Overall, I really enjoyed my first experience at a hackathon and won’t hesitate to go to another one. By Samihah Azim (Lead Product Manager & Designer, BizeeBee)
This past weekend was absolutely gorgeous in San Francisco - a real treat. However I stayed indoors all weekend at Dropbox's headquarters for the Photo Hack Day hackathon sponsored by Aviary, Facebook, Tumblr, Sincerely, Samsung and Walgreens.
This was the first hackathon I’d been to so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t expect as many women as there were. This actually was a concern that I had to the point that I reached out to @PhotoHackDaySF (run by Aviary) on Twitter asking if there’d be other women. Although I’d never been to a hackathon before this one, I’ve attended my fair share of tech events and it’s not fun being one of very few women. Granted, there could have been more at Photo Hack Day 3, but it was a very good start.
All of the hackers were either developers or designers - I joined a group of 5, consisting of 3 developers and 2 designers. The 2 women on my team were me as designer and an engineer. We went straight to work in brainstorming how the app we would build would work. The other designer and I listed out what features we wanted then broke that down based on feasibility of building within 24 hours.
We worked with the developers to figure out what functionalities they’d be able to build as well as a general idea of how the app would work. They mentioned wanting a stacking layout (similar to Pinterest) since the quickest way to get the app functional would be if they used the jQuery Masonry plugin.
Based on that feedback, I worked with the other designer in my group to come up with a few Balsamiq wireframes to base the design off of. After wireframing, we decided to create something more high-fidelity, for which I used Photoshop. We “pair-designed” to polish the layout using Dropbox to transfer the file to each other back and forth.
Time was up at noon on Sunday so with about an hour to go (around 11am), my team and I started to test the site so the developers could hot-fix anything that wasn’t working correctly before we demoed. It was actually during this time that we pivoted our entire vision for the app. Initially, the app was going to be a way for people to comment on photos aggregated from 500px, Flickr, and Facebook (by way of Instagram) with a feed on the right where users could see what their friends commented on.
Since we didn’t have time to integrate the Dropbox API for user login (which sadly resulted in missing out on 10GB of free storage for life - as a designer, this was more heartbreaking than going past a closed Philz coffee at 3am when you need to be up for 24 hours), we just kept commenting anonymously. While we were testing the app, we all ended up trolling the photos. We were the loudest table on our side at that point because we were all laughing so hard at the comments, all of which appear as “anon.” As one friend pointed out, we should have changed “anon” to “troll.” That’s when it dawned on us that this was a beautifully designed, ultimate trolling tool. The end result was more compelling than what we had originally planned.
Overall, I really enjoyed my first experience at a hackathon and won’t hesitate to go to another one.
It’s probably a bit unstable since we had 24 hours to build and create, but you can check out our photo hack called Actually.
Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. Photo credit: Samihah Azim on Aviary, decorating from left: Darius Contractor, David Klein, Samihah Azim, Janardan Yri and Ann (Liz) Howard. About the guest blogger: Samihah Azim is Lead Product Manager and Designer at BizeeBee, a simple and powerful SaaS solution for membership-based small and medium businesses. Prior to BizeeBee, Samihah worked in gaming as a Product Manager and lead designer. She finds joy in creating intuitive product experiences and balancing product goals with delighting users. In her spare time, she loves playing video games, hiking and exploring the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow her on Twitter at @Samihah.