Over the last few weeks, class has been moving really fast. We’ve gone into Rails quite a bit, learning things like basic CRUD functionality and database queries. While these past couple weeks of drilling the basics of Rails in class has been really helpful, the critical learning experiences have happened at hackathons. Two weeks ago, a couple of other Starter School students and I went to a sponsored hackathon, and this weekend, Starter League held one at 1871.

Half, Not Half-Assed

Like Getting Real encourages, hackathons force you to tailor your ideas to be able to be built in 24 hours or less. Building one or two features that work well is much better than trying to build out the entire architecture for your vision. From a product development standpoint, they are an incredible opportunity to really cut the crap and show what about your idea or product really matters. We built Rentr at this weekends hackathon with the projects scope being an issue we dealt with early on. Since we kept the scope small and restrained from implementing all of the nice-to-haves, we set a clear and achievable goal that was simple and worked well.

While I learned a ton from a product development perspective, the hackathons were not without programming epiphanies. The biggest of which was a method called to_json. This was really valuable when working with the Google Maps API. What it does is parse any Ruby data that you generate on the back-end, and simply converts it to JSON, being able to then be manipulated on the client-side. This was perfect for allowing us to plot coordinates stored in a Ruby array.

Two hackathons down, two more to go this semester.