Outside Hacks wraps up, with one app becoming an official part of the festival

By Carmel DeAmicis , written on August 12, 2013

From The News Desk

In one corner of the Outside Lands festival this past weekend, a woman with short hair and a a hipster-hybrid between a bowler and a porkpie hat stood on a small carnival stage. She held a phone in one hand and a megaphone in the other, and a crowd gathered around her. She began shouting trivia questions, "Paul McCartney originally used the song title 'Scrambled Eggs' but wisely changed it to 'Yesterday.' True or false?" The audience split in half, one side hollering, 'False!' and the other yelling 'True!'

The presenter, Jules Logan, turned to the side yelling false and said, "Nope dumbass! It's true!"

What appeared to be a random sideshow to festival-goers was actually part of Outside Hacks, the Outside Lands music festival's first ever hackathon. The two winning teams -- trivia game Nope Dumbass and lost and found site Outside Pants -- got tickets to test their apps out on attendees at the festival this past weekend.

Nope Dumbass set up their laptops in the VIP tent, and its creator Jules Logan went hunting through the crowd to spread the word about the trivia game. "The hardest part has been getting people to test it," Logan says. Her sideshow stunt was an effort to try to get more people to download the app and give feedback. She generated a handful of ideas to implement -- like favoriting trivia questions for easy access later on -- and Logan says she plans to reach out to other festivals to see if they'd be interested in rolling out the game app in the future.

The other team, Outside Pants, didn't get to test their site at the festival at all. With their system, people who lost wallets or phones (or pants apparently) wouldn't have to keep walking over to check Lost and Found for their items. Instead, they would receive a text with a description when new items were returned.

After winning the hackathon Wednesday at The Independent, team Outside Pants stayed up all night Thursday to hone their app and remove any bugs. They were hoping their interface could actually get rolled out at the festival's beginning. But on Friday, the manager of operations emailed them saying it was too late to introduce the app: there was no time to train festival staff.

All hiccups aside, the Outside Pants hack story does end happily ever after. The team, composed of three friends -- Yu Jiang Tham, Jennifer Yip, and Andy Jiang -- met with the operations manager Saturday at the festival. She thought their site was well-done, and "fits a need that hasn't been met."

Although they couldn't use it in time for the festival, Outside Lands will be using Outside Pants to manage the lost and found claims after the festival's end. If all goes well with the post-fest item returns, the operations manager said they may want to use the application next year during the fest itself. Tham, Yip, and Jiang work full-time jobs so they're not sure whether they're going to bother pitching their lost and found system to other festivals or venues that could use it.

Music festival hackathons like Outside Hacks and Hackeroo aim to give developers a real-world chance to test their applications. Outside Hacks almost fit the model of an accelerator because winners were introduced to key people -- like the Outside Lands operations manager -- who could actually use the apps created. In that way, it's a far cry from the typical hackathon, where coders stay up all night, develop a potentially useful product, win a prize, and then the applications never see the light of day.