OkMercury, a software program that matches up conference attendees (for business purposes!) based on the algorithm used by the OkCupid online dating service took home first prize at #HackMPI, a 48-hour hackathon to create meetings-related technology tools.
Kyle Hillman, CMP, MPITechCon manager and
chair, welcomes the software developers to the 48-hour event.
The Chicago Area Chapter of Meeting Professionals International organized the event in conjunction with its third annual MPI TechCon, a one-day meetings technology conference.
Fifty-eight software developers and designers, working in eight teams, began the code-writing marathon at 6 p.m. Friday, February 15, and six teams (and about half the developers) made it to the finish line on Sunday evening with working products.
The designers then pitched their software to a panel of judges—six people from the developer community and two meetings industry experts: Kevin Hinton, executive vice president, Associated Luxury Hotels International, and chairman of MPI’s International Board, and Char Shada, CMP, strategic account manager with Experient and past president of the MPI Chicago Area Chapter.
In addition to the matchmaking software, the teams presented:
• a touch-screen game forbooths that allows suppliers to gather e-mail information and attendees to win prizes
• a tool that helps planners communicate with the back of the house, using a voice-to-text service that can translate the message into another language.
• an app that lets you see the business cards of people who are sharing the same Wi-Fi Internet connection
The scene at the 48-hour #HackMPI event
• a virtual raffle-ticket solution
• a program that collects an attendee’s virtual business card information if he or she is standing near you for a certain, predetermined amount of time, say, two minutes.
The hackathon was the brainchild of the Kyle Hillman, CMP, MPITechCon manager and chair, and corporate events manager at the National Association of Social Workers. Hillman hopes the event will inspire meeting professionals and the developer community to get creative about meetings–specific software. “Far too often, meeting technologies are forced on us,” Hillman says. “Software will be created for something else, and we say, ‘oh, we can apply that to our industry’ rather than going to the development community and saying ‘here’s where our real problems are and we need a solution.’
“The MPI Foundation spends $5 million on research every year, but we spend nothing encouraging development from that research. It’s a piece that we’re missing,” he continues. “The hackathon was a way to try to educate some developers on what the needs are in the meetings industry and, vice versa, to educate the meetings industry that there’s this whole ecosystem of young engineers who are looking to create products, looking for new industries.”
Software developer Cedric Hurst, one half of the winning hackathon team
The winning developers, Cedric Hurst and Gary Turovsky, software engineers at Spantree Technology Group LLC in Chicago, won $1,000 from eTouches, a three-night hotel stay in Las Vegas courtesy of Caesar's Entertainment, a happy-hour party for 25 people at Fado Irish Pub Chicago, a $2,000 credit toward hosting services at Rackspace, and a one-year Silver plan at GitHub (a service allowing developers to share code).
The second-place reward went to Prash Sabharwal for Swagger, the touch-screen lead-retrieval game. Sabharwal, who earned a scaled-down version of the prize package, writes software as a hobby, but works in the events industry fulltime. He’s the community marketing specialist for Shop Class, a division of Ravenswood Events in Chicago. According to Hillman, Sabharwal “plans to continue to work on his software after getting feedback from industry professionals, and we
might see it enter the market in the next three to six months.”
The second-place finisher was Prash Sabharwal, community marketing specialist for Shop Class, a division of Ravenswood Events in Chicago.
All the developers were invited to MPI TechCon February 18, where the 300 attendees could hear about their products and vote for their favorite. The winner from the TechCon attendee perspective: the app for communicating with the back of the house.