Photo Hack Day Japan

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I took part in a hackathon last weekend – the very first Photo Hack Day Japan! I heard about it via the Tokyo Android Meetup group and thought it would be fun to try and build something new and meet some more developers, particularly Japanese-speaking ones.

The event was spread over Saturday and Sunday (with a pre-party on Friday), culminating in presentations/demos and a prize ceremony. It was held at the Mixi HQ in Shibuya. The general idea was to make something interesting using the APIs of the companies sponsoring the event. We had about 24 hours.

Photo Hack Day Japan!

Photo Hack Day Japan!

I teamed up with Ben Watanabe, a designer and entrepreneur who I had met once before via the meetup group. He had recently founded his own company, TenTen, and was somewhat experienced with hackathons. We created an app called ‘Before The Filter’ – an app to teach users about the fundamentals of photography. It explained several principles in photography (including Rule of Thirds, Vanishing Point) using text and images, as well as an overlay over the camera view to help users line up their target correctly with respect to the particular principle.

It was great to work with such a talented designer. As a developer, I find the programming-side of building a mobile app straightforward. If you have solved a similar problem before (which naturally becomes increasingly common), you are largely constrained only by how fast you can type. It is often easy to come up with a measurable way of evaluating your system, and you can continue to hammer away until those conditions are met. On the other hand, deciding what to build, what kind of user experience the app should have, those are the kinds of things that are, to me, much more challenging to deal with.

The hackathon was pretty much this. For a whole weekend.

The hackathon was pretty much this. For a whole weekend.

With the demos scheduled for 1.30pm on Sunday, we submitted the app to Google Play at 11.30am and hoped it would go live on time (it did!). Ben gave a very strong presentation and we received many comments afterwards from people who were surprised at how ‘complete’ the app was. We took the prize for the best use of the Aviary API (the only API we integrated with!), as well as the prize for the second best overall hack. This totalled ¥300,000 in prize money! Our story made it onto The Bridge.

Picture of us taking a Frontback picture.

Picture of us taking a Frontback picture.

Before The Filter can be downloaded from Google Play here. Ben and I are planning on continuing development of the app in the future – watch this space for more to come!

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