Live from London: And the Hack Day winners are…

As the Open Hack London weekend fades into a Monday morning, the collaborative act of memory-making begins. Bloggers and journalists craft their stories. The real-time chatter on twitter trends slowly down, while pointers to blog posts, news stories, and archived content begin a quiet climb. *Real life* returns. Folks upload oodles of photos and video; travel home by plane and train, cab, car, and bike; catch up on countless hours of lost sleep; tune back in to their families and their day jobs, not to mention their personal hygiene.

Among the hundreds of people who came from all corners of Europe, (as well as Africa, Asia, and the Americas) to attend Yahoo!'s Open Hack at London's Congress Centre this weekend, everyone will carry home with them a personal list of highlights. Unique moments of supreme happiness, unexpected triumph, darkest despair: Listening to pornophonique while coding. Tossing red and purple beanbags at setup time, nesting in a sea of beanbags, then spotting same beanbags on the train journey home. First-time experiences holding a live human baby (yes, we met the youngest hacker yet, and her name is Nemi). Taking down the electricity with a soldering iron and then winning a prize anyway. Hacking Hadoop in a prolific overnight outpouring of code. Riding the purple bike and along the way finding something to hack about. Joining the London iPhone orchestra in a breath-taking performance of the Dr. Who theme. Doing a taste test of Cajun Squirrel vs Duck and Hoisin flavored crisps (that's potato chips in U.S. English) at midnight, followed by a swallow of freshly delivered Red Bull or exotically English Lilt soda.

Video credit: Antonio Carlos Silveira (acarlos1000)

But, as you know, the real business of Hack Day is finishing a hack and presenting it before an audience of fellow hackers and a panel of illustrious judges. London Open Hack judges were: Sophie Major (who wore many hats this weekend), Yahoo! UK's Tim O'Donoghue, Yahoo! co-founder David Filo, Dopplr's Matt Biddulph, Spotify's Daniel Ek, and Pascal Finette of Mozilla Europe. With a roster of over 50 hacks presented, the judges rose to the occasion, deliberating wisely, swiftly, and well. Here are the winners:

Big List of the Winning Hacks

Best in Show AND Hacker's Choice (an unprecedented double win) - OpenFreecycle (Premasagar Rose and Tom Leitch).
Opens up Freecycle groups data using Yahoo! Mail APIs. or see the presentation on slideshare.

Most Awesome hack - Fabulous Human-Powered Browser (Adam Cohen-Rose, Dan Fitzgerald, Matthew Smith, Joyce Stack, Neomal Jinappriya, and Sankatha Bamunuge).
Using arduino open-source hardware, this team built truly awesome (and fun) variety of physical interfaces to control a web browser: a mobile phone to recognize text and go to that page in the browser, a scooter (yes really!) to scroll down the page, a lego robot to move around the page and a bongo drum to go back to the previous page.

Best Flickr hack - Purple Pedal Power (Andrew Larcombe).
Show your Purple Pedalled ride with a little help from flickr, yql and openlayers. This is a way to track the progress of bicycles which automatically take photos, geotag them, and upload them to Flickr (via solar-powered battery) as you ride around.

Best government hack - They work for EU (Paul Battley and Julian Burgess).
The proceedings of the European Parliament are available online, but only in the original language of the speaker. No human being can follow a debate. We're using machine translation to make European democracy comprehensible.

Best local hack - London Undersound (Dan W).
By combining the data gathered by an Oyster card (pre-paid travel pass for the London tube) with scrobbles we can visualize what music is listened to where on the London Underground!

Best Fire Eagle hack - Guestpass (Dale Lane).
Share your Fire Eagle location with people on the move and/or with people who don't have Yahoo! userids, with a one-use only Guest Pass. Show them where you are on a mobile-friendly Blueprint site, and give them directions on how to find you from where they are. See more at or

BBC backstage hack, sponsored by - Boss of Myspace (Kurt J, Yves Raimond and Benjamin Heitmann).
Use Yahoo! BOSS to find MySpace music artists, link to the dbtune/myspace resource that is the best match, and get the myspace audio without Havi Hoffmanng to look at ugly myspace pages. Find BBC programmes from location, depending on artists featured on that programme related to that location, e.g., Also uses DBpedia, BBC Music, and BBC Programmes.

Best hardware hack - Open Security (Alistair MacDonald, Nigel Crawley, and Mr Duck).
This is a hardware and server software solution to improve security when logging in to websites from a shared/public terminal. It allows a user to log in using a public computer without revealing credentials that can be used to log them in a second time. This will prevent an account being compromised if passwords are captured by concealed cameras or key logging software.

The hardware part of the solution is based around the Arduino microprocessor board. The hardware produces a sequence of characters generated using a SHA1 based algorithm, a secret shared with the server, and an incremental value. The web services login screen needs to have a field added for this value to be entered, but most of the implementation is included in our library code.

This implementation is open to all and implemental at a low cost. We are currently using four alpha characters that the user needs to type, giving 4.5 times the entropy of the lower-end commercial solutions, while remaining easy for a user to enter in one go. Time information on the server side is retrieved using the Yahoo! API.

Best Mozilla hack - Intellisearch (Chris Brett, Laurence Hole, and Matthew Ross from Dundee University).
Accessible search using Canvas. This team built a clever interface that allows people with motor disabilities and those who suffer from arthritis to search the web using Yahoo! BOSS (Build Your Own Search Service).

Best global hack - Billtweets (Rob McKinnon).
Helping you stay informed about bills before the British Parliament. For each bill, this hack operates a twitter account that tweets about billl readings, divisions, blog and news mentions. You can now reference bills in your twitter conversations.

Best YQL execute hack - flickr celestial coordinates ( Jim O'Donnell).
An open table definition which extends the flickr API to add celestial coordinates, RA and Dec, to flickr photos. Values are parsed from flickr machine tags and returned as a new table,, with columns for photo id, title, url and coordinates. This should allow location-based searching for astro photography.*

Best beer hack - Good beer map (Chris Neale and Iain Collins).
A much needed hack to help you find the nearest good pub by mashing up the waypoint data from CAMRA's Good Beer Guide with a YUI Map.

Please note: This list was assembled by the formidable Chris Heilmann, with a big assist from Sophie Major. I'll take the slings and arrows for anything we got wrong, but even better -- please send us corrections via comments or direct message @ydn, and we'll fix as soon as possible. If you built one of the winning hacks above and you have fresh links or additional detail, please let us know via twitter or email me directly (Havi Hoffman at yahoo dash inc dot com). Also, we're always on the look out for guest bloggers and I'd be happy to publish more detailed accounts of any of the hacks that were presented.

London Open Hack hackers, huge thanks for your humor and high spirits and brilliant hacks. YDN loves you!

Havi Hoffman
Yahoo! Developer Network