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Yahoo India hosts mashup event

Two hundred developers converged on the online portal's Indian headquarters to create mashups based around Flickr and other applications
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1 of 13 Adrian Bridgwater/ZDNET

Bangalore, India was the venue for Yahoo's first Open Hack Day in Asia. Two hundred developers were invited to a non-stop, 24-hour hacking competition designed to create new mashups based on Yahoo's APIs, and supporting diversified services such as social media, video, Flickr imaging and local news.

Designed to champion local talent and showcase Indian technical entrepreneurialism, the event was heavily over-subscribed by developers keen to take part.

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A seemingly endless supply of coffee, water, doughnuts and technical advice was on hand throughout the night.

Starting at 4pm local time, developers were tasked with working straight through without sleep and then giving a 90-second presentation to the crowd and judging panel, which included Yahoo co-founder David Filo.

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The attendees, most not long out of college, starting producing interesting mashups including a web-aware word processor that suggests live links for insertion into a document as a user types. Based upon a contextual understanding of what a person might be talking about as they write, the application was designed to bring Web 2.0 relevance to word processing.

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Developers were encouraged to plan their hacks in the most professional way possible, and use the opportunity for pre-planning and discussion groups before starting the process. Most teams were composed of two to four members, but there were also a few lone mavericks taking the challenge.

Several attendees said that they had previously been unaware that the Yahoo APIs were open to them, but lost no time in dreaming up new ways to work with them.

The judges awarded winners within categories developed in response to what was produced on the day.

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Indian developers showed a good understanding of framework, functionality and form, according to Yahoo — similar hack days in the West have seen attendees initially more focused on user-interfaces and presentation.

The event also saw developers work at the hardware level by bringing in external extensions such as video cameras.

The winner of the Most Parallel hack, called Collaborative Browsing, was an application using a plug-in for Mozilla , Greasemonkey and JavaScript to allow two or more users to surf websites in parallel.

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The long night of code crunching threw up a mélange of new ideas, including a search-based desktop theme driver, designed to change a user's desktop picture based on current popular searches.

Desktop Wallpaper Love was a Windows application that created a desktop wallpaper from images collected from Flickr and filtered through the Yahoo Buzz feeds.

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Among the entries was a neurology-based hack designed to allow doctors to collaboratively communicate and discuss MRI scans.

Doctors in different locations may have differing levels of expertise and will need the advice of another. This idea utilises the Konfabulator widget from Yahoo — designed to manage look and feel for application presentation.

This mashup allows for collaborative annotation of large sets of images (for example, architectural blueprints) without either user having to download the whole set of photos.

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Most developers kept going all night with just an hour of sleep or none at all.

Social networking was very much the theme of the day and featured in a large number of the hacks put forward by the entrants. Many of the hacks followed the aggregation and collaboration concepts that form the basis of Yahoo's own technology proposition.

The Most Viral hack, called Facebook Friend Folio, allows a user to see all their friends, their photos (on Facebook and Flickr), their geographic location on a map, their horoscope and their favourite movies in one single interface, instead of having to click through each Facebook profile.

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Caffeine, the developer's friend, was in plentiful suppply; however, the affects of a Red Bull breakfast were too much for some.

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Bangalore is the fastest-growing economic market in India and the third-largest hub for high net worth individuals after Mumbai and Delhi.

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Seemingly undaunted by the crowd, bright lights, video cameras and a complete lack of public presentation experience, the developers grabbed their chance for fame and rattled off presentations with gusto.

With a 90-second digital clock ticking down at their side, several managed to close up bang on time, while a friendly but firm adjudicator was on hand if they tried to steal a few extra seconds.

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Taking the prize for best in show was an implementation of Yahoo Maps, with an interface that allows a user to doodle on maps or highlight a way to walk to a certain destination. Movements are recorded as the user draws, and can be sent to another person as a URL for replay later on.

In a developing country such as India, this interactivity is especially useful, as not all roads are labelled with names.

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Tired but happy, developers packed up their laptops and headed for the first motorised "Tuk-Tuk" rickshaw home.

The organisers "no-one is a loser" approach to the competition should help drive attendance at next year's event.

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