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Lorenzo Masini

Fiware Hackathon Italy, we (almost) won again!

A new victory and a prize as best developers! This all happened last week at the IMPACT hackathon, a #fiware promotional event, the European answer to the technological monopoly from across the ocean. We came in second again; we’ll win the next one, because a pig that doesn’t fly, is just a pig (cit. Porco Rosso).

What is Fiware?

FIWARE is an international consortium with the goal of developing a European alternative to the American cloud infrastructure, a sector in which Amazon dominates over everyone else.

The FIWARE platform provides a rather simple yet powerful set of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that ease the development of Smart Applications in multiple vertical sectors.

The Fiware initiative is based on some cornerstones, aimed at promoting the technology among developers: Fiware Lab, Fiware Ops, Fiware Accelerate, Fiware Mundus.

The hackathon

IMPACT is an accelerator, operating at the European level, which is investing 2.5 million Euros into the startup, based on Fiware technology. The technology and infrastructure are promoted among the various professionals (developers, designers, and entrepreneurs) through the Hackathon in different countries.

After the event in Madrid, this past September, the 10th and 11th of April 2015 was Florence’s turn. The event began with a hearty breakfast laid out by the organization, where you could get to know the other competitors and ease the tension a little bit.

After the announcement of the day’s program and a brief introduction to the technology, during lunch we formed the teams, including ours! It bowled me over that some teams formed spontaneously of people with differing professional skills, without knowing each other beforehand. The atmosphere that accompanied the whole event was very relaxed, despite the quite substantial prizes.

I want to emphasize that side of things, because I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting such an experience from an initiative that’s considered to be very ‘business orientated’, which is a sign that even the biggest organizations are realizing the potential that young people, aficionados, and nerds have to offer.

Our team held amongst its ranks (besides myself and Francesco Disperati of ‘LeanPanda’), my old captain Giovanni Bajo from ‘Develer’ and Elise Cicognani, a very young web designer that we met that morning.

With the presentations over, we were accompanied to the open space at Buongiorno (the company that hosted the event) where we were able to begin developing our ideas for the remaining 18 hours.

How we won with Art!Quest

It all began with a quick brief during which we decided to develop a suggestion of the newly arrived Elisa: thanks to her background in art studies, she came up with the idea of a mobile application aimed at promoting tourism in Florence (and potentially everywhere) by means of a game.

The Art!Quest application is a trivia type game; it presents a series of artistic and cultural questions, with 3 difficulty levels. To answer the riddle, you have to find the answer by physically going to the monument or the work which you think is the correct solution, within a certain amount of time. Upon submitting the answer, the geolocation will indicate whether it was right or not.

As for the technical choices, we decided to use:

  • FIWARE platform for the whole system
  • the rich Open Data collection of the city of Florence for information about * the monuments
  • the GIN web framework for Go for the development of the server side
  • the Facebook Javascript React framework for development of the client side of * things

I’m happy with how we divided the roles: we managed to be productive, working independently while maintaining an optimal level of communication on integration aspects.

Throughout the whole event, the organization pampered us with various types of snacks and drinks. You know, the brain consumes! At some stage during the night, a truly fun atmosphere had formed, with super nerdy jokes, jibes at the other teams, music blaring at maximum volume, and laughter. :D

The day of truth arrived with the sunrise on Saturday: each project had to be presented to be evaluated on three relevant aspects: design, technical characteristics, and business plan. Each team presented their project in front of the commission, trying to emphasize any distinguishing characteristics.

Our first feeling of satisfaction came when Francesco and I were awarded the prize for best developers based on our technical choices, execution, and the quality of the product code.

A little later, when the fatigue had really set in and the whole room pulsated to know the results, the top 3 projects were announced. To be called out in second place truly felt like an achievement and was an unexpected surprise; our efforts paid off!

The whole team was: Giovanni Bajo, Francesco Disperati, Elise Cicognani, Lorenzo Masini.

But this had been an encore!

This was not our only victory! A few months ago, again with Francesco and our colleagues from ‘LeanPanda’, we participated in ‘Rails Rumble’, an international contest in which 600 companies participated, all specializing in Ruby and Ruby on Rails.

In the Rumble, the effort required is greater; 48 hours with (almost) no sleep, writing code and organizing ourselves with four other people, it was really tiring!

Here as well, the satisfaction of coming in second paid our efforts off handsomely. The HiGuys! application is still being used by teams located in various parts of the world, working remotely, who like the idea of being able to ‘see’ each other.

Knowing that an application is permanently online - despite having been created in just two days - and is being used by 3,000 people each month, really makes us want to participate in a new contest as soon as possible...but this time, to come in first place! :)