And so it happened. Salim finally decided to participate in local developers’ contest. A Hackathon. As I warm up for Pivot East.
He decided to attend the Ignite Hackathon.
Over the last two years, he has seen awards being taken by pretenders and wannabes, as well as deserving and seasoned masters of the code-game.
So, seated and psyched by @zacckOS, the code was designed, visualized and aligned to the theme of the Nokia/Emobilis/Capital FM Sponsored theme: “An application for the Masses”.
The challenge was to design a mobile application, from scratch, in less than 30 Hours [Saturday 8am to Sunday noon] or showcase a done, but un-published app and align it to that theme.
Ofcourse, as anyone who knows anything about me apart from my seconds name and that I hate VB and Man Urinals, I dislike JUNK food with a passion. But, Sacrifices had to me made. My peeps were texting asking where we are playing pool that night. Not tonight. Sacrifices had to be made.
The venue, above BrewBistro, was humbling. Twice the size of @iHub and @thenailab combined. Fitted with modern equipment and cushioned coding seats. Big enough to host over 500 people. And here we were, thinking Magua was all that. Talk of the Chinese Peenus. Just 2 minute drive from my crib. What more could a coder ask for? I was tempted to shifting there from next month. Next week. Maybe.
I decided to develop a mobile platform. A mobile app was too easy. I called it mGenie.
mGenie is your personal Mobile Genie. A know-it-all platform. It allows a user chat with WebServices running as Bots using a very simple Key-words register, provided by the Bot. It is an N-tier platform consisting of:
- A mobile application supporting XMPP in J2ME.
- A MySQL Database that holds a register of services.
- A PHP web-service that feeds the Mobile App with the services from the DB.
- An ubiquitous Bots register that allows developers develop their own services and plug them to the service inventory. These Bots support a simple
User - All a user needs to do is download the app on their phone.
Service Providers – Service providers would register with Xema Labs and have their services registered and approved to appear on the mGenie Mobile Application.
Let us say Nairobi Stocks Exchange developed a Bot that does the following:
- Listens to connections.
- Responds to keywords:
- Mobile user types ‘Help’ – It responds with ‘Help: To see price of a stock, type the name e.g. For Safaricom, type Saf. Type stocks for a list of all stocks’
- Mobile user types ‘stocks’ – It responds with ‘Stocks: Saf (Safaricom), eqty (equity), Acck (Access Kenya)’ etc…
- Mobile user types : ‘Saf’ – It responds with ‘Safaricom is trading at KSHS 3.1′
- Mobile User types : ‘saf history 3′ – It responds with ‘Safaricom stock for the last 3 days: 24th March [Lowest: KSHS 3.0, Highest: KSHS 3.3], 25th March [Lowest: KSHS 3.1, Highest: KSHS 3.4], 26th March [Lowest: KSHS 3.2, Highest: KSHS 3.4]‘
- The responses and the data are FULLY controlled by the third-party developers. No need to update the Mobile App. It is just a shell.
The mGenie platform is able to run ANY type of service. Insurance Quotes? HIV Counselling? Medical Symptoms Queries? Music Downloads? Name them!
So, Luckily, I was part of the 15 people who made it to the Shortlist to demo their apps. I was 4th to demo my App. I demonstrated a Simple dictionary bot that takes a word from the user and gives the dictionary definition. Then added that the platform is open and ANY developer could develop their Bot to serve their personalized content to interested users.
Talk of an intelligent Mobile-based real-time and personalized user-preference-tracking s40 Meta-directory. I could see the judges impressed my the amazing simplicity presented to the Mobile user, despite the complexity of the setup, all done in less than 30 hours. My presentation was done. So I went back to my seat amidst claps.
Immediately I was done, Chris Kirubi stood up and took the Mic. He was the sponsor, so we gave him all ears. He started by expressing disappointment that the App was ‘doing too much’. I did not get a chance to answer back and explain that this was a PLATFORM and the ‘too much’ being done was by the third-party service providers. He talked and talked and I could see, with every word and scorn, the judges begin to vacillate. The 7 our of 10′s that I might have got quickly turned to 4s.
Why would a sponsor take the Mic, in the middle of a presentation and put down a contestant? Presentation 4 of 15. Couldn’t he be professional and wait for the event to end, then talk to me personally? Or to the crowd, like he did, but after the judges had finished their job?
One part of me told me to get into my car and go home. Another more sensible part told me to be strong. So did a few tweets from some of my peeps. Had I come first, I am sure he would have rescinded the prize.
In my life, I have seen shoe-shiners advise masons on how to lay the bricks in the best way. I have been to lectures where chicken-feet-washers talked about IT security. So, Kenyans talking about something they know NOTHING about, and with authority, was nothing new.
Despite the stones thrown to me and the castigations, I came 3rd. I went home completely disappointed, and utterly flabbergasted.
The Ignite Hackathon was HUGE success, to me. Despite what happened. I came third, overall. And I was happy. Not for the money, but for ‘Validation’. That was 120 coders and 6 judges looking at me and saying, “Msee uko poa code!”. And that is all a thug like me wants.
Back to code.