NYU Tech

Gifs, Memes, and Accidental Porn: A Visit to HackNY’s Fall Hackathon

Settlers of Catan references and surprise smut.
domdemo Gifs, Memes, and Accidental Porn: A Visit to HackNYs Fall Hackathon

Dom’s Demo

This weekend, students from all over the east coast descended on NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences to participate in hackNY’s fall student hackathon.  HackNY is an intercollegiate organization designed to keep the tech talent off Wall Street and interested in startups. The students spent 24 coding in order to impress judges like former TechStars NY managing director David Tisch and Chris Poole, aka Moot.

A large number of the hacks presented used Tumblr’s API, including one smut-filled surprise. Naturally, three of the projects also incorporated GIFs.

The most impressive showing of the day was definitely Dom, a video game “on top of the Internet.” The game turns the layout of any website into a 3D landscape where players have to shoot away oncoming robots. Their fully-functional demo drew actual gasps from the crowd as 3D characters climbed all over Vimeo’s homepage to destroy some bad guys. The game also uses Tumblr’s API to alternate between changing background images of outer space. Dom won first place and a cash prize of $1,001 to split between the team’s five members.

Another hack presented this weekend was Pulp, a cross between Mad Libs and the game telephone, where users add three words to a story at a time and corresponding popular “related images” pop up via Tumblr’s API. The team’s demo hit a major snag when the word “naughty” was used and a picture of a girl fingering herself filled the screen. The crowd went wild and made jokes about this throughout the rest of the demos. A text to meme service called Cap’n Meme spoofed this later on by creating a Bad Luck Brian that said “demos hackathon, shows porn.”

A couple of Princeton guys created Memepath, something that resembled a Jonah Peretti fantasy. Using the bit.ly API, their site tries to pinpoint the exact moment something becomes a meme. They used the example of “Gangnam Style” to show that Katy Perry’s August 21st tweet was the moment that the video turned into a worldwide sensation. Although the science here isn’t completely correct, not everything passes through bit.ly, it’s a good start.

When asked if it had a more practical use, creator Santhosh Balasubramanian said that it could be used to analyze serious things. The team tried to analyze the Kony 2012 video but there wasn’t enough data to go around. They also aspire to add a geo-grouping element to it, to figure out which country helps the meme machine hit its tipping point.

Lisa Li and Daria Jung from Columbia created the simply designed Have My Babies, or HMB for short. You search for a celebrity and you’re instantly able see how many tweets there are asking said celeb to have the tweeter’s babies. The number of tweets is represented by a corresponding number of wiggling sperm cells naturally. “It was started from an offhand comment about Justin Bieber,” Ms. Li said. “It’s just meant to be funny.”

A team from Rutgers built Settlers of Silicon Alley, a web app of Settlers of Catan themed to the New York tech scene. In the game, developers represeted the original game’s wood and designers filled in for wheat. This got a few chuckles from the crowd and it seemed like everyone wanted to play.

Henry Clifford, a student from the United Kingdom interning at content sharing network Spling this semester, was the last presenter of the day. He created Gifs With Captions, which ranks the popularity of posts from single-serving Tumblr sites like What Should We Call Me. The Internet-obsessed crowd clearly found Mr. Clifford’s idea appealing. The admiration went both ways. He praised the event and told Betabeat that all of the ambassadors, employees from some of New York’s tech companies that stay overnight and advise the students, were “brilliant.”

Kartik Mandaville, Himanshu Pandey, and Bryan Wade created Charfit, a practical hack with real-world potential. It allows you to track fitness participation through Foursquare check-ins. If you don’t keep up with your regimen, the app uses the Venmo API to donate money to your favorite charity, then Twilio bugs you about going back to the gym and to notifies you about your donation. For the final humiliation, it publicly shames you by auto-posting a message to your Tumblr about your lack of dedication to your health. Public shaming for fitness is a campaign that we can see Mayor Bloomberg getting behind–as soon as he learns to code at least.