Before attending UIT did I know what a hackathon was? No. Do I imagine most people no what one is? Probably not. But, that being said I think they’re definitely on the rise, and in the next few years, who know maybe many more will.

  The first time for me seeing one was during the movie, The Social Network. I didn’t really understand what was going on when seeing the hackathon in the movie.

     The scene when everyone’s hacking to get a spot into FaceBook. They have ten minutes to get root access to a Python web server, expose it’s SSL encryption and then intercept all traffic over it’s secure port.

   Then every tenth line of code written, they have to drink a shot. And hacking supposed to be stealth, so every time the server detects an intrusion, the candidate responsible has to drink a shot. There’s also have a program running that has a pop-up window appear simultaneously on all five computers. The last candidate to hit the window has to drink a shot. Plus every three minutes they all have to drink a shot.

   One of the best scenes of the movie. And something most people can relate to, drinking game. Plus Eisenberg really portrays the hackathon as a really cool nerd moment. 

     The first know hackathon was a development event held in Calgary (yay Canada) on June 4, 1999,where 10 developers came together to avoid legal problems caused by export regulations of cryptographic software from the United States. Since then, a further 3-5 events per-year have occurred around the world to advance development, generally on University campuses.

It’s been almost 2 decades since then and the tech world loves hackathons. Nowadays if you can hack it at a hackathon you could walk away with great prizes, cash, or a new job. Many major companies, like Google, FaceBook (ofcourse), and salesforce. Just to name a few, all do hackathons.

Every month or two, Facebook asks its engineers to take the day off from their regular duties to tackle any project they want. For Facebook, they often lead to important products, including its first video player, its developer platform, and its chat system. After Facebook’s engineers prototype their ideas, they present and vote on them among their colleagues. The highest voted ideas get presented to CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of the executive team.

As Facebook product chief Chris Cox puts it, “This is like our ‘American Idol.'” But for developers. Great way to keep things fresh and fun at work!

Here are some of the cool “hacks” that Facebook employees created:

  • Hand controllers for the Oculus VR headset that get physically hot and cold: An employee from Facebook-owned Oculus demoed modified hand controllers for its headset that simulate the feeling of heat and cold in virtual reality using embedded thermal coolers. “This is quite warm,” remarked Zuckerberg while warming his hands at a virtual fire.
  • Location requests in Messenger for when a friend is missing: If you can’t find a friend and become worried about their safety, Messenger could one day let you send a request to see their location. A timer would begin on the friend’s phone that gives them a chance to approve or deny the request. If the timer expires on its own, their location would be sent to you automatically.
  • Offline messaging: A Facebook engineer demoed offline messaging in the company’s stripped down Messenger Lite app for emerging markets. Once implemented, the feature will allow people without internet access to message each other using the WiFi signals in their phones. Zuckerberg seemed to really like this idea during the demo and even said that “this is something that I’ve thought we should build for awhile.”
  • Shared photo and video galleries based on what people post in a person’s comments. Facebook engineers demoed the use of machine learning to automatically create shared photo and video albums based on what people share in the comments of a post. So if you ask for photos people took at a wedding, what your
    friends share in your comments would be turned into a shared album for everyone to see.


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