Winners at Yahoo! Hackday India

24 hours of continuous hacking on Friday and Saturday and won.  So this post is embarrassingly looooong. Inertia of Euphoria, I guess. Naseer, Vijay, Arun (who had to unfortunately leave very early on) cobbled together a collaborative medical image viewer using the Yahoo! Widget Platform.

It’ kind of sounds too much politically correct to say that everyone was a winner. But one thing I must say that all of the 31 entrants were absolutely orthogonal. Very novel ideas. So nobody was really offering any competition to each other.

I am usually pretty aggressive about winning but this was one time while walking up to the podium to receive the prize I was a bit humbled about the fact that maybe I “won” by a very thin margin, if there was one.

Many thanks to all the wonderful people at Yahoo! who came together and put together a wonderful event. Purple and yellow bean bags all around to laze and hack away and catch some zzzzz after having written that particularly complex bit of code, awesome food (light but nutritious), constant supply of caffeine and Red Bull (more caffeine). The tech infrastructure, wireless, bandwidth — stunning.

Oh yes, I forgot, that super large screen to play Unreal, NFS and other games that I have never even seen before. Hey look, me is a self-confessed non-gamer, my fave game has been TD, Test Drive, which I last played circa 1993 on a 640×480 green and black mon0chrome monitor. No, not even the Bricks clone I wrote on GWBASIC could take away that place from TD.

But what totally floored me was the human factor. The hospitality. The personal touches all over. Responding to each and every question and request, however unreasonable -like can I take away two Yahoo! bean bags ? Why ?? ‘Cause my daughter really loves the yellow and purple combination of Barney (the purple dinosaur) and his yellow friend BJ.

Arati, Anil Patel, Joe Arnold, Christian Heilman, Brad Horowitz, David Filo — and my favourites — the anonymous Yahoo! employees in the bright red shirts working out each and every small detail to perfection. Hey, one even taught me to play Need For Speed at 3 AM in the morning.  This is not for literary effect — I was a little low and tired because some code stuff in the hack were not quite coming together right && I could really feel the upsurge in adrenalin after I got busted by a cop car in NFS.

I work at General Electric and take a lot of pride (which may come across as vanity to some) in saying that we, quite like our product programs, execute events to immaculate perfection. Be that 3000 people at a TechFest or an internal banquet or 400+ employees participating at  RSNA, I have become rather used to expecting that events will be precisely planned and executed with elan. In brief, I am not one who gets swayed by just corporate plush and it takes quite a bit to squeeze out an affirmative nod on organizing events from me.

The Hackday SWAT team, as they like to call themselves did a phenomenal job and goes down in my memories with substantial kudos.

OK. Now for the obligatory crib before this starts to become too sweet. I took some notes on the event and here’s the screenshot of the Yahoo! PostIt widget.

Oh ! Something that I forgot to put down (and am too lazy to go back && do an append edit): Autographed copies of books written by Yahoo! employees (Christian for e.g.) copies would be a sweet idea for prizes, esp. when its difficult to guess the number of participants per team.

Back to hacking, one of the reasons why this worked out so well, personally for me was that my wife gave me the go-ahead to go ahead and participate. And thanks to a very nice friend of her, Subhasree, who agreed to come over from the other end of town and babysit. Knowing that things at home were taken care of, I could focus on the code.

Disturbance was minimal, focus was intense. No curious onlookers. And those who came to check out were very understanding about not breaking the “zone” bubble. Like the most affable Mr. Adrian Bridgewater from ZDNet UK. who sums up the atmosphere in a brilliant few lines much better than I can. [Full post]

This is a ?face down in the keyboard? event. The attendees are enthusiastic, self-assured and subversively conspiratorial as they quietly plot to beat their competitor peers with an idea for the ?next big thing?.They?re not phased either, even as Yahoo! co-founder David Filo strolls in between the tables and bean bags ? nobody is stopping for autographs or brown nosing. These developers know they?re being judged on their ideas and nothing more.

I Could not socialize or network much particularly because I was in the zone for a protracted period of time. And after the hack window ended, I was too exhausted. Went over to the terrace lawn, and found myself prone on the grass with ample beer and kebabs. But ’twas nice that I could still manage to spend some a few minutes with some special people.

Joe Arnold

At a loss of words to describe this guy. Had he not been intelligent enough to run the show at Yahoo!, I would have bumped into him at some traveling show. Telepathic. It’s 12:21 AM and I’m writing this section and I get a facebook note from him.

Christian Heilmann

Had me in his fanbook the moment I saw his URL :

We had some splendid discussions around using Amazon EC services for large medical image datasets and collaborative computing. He also showed us some nifty hacks; loved the one for flickr where you can get different image sizes by appending _<char> to the filename. If your filename is “

mypic_t.jpg  : thumbnail
mypic_s.jpg : small
mypic_o.jpg : large


Adrian Bridgewater

I love journos who respect people’s spaces and do not unilaterally drive their own agenda. Adrian is one of the most popular people (currently #2 in Top 100) on the zdnet UK community. I pronounced zdnet as “zeedeenet” (not “zeddynet”) and he, with characteristic humor/sarcasm was quick enough to quip: “Oh, yes, sure that’s correct the American pronunciation”.

Arun Ramaratnam

We’ve known each other through Barcamp Bangalore but this time around we got a chance to talk about things of common intellectual interest. Everytime I go to this website, leaves me baffled as to how a person could juggle so many things with such proficiency.

Raxit Seth

Amazing kid. Great appeal, albeit a bit unconventional. He’s putting together BarcampMumbai2 later this month.

Anil Patel

Mr. Justellmehowicouldbeofhelp. ‘Nuff said.

Flew in from London to share his experience with the London Hackday and helped the folks here run the show.

We also gave an interview to a channel called TV Nine, but (I don’t watch TV so) I did not ask them when and where (I would think something called TV Nine, but I have never seen that channel) they would air it.

So, we wrote Yahealer as our hack. Whipping fresh hack, wrote every single line of the code in those 24 hours. Though, I must admit, that we did have a round of conf-rooming a few days before the event to think about what we could do. At this point, I must bow to Arun B. He knew he would not be attending because he had to go to Tanjore to his wife and kid, but still he signed us all up, attended all the meetings, ran with the ideas and even stayed back till 6 PM on Friday with us.

YaHealer is a collaborative tool that allows two doctors in different parts to the world to do analysis, interpretation and diagnosis – realtime – of medical images. Docs can cine through images, pause, step frame by frame, draw regions of interest to mark out what they think is important and most importantly can chat via the same application.

The application is very fast since it does not use conventional framebuffer transfer techniques but instead uses an internal command language (for which we wrote the parser and marshalling-demarshalling routines right on spot !).

sony-pspThe entire application was coded up using the Yahoo! Widgets Platform, so we got a bunch of the UI coolness for free.

A lot of people came up and congratulated us both for the social positioning and technical merit of the hack as well as a succinct and emotion-evoking (albeit time-barred) presentation.

We won an ultracool Sony Playstation and have not been able to decide how to share it amongst 3 people we decided that we would keep it at work and let our colleagues borrow it and play whenever they want !



  1. This is awesome ! I was in a real dilemma about this event my already planned trip. Glad that you guys managed to finish the hack and also win !!
    I think we should put this up on the yahoo widget gallery as well.


  2. Hi Shourya, and thank you so much for the nice words (and the good improvement suggestions) about the open hack day.

    I am still quite amazed as well how well it went and I promise to do a screencast of the hack ideas of flickr that I tried to show (dearie me, how bad did that second presentation go).

    As to your hack, I was mainly looking past the wonderful idea of helping people to save lives and also considered the other uses this hack has when you’d put it live for people to use. A friend of mine is an Architect and she has to work with and discuss with colleagues these massive TIFFs and blueprint files. This app would be perfect for her to share and annotate without having to send 800mb of files every time. Of course there are other collaboration suites available, but the sheer simplicity of this one made it one of my favourites (having been promoted to a judge out of a sudden :))

    It is great that you had a good time and I hope your kid enjoys the beanbag. As to the PSP, just bring it to the next hack day with the team and do a nice hardware hack with it 🙂


  3. Congrats!! Looks like nice stuff and wondering about internal buffer (widget level or yahoo servers or ?)..

    Great job.. looks like you guys had a great time.


  4. Hey,

    Congrats on the winning at the Hack day. You were very correct about the networking thingy…people get so busy in the hacks that it gets a little tough to meet other developers !!


  5. Parashuram, lets get together at Barcamp 5 if you are here in Bangalore.

    Bhasker, you have the most amazing surname in the world of Koders. Gives me a thrill everytime I read your stuff on the web. Let’s make sure we have something going for Barcamp.


  6. Chris,
    We interacted very briefly but it was so nice knowing you. Hope you can make it back to Bangalore soon (or optionally, you can recommend me for a job at Yahoo! London

    The idea of taking the hack is a good one. Some of us have been thinking of this. I will keep you posted if this goes somewhere.


  7. hi, congrats, stumbled upon this blog when i was going through the bcb mailing list.
    I am new to using web apis and creating mashups, so for a beginner which languages would you suggest.. is javascript alone enough to work with apis or i need some php or ruby scripting…


  8. Hi Arvind,
    To start with, I would suggest Javascript for a few reasons:

    a/ Most Web APIs support JavaScript bindings. Some of them do not support Ruby yet (or Ruby/PHP bindings have not been written for them yet)

    b/ You do not need a separate environment, like webserver/cgi or a Ruby compiler on your desktop

    c/ Ruby does not have a native GUI framework (Tk is obsolete) but JavaScript can leverage the browser much better than Ruby can. You could use JavaScript UI tooklits like MochiKit, etc.

    Hope this helps,


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