Twitter, Another Social Network?

I honestly never really bought into the idea of using Twitter until recently. While I was attending events I would always hear the sponsors saying “tweet at us” but that never really made me want to join another social network. This weekend changed how I thought about it.

 

It’s cool for companies, but why do I care? That was my main question before this weekend.

“Facebook is for friends, Instagram is for posting photos of your life, LinkedIn is for resumes and professional connections, but Twitter is a social space for professionals”.

I paraphrased what a work friend said, but the message still rings true.

  1. Twitter is becoming the social space for people and companies with similar interests to interact with each other and grow off those ideas.
  2. It’s a fast paced social interaction with more and more companies responding faster to customers and developers through Twitter than email.
  3. Twitter can even help you gain that connection through email or phone if you don’t have one already!
  4. It could help propel your reputation in the particular space you are working in. (for me that would be Internet of Things)
  5. It allows you to track trends that you might be interested in with hashtags.
  6. The 140 character limit helps you learn to be succinct

Why do companies care? Companies are using Twitter to gauge the publicity of certain ads or campaigns as well as how engaged their audiences are with their products. This works really well for startups trying to create publicity around themselves and their products because of how social and easily re-tweetable conversations are.

Tips:

  • Since it can be used as a professional social space and everything on the internet sticks, I would suggest not posting your every thought. No one cares that you made a really good sandwich (unless you’re a chef trying to promote yourself) and you don’t want to hurt your reputation with unprofessional tweets about last night.
  • Follow companies and people that are doing things that you are interested in.
  • Stay active and retweet interesting conversations and post some of your own!

 

Hackster Hardware Weekend (Hackathon)

I had the chance to participate this past weekend in a Hackster.io Hardware Weekend in Seattle and was blown away by the setup. Like most hackathons, they had big sponsors like Intel, Microsoft, Spark, AT&T, etc. However, unlike most of the software hackathons I have been to, they provided some hardware for people to use including Intel Edison boards with Seeed Studio Starter Kits and more. They also provided some cool and useful swag like a portable charger (which I used to power a Spark Core for my demo) and a small portable Leatherman pocket tool that is perfect for my recent maker lifestyle. The energy they provided was just spectacular and even though it was their first time hosting a hackathon, I think it went smoothly.

The food wasn’t just your normal pizza and salad hackathon meals. It also included a legitimate breakfast with bacon, eggs, bagels, cheese, etc. Lunches and dinners were comprised of delicious sandwiches (kind of like Banh Mi), mexican food, and one meal of pizza. On the side they have a whole bunch of candy, popcorn, and more snacks along with the steady supply of coffee, soda, juice, and water.

Unfortunately, like with most hackathons, the crowd of participants thinned out by day 2 with most of the remaining people being interested in learning more or deeply involved in the hacking process.

I came to the event without a clue as to what I was going to build and not really sure if I wanted to join a team, make one, or run it solo. After hearing about some of the prizes for using certain APIs (Weather Underground and WebRTC) I decided to focus my time on the Weather Underground APIs. Even after deciding what I wanted to use, I didn’t really have a clear understanding of what my final product would be and how it could change the world. I just decided to start hacking something together that I thought would be cool to own and ended up going down the path alone.

Stages of my Creation:

  1. Started with the idea to read the forecast for the day and display it to you through an small LCD screen so that I wouldn’t need to pull up an app to view the forecast. Decided to use the Intel Edison, Cylon.js, and the Weather Underground APIs to do this.
  2. Added functionality that would open your windows using a servo if your indoor temperature was past your comfortable zone and the outdoor temperature was colder. I also added functionality to change these settings through buttons and rotary angle sensors on the board.
  3. Added functionality to push the data to the cloud
  4. Realized that I could also connect to a Spark Core and communicate with it via WiFi and the Cloud from the Intel Edison, so I integrated a lighting scenario with a wireless connection.
  5. Created a prototype case for the now deemed “Hub” in Autodesk Fusion 360.
  6. Created a webpage using AngularJS on Azure that would showcase the data my back-end was receiving so that I could view information on the go.

The prototype Open Source Home Automation Hub was born.

Some things I’ve come to realize for my next hackathon:

  • Work in teams! I worked solo this weekend and although I did a lot of work to combine all the components, I definitely could have gone further with the idea and took it to the next level ending up with a professional product rather than a hacked together demo.
  • Set up a team before hand and know the expertise of everyone in the team and how best to leverage them. (This also might mean vet out the people who might have less to contribute if you are going hardcore)
  • Sometime’s it’s more about the presentation, the story, and the idea than the execution during the hackathon (although that might be due to the hardware nature of this hackathon). After all, you only have so much time both to hack and to present your creation.
  • Network! This is really just a great opportunity to meet other people in a related field and find out their skills and platforms of choice. Who knows? You might find a couple new tools that might be useful for your future endeavors.
  • Roll with it. A vision is great, but be able to adapt if things don’t work out quite like you expected.  Sometimes code breaks and it can be stressful but learn from it and debug better.
  • Have fun!