we open up a hackathon again we should definitely run it over a weekend. It was also unfortunate that Parse By The Sea clashed with Over The Air which meant people who would have liked to have gone to both had to pick one or the other. Somehow we also managed to forget to bring any Red Bull, a problem with Elena quickly fixed by buying up all of the supplies at the local Tesco, but an inexcusable slip when hackers are trying to stay up all night.

Overall though, everyone seemed to have a great time and built some amazing hacks: thanks for coming along and making Parse By The Sea a big success.


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