Jun 28, 2012

A Silicon Valley rite of passage

There is a rite of passage in Silicon Valley.  And it's called hackathon.  If you're new to town, you should experience it.  A few days ago, I wrote about why you should go to a hackathon.  It is a great way to learn by doing, possibly do something good, and maybe even win prizes.  And it's fun!

I wanted to share a quick entry about upcoming opportunities for you to dive in and see for yourself.  Registration is free!

July 11 - 14 Yahoo! Intern Open Hack,
July 13 - 15 AT&T Mobile App Hackathon: San Fran, @atthackathon
July 21 - 21 Code for Oakland 2012: Building our Civic Web
July 21 - 22 SF Gigabit Hack Days, what would you build if you had city-wide 1gbps networks?
July 28 - 29 Hack for Change 2012, San Fran - to bring designers and builders together

Notice that I found all of these listed in Eventbrite.  It's a local startup.  Learn to fish - check them out @eventbrite and look for events that you like.  You can also try meetup.com.  And have fun.  Life is a journey.  And think big.  You might surprise yourself.

Watch this wonderful talk about what hackers do by Pablos Holman at TED. Amazing stuff!  See?  It's a chance for you to do something cool, and further:

a) it is an opportunity for you to get noticed and possibly find yourself with a new job.
b) you can actually win prizes.  That is if you're good.  How good are you?

Further, in my prior entry about why you need to go to a hackathon, I listed a few more reasons:

1. You learn cool stuff from exposure to new ideas.
2. You grow by stretching yourself in new skills.
3. You connect with lot of bright and neat people.
4. There's something about the vibe that you have to feel.
5. Free food!

A beautiful (and happy!) breakfast plate from a recent hackathon
6. Free stuff!

Happy hacking!  Keep innovating!

* An update - more insights about life and winning from a recent event.

If you enjoyed this post, tag along for future posts on twitter @findinbay.

Jun 27, 2012

Why you need to go to a hackathon today!

Last weekend, I was hungry.  So, I went to a hackathon.  And I realized, you need to sign up for a hackathon today. What's a hackathon?  And, why should you go?

First, let me set the scene.  If you're like everyone and their grandma in the Silicon Valley, then either you're a co-founder or dreaming about building the next Facebook, Twitter, or that fancy-app-that-lets-you-share-kittie-pictures-and-get-discounts-at-your-local-cafe.  But, if you're not quite Mark Zuckerberg (yet), or don't have a comp. sci. degree from Stanford, perhaps you need to spend some time learning, building, and honing your skills.  What to do?  Go to a hackathon!

A hackathon is a gathering (a day, or a weekend, etc.) where folks come together to "hack" or "build" something together.  I recently attended one called  #News Hack Day SF  that brought hackers and journalists together.  The goal was to build tools that would enhance journalism.  This is what hackers do.  They take some existing tools at disposal to manipulate existing systems to make it better (or easier, or more profitable, or whatever you want the system to do).  In short, hackers leverage tools to innovate and improve.  Here's a picture from the event.

This is me at a recent hackathon
You'll find curious minds, great vibes, and get your own brain cells firing.  Here's what I got out of it (and more importantly, what you can get out of it.)

1. You learn cool stuff.  I learned about tools like scraper wiki and soundcloud.  Sure you might find these using google, but how would you have known what to search for?

2. You grow.  You join others who want to build.  And you might surprise yourself and build something cool.  Check out this front-end I mocked-up for Paul Osmon from soundcloud.com.

3. The people.  You encounter cool hackers and curious minds who can help you learn.  For example, I enjoyed a presentation by a designer named Sha, who talked about "visceralization."

4. The energy.  There's something about the buzz in the air, of curious minds coming together to build something.  It's inspiring and you should experience it!

5. Freeeeee food!  Check out my instagram pic of a bad-as$ breakfast.  Free!  Hungry for a hackathon?

6. And free stuff.  For example, check out this cool T-shirt from a recent  @testthewebfwd session.

Look at this beauty from a hack event.  Want one? 
If nothing else, you can chill at a cool space.  Our hackathon was in a cool shared space called Hub SOMA.  Check out the awesome yellow leaf hammock in action by my friend Joe.

Cool dudes hanging out at cool hackathon
So, how much does it cost?  How do you sign-up?  Stay tuned for another post where I share some great tips to get you going.

Jun 26, 2012

When all else fails, run! [insert your name here]! Run!

The other day, I was feeling stuck.  Stuck on trying to solve a CSS display issue.  Stuck on trying to come up with a new business idea with a friend.  Stuck on making a progress in my learning.  Feeling stuck about what to do next today.  Feeling stuck in life.

And I tried to take a deep breath.  It didn't work.  And I tried to get up and pace around a bit.  It didn't work.  And I brewed some coffee (Starbucks) for a caffeine injection.  It didn't work.  So, what do I do when all else fails?  Run!  Literally.

Picture of a friend running the Blue Ridge Relay
Running takes my body and my mind away from the problem at hand, and helps me get unstuck from the space and problem in which I'm immersed.  Sure, I am tempted to stick it out.  Sure, running can feel like running away.  But, sitting in front of the computer screen for another hour wasn't going to produce anything useful.  Instead, running for an hour had all sorts of benefits.  [For a more authoritative list, I dug up this article from a running magazine: Why running is good for your body.]

As for me, here's what I got:
1. Pulverized calories and felt great from sweating them off.
2. As the muscles burned, I got a jolt of awesome hormones, like endorphin and dopamine.
3. More importantly, running freed my mind from what was bugging me. I felt grateful that I could run.
4. I am grateful to feel the breeze on my face.  I am grateful to see birds and trees.  I am grateful to breathe!
5. I thought about life beyond the computer screen. While I get stuck from time to time, life is more than staring at a screen.  Life is more than making a buck.  Life is more than getting ahead.
6. I felt grateful to be alive.  Sometimes, I feel frustrated that I'm not this or that, that I don't make this or that, that I'm not more, more, more.  But, hey!  Life is still pretty damn sweet.

And when I came back home, I was happy.  And I couldn't remember what was bugging me so much.  Life goes on.  Life is good.

If you are looking for other ideas on how to get out of a rut, checkout my post about going to hackathons here.