Yahoo! Open Hack All Stars in New York City

Winners of Open Hack All Stars 2011

Last week in New York City, YDN hosted the first ever Yahoo! Open Hack All Stars.

We invited the winning teams from Yahoo! Open Hack and HackU events from around the world to come to New York and compete in the 2011 hack finale. Forty hackers from as far as India, Brazil and Romania took part in the event, which took place alongside the Yahoo! Global Partner Summit.

Up for grabs was the $10,000 prize and the opportunity to present their hack to VCs, CEOs, and other senior executives from Yahoo!, and our partners, who were attending the summit.

NYC Bus Tour

We set up a hack room in the Sheraton hotel and kitted it out with everything hackers would need to deliver a great hack in 24 hours, including XBOX and Wii. Each team was assigned a mentor in the form of a talented technical Yahoo!, who could help them with anything they needed along the way. As a special treat, we arranged an open-top bus tour of New York City, which is just spectacular at night!

Choosing a winner

As you would expect from a Yahoo! hack finale, the standard was high and the competition was fierce! All teams spent the night with nose to grindstone. In the morning, was the pre-judging. Our esteemed panel of judges included Mike Smith, Chief Digital Officer for Forbes, Shana Fisher from Highline Venture Capital, Raymie Stata, Yahoo's CTO; Kevin Doerr, Yahoo's Vice President of Innovation; Steve Douty, Yahoo's Vice President of Applications and Mobile, and Todd Hay, Snr. Director for Publisher and Developer products.

The 16 hack teams were split into two groups of eight, with each presenting to one of two groups of judges. Each judging team chose 3 out of the 8 hacks to proceed to the final. After a slightly protracted setting up period was saved by Todd Hay’s eloquent hack banter, the finalists presented their hacks on the main stage of the Global Partner Summit.

I think it’s fair to say that the audience was intrigued by the young and somewhat nervous hackers, who provided a stark contrast to the business presentations that they’d been hearing. Well done to the presenters. You did yourselves and the rest of us geeks proud!


The Winner - It's Ruum!

Ruum by Arjuna Hayes, Amos Yuen, Chong Xie, Ethan Gladding

Four young hackers from Carnegie Mellon University came to New York intending to win by solving a problem that they themselves faced: the desire for a really quick and simple tool to allow sharing of large files and real-time content-based collaboration. “Ruum” (as in “Get a Ruum!”) allows you to quickly and easily share files with a Ruum URL that can be created with just a few clicks. Once you’re there, it’s easy for anyone to drag and drop files for access by others, as well as IM in real-time, see previews of the content, as well as tag and comment on it.

Team Ruum in action

The team previously won the CMU hack event with a very cool Flickr hack that lets you browse photos as pixel mosaics created from other photos in the same category. As you click on photos in the mosaic, another mosaic is instantly created from that photo, providing a truly novel photo browsing experience.

Here's some words from Arjuna Hayes from the Ruum team:

All in all, I really liked the way both the HackU and All Stars events were organized. We were basically given everything we could need (food, snacks, caffeine, internet, mentors, and more) so that we could spend the entire time focused on the hack. I think this is a great way to foster new ideas, since it gives us the opportunity to try making something useful without the worry of having to make every bit of the code perfect. We were on the clock, so instead of getting stuck on details, we cut some corners and made some compromises which allowed us to actually produce something which, while not perfect, actually worked. I know our entire team definitely had a lot of fun in New York, and a lot of fun making Ruum.

The most "amusing" experience we had was equal parts traumatizing and funny. After we were picked to be one of the 6 to go onstage, we immediately ran in to problems. First, a few of the features we had working broke because of some changes we made after the presentation. Secondly, minutes before we were to head backstage, my computer (which we were presenting with) bluescreened and crashed. After a few panicky minutes, everything was restored, but for a while we had a chain of Murphy's Law moments.

Most amusing moment from their mentor, Iain Huxley:

I thought it was funny when I said to the guys that, if they win the $10K, they could buy me a beer, at which point they explained that they can't legally drink yet!

Makes us feel old!

Congratulations to Arjuna, Amos, Chong and Ethan for winning and producing such a great hack!

The Finalists

Easel by Michael Teng, Farhad Abasov, & Michael Akilian

Many living rooms now have a TV that has the ability to run web applications, whether it is a Y! Connected TV, Google TV, XBOX, Playstation, Wii, or any number of other devices. However, interacting with the TV to easily browse, search, and view photos & videos can be difficult without intuitive input devices.

So, why not use your tablet or mobile phone to interact with your TV instead? Part iPad application, part web application, Easel is a hack that allows you to search for photos & videos on YouTube, Netflix,, and Flickr on your iPad, browse the results, and your selection will automatically start playing within the web browser on your TV. Your iPad is now your remote control.

The most interesting moment for me was when our hack came alive for the first time. For most of the day, we were all working on separate components (iPad app, YQL table, web client, web server), and we all arrived at a functional state at close to the same time. So once all the components were tied together, when you could search, navigate, and watch videos, we all grinned from ear to ear and any doubt we had about pulling this hack off, was quickly gone.

Easel was built using Objective-C, Python, JavaScript, and YQL.

Here's the YQL query that does the searching. It's a good example of using YQL's feature to communicate with multiple APIs asynchronously and combine result sets.

use "" as mediasearch; SELECT * FROM mediasearch WHERE query='kittens';

PhotoSense by Susheel Javadi

This application helps users understand what landmarks in a city they can visit based on the time that you have to spend there. It will show you how long Flickr users spent at a particular landmark using the EXIF information in their photos. It will take the time of their first and last photo taken at the landmark to give you an estimation of how long you should plan to spend there. PhotoSense will aggregate the time spent at all of the landmarks visited by a particular Flickr user, and build an itinerary for you.

Annotate by Gaurav Sanghani, Andy Brown, Aaron Stolarz, Russell Bicknell

This hack by team “The Real UTCS” allows you to comment wherever you want in an online article, and recommends other media based upon your interactions. This hack improves engagement by enabling more intense, focused conversations to happen around content. It could potentially help audience acquisition via more relevant Facebook syndication and could help publishers tell which part of an article are “hot”. We see lots of potential here!

Viewability by Rory Tulk and Andrew Trusty

This is an automatic photo-essay generator for top news sources - think's The Big Picture, but for other news sites, created with Yahoo! technology. This provides an alternative, easy, and visual way to consume the news with little to no additional production cost. by Andrew Huynh, Lynn Nguyen, Leilani Gilpin, Matt Peterson

This hack provides smarter song selection based on the capabilities of modern mobile devices. Using a combination of GPS location, accelerometer, and time-of-day, it helps pick tunes you like to listen to based on your context and listening history. Strong accelerometer activity and GPS indicating that you’re at the park? Time for some high energy tunes for your morning run! This was an in-depth hack with a lot of technical complexity, a great job by the UCSD team.

The other great hacks

Dispatch by Sam Liu, Karan Parikh

This hack transforms news and blog content into a rich media experience. It reads content juxtaposed with relevant images - images may suggest products or services to users as a form of immersive advertising.

NeoTouch by Daniel Filho, Fabio Dan Dias Cardoso, Irae Carvalho

This hack by the winner of our Brazil Open Hack ( shows web content across many devices in an easy, cheap and effective way, using YQL and TreesaverJS (open-source HTML5 & JavaScript framework).

It creates a magazine-like experience for any content on the web that you point it at.

yFoodie by Shauvik Roy, Choudhary, Sahil Miglani, and Utkarsh Shrivastava

This hack tackles the restaurant experience by providing a mobile application that takes the user from finding a restaurant to the dining experience. User’s can get information on ingredients, watch videos of how it is cooked, rate individual dishes, and share the experience on social networks. This hack also included an interface for restaurants to build this data, take orders, and communicate directly with customers.

Thema by Alexandru Badiu

This hack by the winner of Open Hack Europe 2011 is a collaborative writing environment that uses the full screen to enhance creativity. Built on node.js, it also uses YQL and Zemanta to grab contextual information to make the article more informative.

Video Content Analyzer by Saurav Kumar

This ambitious hack grabs the important events within a video via a series of tests. It uses two forms of facial recognition to pull out the sections of the video with faces. It then randomly grabs frames and analyzes for text via OCR, and it analyzes the audio tracks for important loudness moments. All of these are displayed to the user as alternative navigation elements for a video. The user can click on a thumbnail or section of the audio chart to fast-forward to an interesting section of the video. This was a major undertaking for a single hacker in 24 hours.

Web Overlay by David Truong, David Nufer, and Alex Leone

This hack is a browser plugin which, with a quick keystroke, brings up an overlay on your page no matter what site you’re viewing. As well as providing quick access to user-customized news and information, it also displays and links to information specifically relevant to the page you’re currently viewing.

Team S.S.D.D with their mentor

S.S.D.D by Niranjan B Prithviraj, and Rengarajan Venkatachari

  • Fact #1 Todo lists are boring.
  • Fact #2 Todo lists don't help you get things done.

S.S.D.D is a smart "todone-er" which helps you with suggestions in getting things done.

Being in NYC, this "todone-er" is tailored towards getting clothes shopping done efficiently and quickly.

The app uses your facebook login, to identify the clothing brands that you "Like". Based on these, the app provides focused, relevant information on the deals on those brands.

The application also has an advertising engine, which is monetized to provide "Sponsored Links". These ads are more focused than web search ads as it targets your clothing purchase needs at the right time.

The app provides recommendations on related clothing/accessories to help you to create a complete "todone-er" without missing things out.

Spotlight by Sridhar Bommaiah

SpotLight brings focus to "content on the streets" (the long tail of content), something that exists but is often difficult to find through browser based search. Users of Spotlight generate and share localized content.

It has the concept of "Top 3" ranks for items in any category at a given location. Users can create new categories for their locality. SpotLights of all users are aggregated to determine the “Top 3” in each category at each location. For example, a user who is new to a locality can use SpotLights to find the Top Doctor’s Clinics in that area.

Skymr by Drew Bratcher and John Marshall

A content aggregator that allows the user to browse the most important news and media items in their social circles.

Crowd-o-meter by Avishay Livne

Instant analysis of crowd reaction. This is a Chrome extension for rating websites and identifying emerging topics - both globally and within the social neighborhood.

Summing Up

So many great hacks; only one prize. The judges had a really tough time choosing the winner. A big thanks to all the hack teams who participated, and a final well done to Arjuna, Amos, Chong, and Ethan for creating Ruum!. You boys did an amazing job!

Now, we're off to search the world for the 2012 Open Hack All Stars finalists!