Hakathon (written by Patrick Mugazambi from ShopNow)

South Africa Summer 2013 Blog

Written by: Elli Suzuki

July 9, 2013

The term “Hackathon” itself was unfamiliar to me until less than 24 hours before the event. At first I was not very enthusiastic about pulling an all nighter as I had done so in the past and had realised they are not worth it; mainly because my efficiency deteriorates rapidly as the hours pile up. However, despite this, I decided to soak up the enthusiasm that was flowing all around as it was a new experience to many of us.

My experience during the Hackathon was akin to that of jumping off an ocean liner into ice cold churning waters with no knowledge of particular swimming stroke. This was because I was not familiar with either the Android platform or the Google maps API. With such little experience in both, I was not sure where to begin and it seemed like I was the only one using Google Maps.

My team, ShopNow, set some very ambitious goals for the Hackathon. Our objectives were to have end-to-end communication working by the end of the Hackathon. With very clear and well defined roles, we set out to work. We had barely set sail when we were halted by a wave of pizza and cake since it was Mustafa’s birthday. It turned out that more waves of pizza would “hamper” our progress as there were several deliveries (I lost count). A pleasant variation to the pizza was bunny chow which added a pleasant divergence (thanks to Dipika and her family). As with all voyages, singing and celebrating (it was Mustafa and Nkululeko’s birthday) did help to break the grimness of the task at hand.

On a personal level, I spent the better part of the Hackathon being tossed back and forth in the ocean. I did get valuable assistance from the mentors, especially Tibo and his cousin, who were present most of the night.  But it felt as though I would gain ten yards before a tidal wave swept me backwards. I lost many hours downloading missing files which also took hours of their own for me to realise they were required. I only attained my goal of getting the map working on the phone an hour before the end of the Hackathon. Thanks to Max, a mentor who came in late in the afternoon. Overall we managed to get end-to-end communication running but there are still some facets of both the back end and front end that need to be attended to before the prototype can  be up and running. Thank you to all the mentors, I think we can all testify that they were very helpful in different areas.

Although the Hackathon was more of Mustafa’s show, it was really great and inspiring to see the ladies (Elli and Mahlet) who stayed up (for as long as possible of course) with us for as long as they did. It gave some sense of encouragement and also more reason to work hard since such personal sacrifices were being made for us. Thank you AITI team. J All in all, it was a fun experience but something I wouldn’t consider doing again in the foreseeable future. A big thank you to everyone who made it a success!