“Masters of Code” Hackathon

2 December 2015, by

A long time ago, I got a message from one of our clients asking if I wanted to go to the Mastercard “Masters of Code” hackathon: I definitely did, and it finally happened this month.

Hackathons are tihomemes where people from all across the development life cycle get together to make something solving a problem. The catch? It’s in 24 hours. I really enjoy coding and getting something in your hands at the end of it. Hackathons are also a great place to learn loads of different skills (coding, and otherwise) from the wide range of people that attend.

Despite grand plans from a lot of people, we ended up with a target crack team of 2 people. We were challenged to make the day-to-day lives of London Mastercard easier by integrating with a combination of the TfL and Mastercard developer APIs. These are sources of some really interesting data and abilities – letting you plan routes, see the city and make payments with vendors.

24 hours is not a lot of time, and so we set to work straight away on working out what to build. We settled fairly early on using Mastercard’s loyalty offers API, allowing us access to personalised offers of the user that will use the app. All too often, people get these offers but don’t take advantage of them. A higher take-up rate on these offers will benefit both Mastercard and the end-user. The user gets savings, and Mastercard get people using these offers and – in turn – spending more on their card. Win-win.

We used TfL’s journey planner app to help users plan their journey and get advice as to the best route from A to B in London. However, when users change lines or transport routes at various stations, we looked out for opportunities for users to stop off if they had things to do at these interchange points. We went further and advised people how much would be added to their journey if they went out of their way to tick items off their to-do list. If it’s only 10 minutes, then why not make the extra hop and avoid a 2-hour round trip at the weekend?

options2In terms of the technical nature, we decided to write the application in NodeJS, serving a web interface written using KnockoutJS and Bootstrap. It was the technical framework with which we had the most experience – and with only two of us we were working solidly throughout the 24 hours as it was! When we added persistence, I got the chance to play with a new tech I’d been meaning to checkout – Firebase, Google’s distributed Database as a Service platform. It’s lightweight but first to set up and was perfect for our needs!

We were happy with our end product – an MVP and even some of the nice-to-have features that were a pipe dream just 24 hours earlier!

Other applications including a gamified social-media charity app (“Give to charity or I’ll shame you on Facebook”), an app that encourages you to walk by secretly saving the money you would’ve spent on your train fare and eventual winners “All of Us,” – a Night Out as a Service application, that integrates events, journey and tabs across a range friends.

Our product actually came second in the end – which we were happy about (not least because of the $1,000 prize!), but the whole weekend was amazing to learn a lot about APIs and other developers’ mindsets. The clarity of the idea was praised. We’re proud of what we made. We’re going to give the app a bit of distance for a week or so, but we’re excited about the potential of it – we even used it to plan our journey from the venue back home!

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