I have never done a code fest before. If I'm being honest I wasn't too into the idea. I have some concerns that it contributes to a mindset that devalues the work that software engineers do.
I help run a local user group called the Acadiana Software Group. We meet monthly and at our last meeting Geoff Daily, Johnathan Wright and myself decided to team up. The code fest website started releasing data and a lot of it was spatial. So we pulled in Brian Stanford, a guy that does GIS work for his day job. At the orientation for the code fest we added an additional team member that has experience in design and front-end.
On Wednesday we were able to start coding. We didn't do much other than begin to look at the data. The stack was Ruby on Rails and PostGIS. I didn't help with any of the RoR, I don't have any experience with it. Me and Brian were able to make ourselves useful by loading and manipulating spatial data such that it could be used by the Rails codee.
Our idea was to come up with a website that would give you derived scores for addresses based on information from various data-sets including spatial. Our approach was a bit intensive on the back-end in bulk. We did a fair amount of number crunching to come up with scores for addresses.
We got 2nd place. We lost to a team that wrote a chat-bot that gives people local information based on local events. Each individual team was able to vote on what project they liked, our team also won this award. For each of those we won a $2,500 prize.
Because my 9-5 work situation has been a bit slow recently it was good to do computer stuff in anger. That stuff where you come to respect your peers and challenge yourself. One thing that was interesting was that it was useful to have a non-technical person on the team. Geoff Daily is more of a business or product owner type. His enthusiasm for the vision, guidance and ultimate presentation of our project was invaluable. Before the experience I probably would have discounted the value of having that type of person involved in a hack-a-thon.