HackVAN 2012 Winners

We spent a great day in the A Thinking Ape offices this past Saturday. We had 25 teams work on a wide variety of different projects.

At the end of the day, all the teams stood up and demo’d what they had built during the day to our 3 judges – Kenshi Arasaki from A Thinking Ape, Carl Schmidt from Unbounce, and Thomas Lewis from Microsoft.

The top 6 teams won prizes, and there were three “special mentions”. Without further ado, here are the teams:

  • Negochi: the team put together 5 6 of the 8 different APIs to build a hotel deals social media small business sales promotion tool.
  • ChitChatDate: online speed dating, that connected a PhoneGap mobile web or desktop experience with Facebook and Twilio SMS chatting.
  • AngryMum: a PhoneGap mobile web experience and Twilio SMS and voice integration that was built to help chronic over-sleepers by calling their mom if they keep missing alarms.
  • Dropbooks: the team connected FreshBooks with Dropbox so that invoices in FreshBooks automatically had PDF versions appear in your Dropbox account.
  • Textual Pursuit: a local Twilio SMS powered trivia application. Enter a code and join a multiplayer trivia SMS game.
  • Rock Soft: the team called their app an “SMS version of Chatroulette” powered by Twilio. Connect into a chat stream, get connected privately / anonymously with a chat partner, and exchange text messages until you hit “NEXT” to move to another partner.

Team “Hardware Guy” brought an Arduino and hooked it up to Twilio, and won a $100 NCIX gift certificate.

Team “Monkey Storm” built a Shopify clothing colour picker and notifier, and was awarded Microsoft’s special Windows Phone 7 prize.

Team Negochi doubled-down and also won the best use of the YellowAPI prize.

We’ve focused on the winners in this post, but we saw everyone spending the day learning about APIs, connecting as brand new teams, and figuring out how to produce code in just a day. Thank you to all of the participants, you should all be proud of yourself for the work that you produced!

It was very interesting to hear from some of the teams that wrote tests for all of their code. The Placeling + Brent team actually stood up a full Continuous Integration (CI) server!

It was also great to have the majority of our API sponsors have someone onsite. They were loaded down with t-shirts, stickers, and other swag, and spent the day supporting teams. In the case of PhoneGap, Adobe/Nitobi even produced a unicorn / rainbow Shopify-powered fashion sales app as an example hack. Thank you to all the API sponsors that traveled and spent the day with us!

Teams: if anyone has a blog post or comment about their experience, leave a comment! We’ll also be sending out a survey to get more feedback directly, so we can improve the next event.

Thanks to EvanWillms for the photos. See http://www.flickr.com/photos/evanwillms/sets/72157629677880309/ for his full Flickr set.

28 Mar 2012, 7:35pm
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HackVAN Itinerary

With only two days left until HackVAN, here’s a summary of the next couple of days.

Friday, March 23rd – Friday Mixer at Electric Owl, 928 Main Street

6:30 – Brought to you by the team at Unbounce. Join us to meet the competition, find a team, and meet the sponsors and organizers. We’ve got a free drink ticket for you – we’ll be checking people in via Eventbrite, you just need your name that you registered with.

Don’t stay too late – you’ve got a full day of hacking ahead of you the next day!

Directions to the Electric Owl »

Saturday, March 24th – A Thinking Ape offices, 3rd floor, 322 Water Street

Directions to A Thinking Ape offices »

9:00 – Breakfast and introductions: we’ve got Save on Meats catering breakfast sandwiches and coffee – bring your own coffee mug, please! Scout out the office to figure out where you’ll sit.
9:30 – API presentation: Each API provider will have <5 minutes to introduce their API, discuss its salient features and get you excited about using it. See all 8 HackVAN API sponsors »
10:15 – Open Planning: come up with hacking idea and build a team. This is a white board exercise: if you have an idea that you would like to work on, just put its name down on the white board; if you are looking to build a team, identify yourself to other developers with the skill sets that you need. If you are looking for ideas, identify yourself to other developers as well.
10:30 – Hacking setup and start. You claim a little spot of the office with your team or by yourself and start working on your project. All the API providers will be available the entire day to provide support.
12 Noon – Lunch: Save on Meats has sandwiches and other good stuff to keep you going. Grab what you need, head back to the keyboard.
5:30 – Application presentation – keep this crisp and minimal, with everyone ready to connect to the projector and do a short, under 3 minute presentation. We’ll do this in the order that teams have filled out the team list.
7:30 – Judging and prizes – Final announcement of top teams and extra prize awards.

We’re ordering a couple of kegs of beer from Howe Sound brewing to keep everyone occupied while we go through presentations and judging. Remember – everybody wins, because you’ve just spent the day learning about code and APIs!

22 Mar 2012, 1:10pm
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HackVAN API Sponsors

Now that we’ve unveiled all the API sponsors, here are details and quick links on all of the participating APIs. The goal of the day is to build an application from scratch that you can demo to our panel of judges at the end of the day. You must include at least one of the APIs listed below – yes, bonus points for including more of them. You can, of course, use additional APIs, frameworks, or what have you.

Some things to think about and setup ahead of time include a code repo (e.g. Bitbucket, Github), server space (localhost demos are fine, too), design (maybe just use Bootstrap), and even domain names (the winning team at HackREGINA also found a great domain for their project, MoveTo.me.

Yellow Pages

YellowAPI is providing their Places API, including their new interactive I/O Docs so you can interact with and test live calls in your browser.

HackDays YellowAPI Blog post »


The starting point for all FreshBooks API info is http://developers.freshbooks.com/. FreshBooks has a lot of different objects such as invoices, billing, time tracking CRM info around people, and more.

HackDays FreshBooks Blog post »

Idée / TinEye

TinEye/Idée is providing 2 APIs to HackRegina: MobileEngine and MulticolorEngine (formally know as PixMatch and Piximilar).

Check out the following client-side javascript based UI that developers using the multicolorengine may find handy. They show a simple but nice UI for exploring an image collection using color:

HackDays TinEye Blog post »

iQmetrix XQ

This is the launch event for iQmetrix’s XQ Interactive Retail API. The iQ team sells client apps for wireless retail that run on top of this API. The main focus of the API is dealing with Products, making it easy to create Playlists and store image & video assets.

The XQ API has a new developer portal that has all the documentation.

iQmetrix will also be bringing a Kinect and a touch screen for those that want to incorporate some live hardware into their apps.

HackDays iQmetrix Blog post »


HootSuite is providing two APIs plus their SDK for the HackVAN event. The HootSuite SDK is for building apps that plugin to HootSuite and the Engagement API allows for the drafting, scheduling, and posting of messages across social networks. The Geo Analytics API will have more details at the event, and head over to the main HootSuite Developers site to get started.

HackDays HootSuite Blog post »


Shopify’s ecommerce platform actually has a full app store for selling Shopify API powered solutions. You can get started on their developer wiki and then refer to the API docs for full method details. The Shopify Partners page even has a video showing how to build and deploy a Shopify App in 8 minutes!

HackDays Shopify Blog post »


Twilio provides a telephony infrastructure web service in the cloud, allowing web developers to integrate phone calls, text messages, and IP voice communications into their web, mobile, and traditional phone applications.

Get going on the Twilio API quickstart page.

HackDays Twilio Blog post »


PhoneGap makes it easy to use web-based technologies to build and deploy mobile apps.

PhoneGap also gives access to device APIs that your standard browser does not have: accelerometer, contacts, device file system, camera and compass. Complement your HackVAN project by using PhoneGap and take it to the next level with additional device APIs.

See http://docs.phonegap.com/ for everything you need to get started with PhoneGap

HackDays PhoneGap Blog post »

We also want to thank all of our non-API sponsors as well:

  • Party Sponsor: Unbounce is picking up drinks at The Electric Owl on Friday. They power a fantastic landing page platform and they’re hiring.
  • Venue Sponsor: A Thinking Ape are letting us use their awesome offices in Gastown. Special thanks to Sonia for all her help in pulling things together.
  • Community Sponsor: Microsoft is a great community sponsor for both Vancouver & Regina, and are also including an extra prize of a Samsung Focus Windows Phone.

YellowAPI deserves special mention as the HackDays champion sponsor. They usually have some extra swag for teams at the events as well – API Fan Boy / Girl t-shirts and gift certificates for best usage of the YellowAPI.

21 Mar 2012, 6:03pm
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TinEye sponsoring HackVAN with their APIs

The original mastermind behind HackDays is Leila Boujnane, CEO of Idée. Their main product is the TinEye reverse image search engine.

TinEye is providing 2 APIs to HackVAN: MobileEngine and MulticolorEngine (formally know as PixMatch and Piximilar). These two APIs are image recognition based APIs which allow searching by images.


MobileEngine uses mobile variants of the same algorithms that power TinEye. MobileEngine is designed to find a match for mobile phone picture in a collection of original/target images. It can find duplicate and altered versions of images using fingerprint based searching algorithms. It can find images that have been cropped, resized, rotated, flipped, obscured, blurred etc.

Some examples of use are to match a book cover to a collection of covers. Same with CDs & DVDs, stamps, currency etc. It works with rigid flat objects but not 3D soft objects like clothing, fruit or family pets!

The MobileEngine API can be integrated with any mobile application. For HackVan this API image collections is not pre-populated which means that if you want to develop and launch an a mobile image search application integrated with this API, you will need to create a database of images for your search. The TinEye team and their documentation can assist you with that prior to the start of HackVa

MobileEngine is delivered over HTTP as a REST API with responses delivered in JSON format. Each operation is completely atomic, meaning that given a request, other requests will wait for the first request to complete before they are processed.

All responses from the API will have these keys:

  • status: indicates the status of the request, can be one of ok, warn, fail
  • method: the method that was called
  • result: list of results for the method
  • error: list of errors from the API

The main methods for MobileEngine are:

  • add: Used to populate your collection. There is one collection for everyone so please use a prefix with your images if you want to make sure that they will not be overwritten.
  • search: Used to search against your collection and returns matches. Optional search parameters are min score, max number of matches and horizontal flip.
  • delete: Delete images from your collection by passing a filename.
  • list: Lists the images in your collection

Here is a sample call you can make from a browser: http://mobileengine.tineye.com/hackdays/rest/count/?pretty=true

Questions or problems? Email us! support@tineye.com


MulticolorEngine searches an image collection using one or more colors. TinEye will be providing a two APIs for the MulticolorEngine:

To get a feel for the capabilities of the MulticolorEngine, visit the Idée lab: http://labs.ideeinc.com/multicolr/

MulticolorEngine is also delivered over HTTP as a REST API with responses delivered in JSON format.

The main methods are:

  • color_search: Used to perform a color searches against the collection and return any matches with scores. You can specify up to 5 colours with weights in RGB or hex format.
  • extract_colors: Given an image, extract up to 10 colours and their dominance.

MulticolorEngine also supports full meta-data searching but we’re recommending you not to get into this unless you really need to – it is still in beta!

Here is a sample call:

You can view and display your collection and query images using URLs listed in the API. E.g. http://multicolorengine.tineye.com/hackdays_flickr/collection/?filepath=100227747.jpg

Looking forward to what you guys will be building with the MulticolorEngine!

Questions or problems? Email us! support@tineye.com

21 Mar 2012, 4:28pm
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PhoneGap is an API Sponsor for HackVAN

I’m so happy to have Adobe supporting us by having the PhoneGap team participate in this year’s HackVAN. I also found Brian Leroux’s recent post on PhoneGap vs. Apache Cordova to be a great explanation.

With PhoneGap as one of the API sponsors, I expect to see a ton of cross-platform mobile applications show up at the hackathon on Saturday. Here’s a bunch more from PhoneGap in their own words:

PhoneGap Logo

PhoneGap is happy to support the Vancouver developer community, especially since Vancouver is where we got our start!

For those who don’t already know, here’s the lowdown on PhoneGap:

PhoneGap is an open source platform for quickly building cross-platform mobile apps with HTML, CSS and JS. Think of PhoneGap as a framework that takes your web application, wraps it up in a native shell and enables it to be deployed to application stores across different mobile platforms. We support 7 operating systems: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, webOS, Symbian, Bada and Windows Phone.

In addition to modern Web standards, PhoneGap also gives access to device APIs that your standard browser does not have: accelerometer, contacts, device file system, camera and compass. Complement your HackVAN project by using PhoneGap and take it to the next level with additional device APIs. Add interactivity and easy monetization to your web application!

Here’s a sampling of our APIs:

  • Accelerometer: Tap into the device’s motion sensor
  • Contacts: Work with the device’s contact database
  • Compass: Obtain the direction that the device is pointing
  • Camera: Capture a photo using the device’s camera

Plus, you can check out the rest of our PhoneGap API docs over at http://docs.phonegap.com.

We’re also sending over a few guys from our crack team to help you hack.  Say hi to Fil MajMichael Brooks, and Yohei Shimomae on Saturday!

21 Mar 2012, 12:22pm
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Twilio is a HackVAN API Sponsor

Twilio Logo

While HackREGINA featured a fun voice-to-search and search-to-voice interface, I imagine we’ll see a lot more clever integrations like this having Twilio as another API sponsor. Interested what sort of other projects have been built with Twilio? Check out their project gallery.

You can find all the details on Twilio’s API from their quickstart page.

But wait, that’s not all! Carter Rabasa, Twilio Developer Evangelist, will be making the drive up from Seattle to join us and provide support for the Twilio API.

Here’s some more about Twilio in their own words:

Twilio, the cloud communications company, is reinventing telecom by merging the worlds of cloud computing, web services and telecommunications. We provide a telephony infrastructure web service in the cloud, allowing web developers to integrate phone calls, text messages, and IP voice communications into their web, mobile, and traditional phone applications.

Thanks Twilio and Carter, we look forward to seeing you this weekend!

20 Mar 2012, 6:42pm
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Shopify is a HackVAN API Sponsor

HackVAN and Shopify

Shopify will again be an API sponsor at this year’s HackVAN. It was great to have Joey DeVilla‘s accordion-slinging self with us, and he has posted some great pictures of the event from last year.

If you don’t know Shopify, it is an ecommerce platform that hosts 20,000+ online stores used by millions of users around the world. Their merchants range from stay-at-home moms and small budding entrepreneurs, to big names like Rovio, General Electric, Tesla Motors and Foo Fighters.

Shopify (like a great many of our sponsors) is also hiring. They’re mainly looking for people in their Ottawa office, but we noticed a Senior Operations Engineer that they’d be happy to work from space anywhere.

Shopify Million Dollar Fund

One final thing of interest to developers, is that Shopify has a special Shopify Fund to encourage development on top of their platform and in their appstore. How big is the fund? Why, $1 MILLION DOLLARS, of course! Here’s a bit more about the fund itself, in the words of Shopify:

If you have an idea for an app or utility, tell us about it. We’ll evaluate it, and if we decide to support your project, we’ll provide an advance in the neighborhood of $5,000 – $10,000 on future sales in the App Store. It’s like the advances that authors get on sales of their books. And just like those advances, it lets you focus on your Shopify project for a few weeks without having to worry about how you’re going to pay the rent, mortgage and the usual cost of living.

Thanks again to Shopify for being an API sponsor!

19 Mar 2012, 6:17pm
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HootSuite is an API Sponsor for HackVAN

HootSuite Logo

I’m happy to announce HootSuite as an API sponsor! It’s great to see Vancouver’s own stepping up to participate, and it will be great to see what local developers come up with for both the APIs and SDK that HootSuite makes available. Mark Holder (Director of Integration Partners) and Geordie Henderson (Director of APIs and Integrations) will be on hand to meet and support developers interested in building for the HootSuite platform during the event. Here are more details on the API from Mark & Geordie:

Hootsuite Owly Repairman

HootSuite is proud to support the local developer community as an API Sponsor at this year’s HackVAN. In addition to supporting the local developer community, we are also always actively recruiting superstars to join our team, located a short walk from where HackVAN will be hosted.

For this year’s event, HootSuite has not one, but two APIs and an SDK for the hacker’s stack. HackVAN participants will have early access to the HootSuite Engagement and Geo Analytics APIs, in addition to the beloved dashboard’s App Directory SDK. more »

19 Mar 2012, 9:00am
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Microsoft Canada is a community sponsor + extra prize + final judge

I’m happy to announce that HackREGINA and HackVAN have Microsoft Canada as a community sponsor. Microsoft is looking to promote the usage of HTML5, as it is one of the ways that you can build great experiences natively for Windows 8 (if you’re interested, there is a Windows 8 Camp in Vancouver on April 3rd + 4th). As well, the Microsoft team has provided an extra prize: a Samsung Focus Windows Phone.

The phone will be awarded to the team that best meets the following criteria with their app.

  • design: overall look and feel as native mobile app OR mobile web experience
  • use of mobile APIs: does the app use on-device mobile APIs in some way, either through native or mobile web code
  • engaging: does it either use APIs in a new way on mobile, or make a great mobile experience out of an existing API?
  • social features: does it include social media features OR some sort of new social graph experience?

Morale of the story: if you’re building a “web” app, do the little bit extra to make it work well on the mobile web, too.

So what are you waiting for? Go sign up for HackREGINA or HackVAN and win a phone!

Thomas Lewis - Microsoft Evangelist

Lastly, but certainly not least, I’d like to announce the (brutal) Thomas Lewis as the third judge.

Thomas just recently moved to Vancouver. It’s been great to have an evangelist based right here in Vancouver, and he’s been a speaker at a number of HTML5 Vancouver Meetups. Below is Thomas’ bio, but I think what you’ll find more interesting is that he goes by @TommyLee on Twitter. You know, as in Mötley Crüe Tommy Lee.

Thomas Lewis is a Principal Technical Evangelist at Microsoft focused on HTML5 and the web designer/developer community. When he is not thinking about the brutality of HTML5, Microsoft, Design and well-designed apps, he is plotting the eradication of Internet Explorer 6 from the planet.

13 Mar 2012, 7:20pm
HackRegina HackVAN
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YellowAPI HackDays Champion Video

The folks at YellowAPI, our HackDays Champion Sponsor, have created an epic promo video:

What are you waiting for? Sign up for HackREGINA and HackVAN!

9 Mar 2012, 7:11pm
HackDays HackRegina HackVAN
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  • HackREGINA Location Sponsor

    Innovation Place - Innovation Place is home to approximately 40 clients in six buildings, employing more than 1,600 people.

  • HackREGINA Event Sponsors

    iQmetrix Software - At iQmetrix, we create great experiences for retailers, their employees, and the end consumer.

    GB Internet Solutions - We’re proud parents to GasBuddy.com and OpenStoreLoyalty.com, and while we don’t like to play favorites, the GasBuddy app has over 30 million downloads!

  • HackREGINA Community Sponsors

    YellowAPI - Our curated local search API is built off of the strength of the Yellow Pages database of over 1.5 million geo-localized business listings and associated rich content.

    Canadian Youth Business Foundation - Are you an aspiring young entrepreneur, aged 18 to 39, with a solid business idea? Are you looking for the financial support and expert advice that will help you bring your great business idea to life? The Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF) can help.

  • HackREGINA API Sponsors

    eHealth Saskatchewan - eHealth Saskatchewan employees and consultants are committed to making a difference for Saskatchewan residents by supporting health care providers through making important clinical information available electronically.

    Cashtie - InComm’s new Cashtie API opens up access to retailers point of sale (POS) systems, allowing any approved developer to sell online goods to consumers at these high value retail locations—opening up the possibility for web and mobile applications to accept cash payments for virtual goods, services and utilities at top retailers.

    Twilio - Twilio powers the future of business communications, enabling phones, VoIP, and messaging to be embedded into web, desktop, and mobile software.

    Wit - Wit allows you to build a Siri-like speech interface for you app in 5 min! It's an API that turns speech or text into JSON.

    Windows Azure - Add a cloud backend to your apps in minutes, enabling your apps to reach every user on every platform. With support for popular languages and open REST APIs, you’ll be ready to integrate Windows Azure into your apps in minutes. Use any of Windows Azure’s APIs to complete your hacks. You’ll need to activate a FREE trial or your MSDN Windows Azure benefits prior to using Windows Azure.

  • Header Image by hyfen/flickr