Socialapp

– social software

Experience at Startup Weekend SF 2009

full_teamStartup Weekend hosted a event from Apr3 – Apr5 for all the tech minded and entrepreneurial people to come to one place and start working on a product to deliver a prototype by Sunday Night. There were about 200 people that had showed up for the event. I was among that fortunate list to have participated in the event.

The venue had started to gather people from 6 pm onwards.  I was amazed to see the number of people that had turned up for the event. Andrew Hyde (founder of Startup Weekend) kicked off the event around 7pm and introduced some of the well known VC’s from the Bay Area. They all had some good suggestions for the audience of about 200 people. 

It was a great learning experience for me. I had primarily gone with the intention of developing an application based on either facebook platform or the Twitter Api. There was more interest with respect to Twitter, and so I mingled around and talked to people with ideas related to Twitter.

Team Structure

    1 Idea/Business Guy ( php/mysql experience) 
    1 Sales/Market Guy.
    2 Back End Developer (1 Full Time 1 Part Time )
    1 Front End Developer with Flash.
    1 Front End with Java Script. 

Day 1

There were a couple of ideas that we pitched to each other. Among the group it was apparent that not all members were very familiar with the features/power of Twitter. Also the level of engagement and used cases were different for the people that already had accounts on Twitter prior to the StartUp Weekend. The positive outcome of this arrangement was that we were getting different outlook for the same service. However, the drawback was that as some people were not very familiar with Twitter, it seemed that there was no scope for the project to be developed beyond Sunday. I and another member needed to catch the train to South Bay, so we and the group dispersed without finalizing a project but sticking between two ideas.

Day 2

The day started late for the team. There was a little confusion regarding the timings of our team to show up the next day. There were only 3 members of the team around 12 Noon, so we decided to just stick with one of the Idea (Analytics) and start working on it. At this moment the team comprised of an Idea Guy(with some php/mysql experience), Back-End(me) Developer, and a Front End Developer. I had been playing with the Twitter Api using Python(for App Engine) for my own Twitter based projects over the last few weeks. As, currently it seemed like a 3 member team, I decided to use PHP and use some of the Php Client Libraries listed on Twitter (Bad Move).

Soon, the other Developer also came in and then I discussed with him the project we were working on and my decision to use the Php Library available from the Twitter Docs. He was familiar with the Perl library and mentioned about it. So there was a slight confusion if we should now move guns to Perl. Finally he suggested that as he will be working on his another project for the Startup Weekend, that I should continue with Php and he will help us as and when needed.

Finally I downloaded the Php library to my Macbook and started to look into it. But, unfortunately by now we were having connectivity issues as all the DHCP licenses created by the wireless router at the venue were full. Thinking it will get fixed soon also cost us a lot of time. We then decided to go to some Coffee Shop but could not find a single Free Wireless place to go. One of the team members then offered to take us to his work place. More time lost.

Finally, at his office, I started to test the calls to the Client Libraries. Soon, it was apparent that the libraries need Pear to be installed. So, I downloaded Pear to my machine and was trying to get it working. It was having some issues; the other developer also was not much familiar with Pear. Search after Search for solutions in Google, we finally decided to move to Python (context switch) and I started writing code in Python. In the mean while, the Idea guy who was at the Venue pinged us and said that Internet is finally working.  We communicated to him that we will be using Python, but he interjected saying why can’t we just call the Twitter Api’s in XML format and just parse it (Good Point). However, the main reason we were trying to use the libraries were to leverage code reuse and authentications.

Finally, we had the leave the Office, as this team member had to leave by 7pm or so. We then walked back to the venue and then we were back to using PHP but no external libraries. I started writing the code and was done with functions that would parse, compute and the then return the output to the Front End Developer (using Flash). He would then use the output from my functions to display it on the page. In the meanwhile, when I was writing more code, the other members decided that since the Twitter Api returns the output in XML format, maybe let the Front End Developer handle and display it directly while the rest brainstorm for other possible metrics for the demo. At this junction, we called it a night and decided to meet up early in the morning.

Day 3

As planned, 4 of the members met up early and after grabbing breakfast, we headed back to work. I was now partially working with Front End guy regarding the logic that needs to implement in his Action Script code. In parallel, one of the other team members also developed a version in PHP. So, by the end of the day we had TWO versions of the same application.

Lesson Learned

–          Finalize Idea on Day 1
– Day 2 Start Early, Design and Divide Work Responsibility
– Day 3 Final Touches, if time adds more functionality.

Conclusion

Overall, I would call it a great success as I networked with a lot of people with similar interests and passion to work on technology. A real life experience building a team with strangers and the challenges involved in finishing the product. The best part is that I will now be working with one of the team member from the weekend in one of my applications for the Facebook Platform as a co-founder.

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May 15, 2009 - Posted by | web application | , , ,

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