Hackers to descend upon Outside Lands music fest

By Carmel DeAmicis , written on July 29, 2013

From The News Desk

Hackers will infiltrate the Outside Lands music festival happening at Golden Gate Park in a few weeks. If you're attending, keep an eye out for guys or gals typing furiously away on their laptops or holding their phones high above their heads in search of a strong WiFi connection. Don't be surprised if you're standing in line and someone taps your shoulder and asks you to test out their app. This is the official first year of "Outside Hacks," where programmers will code inside festival grounds, working on websites or mobile apps that benefit Outside Lands attendees.

Outside Hacks is a followup event to Hackeroo -- the hackathon that happened inside the Bonnaroo music festival earlier this year. Hackers will go head to head in a 24 hour competition happening August 3-4, the week before Outside Lands. The winning teams will get VIP tickets to the festival, where they'll hack and hone their websites/apps from within the fest.

The "in-the-fest" beta test is what sets Outside Hacks apart from other hackathons, where products sometimes never see the light of day. At Outside Hacks, the winners will continue coding, tweaking, and testing their initial designs while the apps are being used by attendees all around them. They'll rely on festival goers' feedback to fix things and make their app harder/better/faster/stronger. Daft Punk would be proud.

Event organizer, New Orleans based coding group CODEMKRS, hopes that Outside Hacks will give hackers the chance to "bring their apps to life in a real world scenario teeming with diehard music fans."

So what does a festival app look like? There's a lot of possibilities. At Hackeroo, one of the winning teams developed an app called RooRunner, which acted like a TaskRabbit for festival-goers. Attendees could submit task requests into the app from their phones, like "I want a burger and water brought to me at a certain sound stage." The other app was named RooWall, and it combined all the pictures, video, tweets, and other social interactions that festival goers were posting into one visual wall.

These two teams developed these ideas at the initial competition the week before. When they won, they worked on their products from a tent inside Bonnaroo to make them better. The creator of RooRunner wandered the festival, telling attendees about RooRunner and asking them to test it out. Then, when attendees submitted requests the hacker would run the task. Doing so, he learned what worked and what didn't work about the app, and would have to fix code to deal with problems like bad cell connection at the festival.

Such "in-the-fest" tests are the brainchildren of Travis Laurendine, the founder of New Orleans based group CODEMKRS. CODEMKRS staged similar hacks at the New Orleans Superbowl and the New Orleans Jazz and Music Festival, before bringing the event to Nashville's Bonnaroo.

Laurendine is excited that the Outside Hacks follow-up is happening in Silicon Valley. "In Nashville, we can't say that after you win the Hackathon we're going to take you inside Facebook or inside Google," Laurendine said. "This is us scaling and going to the next level."

Outside Hacks prizes include a visit to the Googleplex for a mysterious "music experience." The developers who create the best app for Facebook's API will go to Facebook headquarters to discuss developing their app further.

Keep an eye out for our future Outside Hacks coverage. We'll be writing about the upcoming hackathon this weekend (Sarah Lacy is one of the judges), as well as the winners' festival hacking experience at Outside Lands.