Microsoft Facebook Hackathon: Recap

This post was authored by Sanjeev Dwivedi, Technical Evangelist here at Microsoft. — Adam

If you missed the recent Microsoft Facebook Hackathon, you missed a great event, but don’t worry – we’ve got all the details for you here. The Hackathon took place January 17-18 at the Facebook Headquarters in Menlo Park. More than 75 attendees, including entrepreneurs, hobbyists, and students learned how to integrate the Facebook Login into their Windows and Windows Phone apps. Facebook Login, released for Windows and Windows Phone apps in 2013, allows developers to integrate Facebook-related social scenarios into their apps. At the Hackathon, developers not only learned about Facebook Login but also received guidance and real-time support to get Facebook Login working in their apps on the spot.

Attendees’ range of experience was perfect for this event: we were able to initiate newcomers into building Windows and Windows Phone apps with Facebook Login while at the same time work with seasoned hobbyists and entrepreneurs on deep integration scenarios leveraging the Facebook Login among other social scenarios to maximize ROI.

In order to participate in the Hackathon, developers formed teams of up to three individuals and chose any topic of mutual interest. Developers new to building for the Windows platforms were pleasantly surprised to see that group size did not necessarily correlate to app quality. Instead, they saw that the quality of developer tools for Windows and Windows Phone apps allow just about any developer to build a top-notch app with relatively little effort.

We advised developers building C#-based Windows apps to use the Open Source SDK by OuterCurve Foundation to integrate with Facebook. That SDK is maintained with Microsoft sponsorship, and you can find it here: http://facebooksdk.net. At the beginning of the Hackathon, we showcased this SDK and encouraged participants to use it to shorten their development time. Nearly every developer who built a C#/XAML-based app ended up using the SDK. Their feedback? The SDK significantly eased their Facebook integration efforts. If you plan to add Facebook integration to your app, use this SDK. Another option to simplify your Facebook Login integration efforts is the recently-released Parse SDK.

At the end of the Hackathon, fifteen teams presented their apps, showcasing the use scenarios as well as discussing additional features and their go-to-market strategies. App quality was uniformly high, but we’ve chosen to share the top five winning teams’ ideas here:

  1. Team Aslar: Ask questions and receive answers from your Facebook network anonymously. The team presented a dating scenario in which users are able to ask their friends / network a potentially embarassing question. (3 person team).
  2.  Team PartyHost: Organize a party by automatically searching through your friend list, aggregating their ‘likes’ to find the common tastes in the group. Finally, consolidate all this information and create a Nokia music playlist based on their ‘preferences’ and interface with Nokia music APIs to actually play the music. (1 person team).
  3.  Team CipherChat: Use the Off the Record chat protocol to chat with each other without anyone being able to intercept. This team faced the challenge of porting an Open Source OTR library to Windows Phone since there were no OTR libraries available on the platform. They will release their changes as open source. (3 person team).
  4.  Team Event organizer: Use the Facebook event API to pick events from Eventbrite and post them as events on Facebook. This app interfaces with various event providers and unifies them so that you can use Facebook as the sole platform for managing your next event. (1 person team).
  5. Team POM.IO: This app promotes the use of Pomodoro Technique and applies it in a unique way to social interaction on Facebook. It allows you to set timers so that you can indicate to your friends that you are working and that you will be available briefly when the timer expires. Let your friends know how long they will need to hold on before they can get a response or before they initiate a connection. (3 person team).

The teams were excited to find that in just 20 hours, they could take an idea and create a fully-functional app. We look forward to seeing these apps in the Windows Phone Store fairly soon and whole-heartedly recommend that you use the Facebook SDK for .NET or the Parse SDK to simplify your Facebook Login integration efforts and get your app to the Store quickly.

We hope to see you at our next Hackathon!