HackVAN Post-Mortem

David Underwood

This weekend Shopify attended Hack Vancouver, organized by the fine folks over at hackdays.ca. This was the biggest event of its kind that we’ve been part of. Want to know what happens when 100 developers get together in a small space? Read on!


Shopify sent Edward and myself to fly the flag at the event. We showed up at 9am on Saturday morning at the offices of A Thinking Ape in Gastown. Their offices are a thing of beauty. Exposed wooden beams, lots of open space, natural light, the guys and girls at A Thinking Ape know how to create a welcoming environment. Thanks for letting us invade for the day!

The Setup

For those of you who are unfamiliar, these events work as follows: Developers are given a brief intro to the available APIs, and then have until the end of the day to build something that is demoed to the judges. Beer is then consumed before the day wraps up with the prizes being awarded.


There were plenty of APIs for attendees to hack on. Aside from us there was Freshbooks, TinEye, iQmetrix, PhoneGap, Yellow Pages, HootSuite, and Twilio. I think that one of the major strengths of the hackdays events is the variety of domains covered by the API providers. Putting E-Commerce, mobile apps, location info, and phone/SMS providers in the same place made for some excellent mash-ups. At the end of the day over 20 teams presented their apps to the judges. The official results have been announced on hackdays.ca, but here are some of my personal favourites:

Angry Mum

APIs Used: Twilio

A twist on the classic ‘alarm clock + skill testing question’ formula, Angry Mom will actually call your mother (or whoever you tell it to) if you don’t get out of bed on time. Talk about an incentive!

Caregiver Check-in

APIs Used: Twilio

A niche app (by @james_hatheway) developed to solve a real-world problem. This one provided a service for in-home caregivers to confirm that they’ve arrived at a client’s home by calling a number from the house when they get there. If the caregiver doesn’t call in, then an alert is generated to schedule someone else. It also provided a similar check-out mechanism.

Team Double Rainbow

APIs Used: Shopify, PhoneGap

The guys from PhoneGap (@mwbrooks and @yoheis) weren’t satisfied to just provide support during the day. They also built a really slick mobile shopping app for apparel. The best part? It’s open source! Go take a look at the code on github.


Team MonkeyStorm

APIs Used: Shopify, TinEye

Aside from having my favourite team name, MonkeyStorm (Kelly Miller and Michael Heyd) put together a very natural-feeling colour-based product search that used TinEye’s colour matching API to index and then search a Shopify shop’s inventory by colour. To top it off they used our new application proxy functionality to drop the search results onto a page within the shop itself.


Next Time!

If you missed out on this event, there are already plans for a third event in Vancouver later this year. If that doesn’t appeal to you (because you’re on the other side of the country for example) then there’s always HackTO on April 14th in the fair city of Toronto. Sign up now and we’ll see you there!