48 hours No Shower, Amazing Apps – A HackNashville Recap from Jacques Woodcock


It was on the Sunday of HackNashville weekend around 7pm when over the rising applause you could hear “This shit works. This shit works!” from a slightly sleep deprived Jason Mayers. We were demoing GLu– a glucose tracking service that can be interfaced with via SMS, a website, mobile app and even regular voice call– to the crowd of fellow hackers in Emma’s Bistro.

To say Jason was excited would be a bit of an understatement, everyone on the team was excited, and exhausted, as we had just spent the last 48 hours eating, sleeping, and hacking in the Bistro with 40 or so other hackers.

This excitement was electrifying as one-by-one all the teams got up and showed the fruits of their two day marathon. There were projects that ranged the whole spectrum from an audio wave manipulation game, to a App.net client that didn’t suck, to an app that allowed you to take a photo of any wall, cross-reference it based off of GEO data, found a 3D model of it and then allowed you to tag where windows and other elements are located all in the goal of doing some online social graffiti with friends.

While some of the demos showed proof-of-concepts others showed products that either did ship, or will ship in the next few weeks. Shipping in 48 hours is truly an amazing feet of geekery, and the source of Jason’s excitement as Jason is a diabetic, and a strict one at that, and GLu was dreamed up as an easier way for him to track his glucose measurements. But along with the measurements tracking we were able to add in reminders that will be sent out if it’s getting close to time to take a measurement, advice if your average is to high or low, 30 day charting along with a few others.

So what type of person decides to spend 48 showerless hours sitting in almost the identical spot? It wasn’t just the free food, soft drinks, snack candy, ping-pong– though we played our share of it– or some weird addiction to self-abuse. It’s a person with a passion to do something unique and/or great with fellow minded cohorts, and we all did something great that weekend.

Hacknashville is based on a long rich tradition of hackathons where on the opening night, this case Friday, everyone gets together to eat dinner and pitch their projects to the whole crowd. From there, teams are formed, some times before the event but usually at the event, and work begins. I spent my Firday night learning some Postgresql until about 2 am when I decided to head home for an early morning rise and long day of pumpkin-patching with the family.

Unlike me, most people simply kept working, or curled up on a couch, chair or sleeping bag, for those who came prepared, to get some sleep only to get up Saturday and head straight back to work. Of course they would take breaks for nourishment, waste disposal and the occasional mind-clearing game of ping-pong, but otherwise they kept working.

On Saturday I did manage to get away from the family long enough to drop-in and develop branding, creative, wireframes, and light UX plans for the group so they could continue to push through as I went to the RCA Studio A 10 year anniversary of being owned by Ben Folds party– the unique thing about Nashville is the ability to jump from event to event that are polar opponents and not skip a beat– then on to the Belcourt’s midnight showing of Fight Club, which I’m not at liberty to talk about.

Needless to say, I was up till about 3 am and can sympathize with those who stayed and even was filled with a bit of guilt for not putting in as many hours on Saturday as they did. They accomplished a lot on Saturday and I do wish I had been a part of it, but I’m in a point in my life where spending 48+ hours away from the family on a weekend is not doable.

On Sunday I was able to head down to Emma’s Bistro to spend the day with the team building out and tweaking the UI and creative as they finished the mobile app, web services and server setup. I work for myself so actually developing on a team is a rare thing, and a treat. Working with the team Sunday was an absolute blast. We all were passionate, opinionated and professional on all aspects of the project which is especially rare when you work with large corporate clients.

So we’re back to Sunday night, everyone’s sleep deprived and running on adrenaline, cramming to get those last few tweaks in before we eat dinner and do the product demos. Once those last few tweaks are in, you come to a moment of realization that you’re done. It’s just impossible to get anything else done before you pitch. For me, this realization came over me like a tranquil peace. I immediately relaxed and walked away from the computer, grabbed some awesome fried chicken and collected some thoughts.

After dinner demos started, and amazing pieces of technology, one right after the other, were demoed before the room. A few non-hackers even showed up for the event and were welcomed by the group. In the end the GLu team took home the hacker’s choice award which was extremely humbling and perfect justification to come back again next year. 

None of this would of been possible without the efforts from Avery Fisher, Calvin Froedge, Ben Stucki, Jamin Guy and Phillip Maddox of Hacknashville, and in extension Hacknashville’s gracious sponsors. For this is the group who had a vision and an understanding that the time was right to have such an event in Nashville.

You see, Nashville is in change, change that a lot of use here feel is going to lead us to something great. If you look around, you will find more individual groups putting in all kinds of effort to do what they feel is needed in the Nashville community. And so you have events like Hacknashville, which aims to be a twice a year hacker throw down, Nashville Hack Day, which focuses on technical learning and their upcoming event will cover open source and Git, CoderFaire a two day technical conference with a hackday on the second day, and of course the corner stone BarCamp Nashville, a free technical semi-unconference that happens in Oct.

On top of these events you are seeing more and more user groups forming, getting larger and communicating amongst themselves with the goal of cross-pollinating for the benefit of their members. You can find PHP developers learning JS at the ID of Nashville, .NET and Python guys over at the Amazon Web Services group, photographers and geeks getting together at the Mac user group, as well as many other mixings of focus.

Hacknashville represents more than just people with a passion to make awesome stuff, willing to get together and share a weekend, it represents a community that is coming out of it’s shell to grab ownership of their efforts and to shape the town in which they live, work and play. As Calvin Froedge put it, it’s “To know what’s possible when the right people are put in the right situation.”

Author: Jacques Woodcock

Entrepreneur, UX, developer, community organizer, proud Nashvillian, father, dreamer, maker.