Last week I spent three days at the Appsterdam’s Open Data Hackathon on Picnic Festival. The local government of Amsterdam had made different data sources publicly available and created a contest for building apps on top of that data.
As I arrived solo, I luckily found some great teammates to work together with (@danielsteginga, @jjeekkoo & @devoorzitter). After a small brainstorm session we decided on our product and divided the workload. We wanted to do something with the data of public art in Amsterdam and decided to build an app with which you could find the art near you, learn about it, and discuss it with fellow community members.
Then, over the course of three days we hacked together the neat little app LocART. Unfortunately, we didn’t win the contest, but I learned some great lessons along the way.
Design is important
Even though we didn’t win the competition, we did get a honorable mention for best design. Also, several other people that saw the app, explicitly mentioned they really liked the design. I had the feeling that gave us some immediate likability that we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.
I personally notice the same in my thinking when I see the design of new startups — it is often the design that gives some initial likability or perceived professionality.
Be able to relax when others do things differently
Over the course of the hackathon I noticed that sometimes one of my teammates would do something differently than I would have done, codewise or something else. Instead of trying to show why ‘my’ way would be better, it was great and humbling to learn from seeing people do things in other ways.
Developers are wanted
At different occasions during the hackathon, people would come by looking for developers for their ideas. One guy approached us and asked if we were able to develop his idea. When we asked what his idea was he basically described an application like group.me or WhatsApp. We politely inquired what the added value over these existing apps was, after which he said: “there is something extra, but it’s a secret. I’ll tell you when you start working for me”. After that it went on and on, but I think you get the gist of it.
Having read numerous anecdotes on hacker news about annoying business guys with ideas looking for developers, I could only be amused by all this and politely explained to him why this approach would never work after which I gave him some pointers on finding technical employees/founders and what not to do.
You can do awesome things in a short timespan with great people
I am genuinely impressed of how fast we got something to work and look pretty neat. In just three days we designed a logo, the layout and the workflow. We set up our database and imported and cleaned our data. We build an api on top of our database and went through the jQuery Mobile documentation. We created the front end and integrated all of this in just three days with a working app as result. I mean, that’s a lot of work done and a lot of things I learned from that.
Even though we didn’t quite finish the app fully, a basic version is already working — check it out on your mobile phone at m.locart.nl.
For those of you not on a mobile device, here are some pics (or check locart.nl):