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Give A Little (HackNY 2012s)

March 27 2012

Hey guys! I've been pretty heads down with Grassroutes and schoolwork lately, but I took a few days "off" to go to Philly to ride the MongoDB bus to HackNY in New York City (and then fly back to Pittsburgh). I worked with Tess Rinearson, Nick Meyer, Alice Lee, and Willy [last name not given on the internet], and we built a webapp called Give A Little.

The basic premise is that often you hear people say something like "for the price of that latte for a week, you could feed a small village in Africa!" We wanted to make it easy for people to have their latte and feel like they're saving the world too. When you sign up to Give A Little, you're prompted to pick a Foursquare venue category, an amount, and a charity. Then, whenever you check in, we'll add the dollar amount you specified to your tab, and we'll bill you at the end of the month and donate the money to the charity you picked. You can add as many rules as you want, each with different categories, amounts, and charities.

Unfortunately, I borked something in between when we "finished" and when we demo'd, so we had an awkward moment during the demo when the checkin wasn't recorded by our app. A lesson for ye: if you make a change, no matter how trivial, test it! (I've been spending a lot of the past few weeks in the Grassroutes codebase cleaning up the code and writing tests. Not my favorite thing.) Luckily, my teammates weren't particularly wrathful.

We also weren't able to get the credit card processing going, which was actually somewhat of a relief for me, because handling people's money makes me nervous. >.>

In the end, we got an honorary mention from the HackNY judges for "Hacking For Good"! I'm really happy with how things turned out, and super proud of my teammates. Great work guys!

Bonus amusing anecdote for reading this far: being the person on my team most knowledgeable about Rails, I decided to hold "Rails Office Hours" (relatively) early on Saturday night while Alice was still working on the design. Amusingly for me, a few other people (like Jim Grandpre, of Coursekit fame, and Yahel Carmon, who I'd only interacted with over Twitter previously) started listening in, and we had a cool discussion about the Rails stack and other technologies. I think (hope?) that everybody learned something, so maybe this is something I will start doing at other hackathons? Who knows!

And to Chris Wiggins, if you're reading this: thanks for coming over and introducing yourself! I wish you and all of your fellows this summer the best of luck, and I will certainly be back for HackNY in the fall. =)

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Drew writes code for fun and (sometimes) profit. He's currently studying Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. He has previously worked at Facebook, Amazon, and a startup called Intersect.