New York Times Hack Day 2012

I’ve been looking for an excuse to do business in the The New York Times HQ on 8th Avenue in Manhattan for some time. With the TimesOpen Hack Day yesterday, I finally had a reason to enter the paper of record’s skyscraper and, who knows, perhaps gain a glimpse of David Pogue and other Times tech journalists. David wasn’t at this hack event, but I did meet and talk to a few hackers who were spending the afternoon coding for modest prizes and, even better, a writeup in the Times Open Blog.

It was enough of an incentive to get coders all the way from Connecticut and even a few employed at rival newspapers to gather on the 15th floor of 620 8th Avenue. With Times greats staring down from various plaques, I could have sworn I saw Russell Baker’s eyebrow arch amidst the chatter about Echo Nest and CartoDB APIs.

HackDay teams were free to work with any interfaces they fancied, but advisers from Spotify, Vizuallity, Tumblr, The New York Times, Google, as well as Echo Nest, were there to provide support and tech advice. In my brief chats with a few developers, there seemed to be an inordinate interest in analyzing content for music references–using Echo Nest or some other music-savvy API. One Googler I spoke to was experimenting with Phillips Hue, the new IOS-controlled LED lighting system, using a set of non-public APIs he managed to wangle.

Perhaps more in the spirit of a Times hack event, a journo-developer I managed to find was working on a research tool to help writers monitor relevant content from social media streams. Actually, that’s a kind of helpful automatic aide I’ve been searching for ever since I gave up on Zemanta.

I left before this long day was officially over, and turned my back one last time as I headed for the elevators to see coders still very focused on their MacBooks. Winners were announced late last night, and they should be posted on the Open Blog next week.

Update: Summary of the winning hacks can be found at Jorene’s blog.

(More pics on our Facebook page.)

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