Windows Phone Hackathons Are Better Than a Party

My life changed for the better in 2011 at TechEd North America (Atlanta GA). I was walking on the expo floor and I met The Sociable Geek Daniel Egan at the Windows Phone booth. I got a beautiful Samsung Focus phone in my hands and I was mesmerized. I had watched some webcasts earlier and I wanted to get into the mobile development. I wanted one of those puppies as well. When you have a goal or a dream, the Universe sends you the way to get there. Daniel told me about the Hackathon he was organizing that evening and that I could win one of those phones. I was there… I ditched a party to go to the hackathon.

I have never done a better decision in my life… it was much better than the great party I’ve missed.

It was exciting. It ended at midnight but I had the most beautiful phone in my hands. I had an inspiration. I made new friends and I learned about opportunities. There are hackathons not only once a year at TechEd and in Atlanta but in LA and many other locations.
Windows Phone Hackathon
At the end of March 2012 I took my 10 year old daughter and 14 year old nephew at a Windows Phone Hackathon in Los Angeles. It felt natural. I saw the same excitement in their eyes as I’ve felt. They were hooked… They found a person to inspire them too. Bret Stateham is a Microsoft evangelist and he quietly guided them.

Several weeks ago we went to a Nokia hackathon in San Diego. There was a set back- the kids were rejected at first by email, they were too young. There was a student contest but you had to be 18 or older to participate! My 14 year old nephew stayed home. My 10 year old daughter is not the type to get discouraged by a rejection. She reassured me I don’t care if I can compete, I’m coming to learn. So she came and we were nicely surprised. Nokia’s people had a gift for her. Everybody – participants and organizers- made her feel welcome and loved. Daniel Egan spent time helping her. It was a blast. Better than a party, she agrees…
(Ina was impressed: Mommy, I want to start work… Look at Nokia’s cafeteria… You all have much better place to eat lunch than us at school.)
Nokia's Hackathon
The other day we went to the Uplinq Hackathon. Ina was rejected again from competing but still she was allowed to come. There were some setbacks… I got a badge, she didn’t. Everybody got a backpack with a t-shirt, she didn’t… Bret Stateham saved the day at that moment- he gave Ina his own bag and t-shirt. It was a kind sweet gesture that will always be remembered.
There were 300 windows phones given- to everybody that was at the Hackathon but not Ina. Because she is too young…

Ina got a sharpie and wrote her name on my badge. The next morning she looked sad when I was getting ready to go to the Uplinq conference. She was registered and her picture was on the Uplinq catalog but she was not allowed to attend the sessions. She just wanted the chance to learn… The keynote session was beautiful- I couldn’t stop thinking how inspiring it would’ve been to watch it together with Ina.
As I said, she is not easy to discourage thankfully. I can not help but think that one day Qualcomm (the organizer of Uplinq) will want people just like her working for them. I somehow think Ina would love to work for Microsoft- if you encourage the next generation, you will get back a return on your investment.

There is nothing better than a Windows Phone Hackathon, may be Windows 8 Hackathon but that’s in our future :)

The Uplinq CodeFest

I went to the Uplinq Codefest the other day. I was impressed by the resources Qualcomm invests in developers. $50,000 was given to the winners of the contest! Applause to Qualcomm!!! I expected a fierce battle and it was interesting to see it unfold. I came with my 10 year old daughter who is a developer and she has won alone and as a part of a team several hackathons. It was disappointing to hear she was not allowed to compete in the Qualcomm challenge (you have to be 18 or older) but it was understandable. We both decided for me not to compete this time- we were sorry for it later though. If you are a developer and you are around, you should compete. At least we both enjoyed being part of the hackathon and seeing the action in person.

The hackathon challenge went till 11:30PM. The participation of Windows Phone developers in the contest was overwhelming. Let’s say that half of the participants were Windows Phone developers and one of the 5 categories was for Windows Phone. The total number of participants was around 30! I was proud to say the Windows Phone developers’ demos were great.

I liked that the demos were timed and limited to 3 minutes! Thanks Heaven! It was shocking that half of the presentation time was spent in PowerPoint. I understand that the apps don’t need to be completed but I believe PowerPoint should be banned from hackathons. If the PowerPoint use cannot be limited, band it, give paper and crayons to the kids that are learning the SDKs. It’s purely ridiculous to compete on a PowerPoint presentation, especially when you can win $5K and you are one of 3 or 4 competitors in a category. One more change I would do if I’m a hackathon organizer- you have to compete on a new application each time. Be nice to all of us, we come to many hackathons, we don’t want to see the same app and hear the same pitch over and over again.

Overall it was a great experience. I learned one thing- never say no to participating when the prize is right! Qualcomm technologies rock, Qualcomm is a big sponsor and I pray the day will come when they will allow young developers to participate and learn. We all need to invest in the future.