Hack Day 2008

Monday, 22 December 2008
by james
filed under Code and Stuff Other People Made
Comments: 18

A week or so ago, on Sunday 14th December, we held our first open Hack Day, giving developers a chance to show off what they could build in a day with nothing but their wits and the Last.fm API.

At around 10:30, the hungry and cold developers started pouring into Corbet Place, behind Brick Lane in the heart of East London. With free food and drink behind the bar, plenty of comfy sofas to drape themselves over, and a Surface table with which to amuse themselves, the hackers dug in. (Sorry you guys had to wait in the cold for longer than we’d hoped, that sucked.)

By 6:30, and in spite of wifi woes throughout the day, we had 30 quick fire demos lined up to wow the assembled crowd of geeks. As anyone who’s run an event like this will attest, getting 30 odd laptops hooked up to 2 projector adaptors on rotation with a 2 minute turnaround is no mean feat, but no one was trampled underfoot and only one person outright gave up (apologies Steve!).

Amongst our favourite hacks were Bret Ehlert’s Nostalgia.fm, an app that creates playlists based on your historical charts so you can relive your headier musical days; Your Next Favourite Band by Utku Can and Phil Nash, which finds the band everyone’s listening to but you; and Neil Crosby’s Last Genius, a bookmarklet that builds a playlist using any track on Last.fm as the starting point.

We were extremely impressed with everyone’s work but after careful deliberation, we had to select three winners for the awesome prizes provided by Codeplex:

Rob Mckinnon walked away with a shiny XBox 360 for his work building Gig notifications with Growl. In his own words:
“Need help remembering to get gig tickets? This hack gives you local event notifications via Last.fm for the band you’re now playing. Implemented as Ruby script that uses last.fm api and growl notifications. Could be wrapped up as a Mac dashboard widget with a bit of work.”

Cameron Ross also snagged an XBox for the awesome Universal Scrobbler:
“This suite of tools allow you to scrobble songs from previously unscrobblable sources. There is a FireFox extension to allow scrobbling of songs listened on MySpace, a tool to browse MusicBrainz for albums and tracks to scrobble (for example for if you listen to an album in the car or CD player), a tool to scrobble songs retrospectively that you listened to on BBC Radio, and a tool to scrobble a custom song.”

David Padbury and Jamie Hollingworth stormed to win the grand prize of £1000 with Staff Wars.fm:
“StaffWars works by playing a user’s personal last.fm station communally to the office. When someone becomes offended by their colleague’s poor taste in music they initiate a challenge to take control of the office stereo from the current user. At this point StaffWars analyses the profiles of the competing users and looks for similar tastes in music. It will generate a small music quiz based on these similar tastes in music and ask it too both users. If the challenging user wins they will take control of the stereo otherwise the existing station will carry on playing.”

The day was rounded off with an excellent set from Hexstatic while the last free drinks were squeezed out of the bar.

Thanks again to those who came and made this event a success. I can’t wait for the next one!

We’ll try to keep this list updated with all the other hacks as info comes in, let us know if we’re missing you.

More photos from the day, courtesy Russ and Dimi.


  1. StudleyUK
    22 December, 12:55

    The Universal Scrobbler is amazing – and I’m glad it’s Last.fm approved too! Now if I’ve been listening to 6music on DAB radio, or playing an album loads in my car, it’s easy to represent those listens on Last.fm. An Xbox well deserved, well done squire!

    StudleyUK – 22 December, 12:55
  2. Neil Crosby
    22 December, 13:46

    Cameron Ross absolutely deserved his prize for the Universal Scrobbler, it was a fantastic hack that actually has a real use. It’s really great seeing interesting things coming out of days like these, so I’d like to say a big thank-you to Last.fm for putting this on.

    Neil Crosby – 22 December, 13:46
  3. Jackie
    22 December, 15:51

    Very nice and quite interesting. I want to give some love to “Your Next Favourite Band” and “Universal Scrobbler” in particular. Love the idea (even though I don’t use Myspace) and for a hack both work surprisingly well.

    Jackie – 22 December, 15:51
  4. mll
    22 December, 21:51

    You pour free booze into the pipe and expect clean code to come out ? Oh my. ;)

    mll – 22 December, 21:51
  5. Jonty
    22 December, 22:12

    @mll: The staff, like bender, are fuelled entirely by alcohol.

    Jonty – 22 December, 22:12
  6. lida
    25 December, 21:10

    How come the pictures in the post show a group of tracks loved today? Yet when I tested the feature I now have two events in my feed and not one showing two songs?

    lida – 25 December, 21:10
  7. bartandlife
    26 December, 18:48

    still a bit puzzled that a OS specific app was given a top three finish

    bartandlife – 26 December, 18:48
  8. lasthack
    29 December, 02:15

    What is Nicky Thompson’s last.fm username? I’d be very interested to contact her about her app.

    lasthack – 29 December, 02:15
  9. iPhone
    30 December, 12:27

    unfortunately I couldn’t attend this hack day, hopefully I’ll be able to make it to the next one

    iPhone – 30 December, 12:27
  10. Nicky
    31 December, 13:25

    Thanks guys, an awesome day and congrats to the well deserved winners :-)

    @lasthack – pics of Flighty here – http://symphonicknot.posterous.com/


    Nicky – 31 December, 13:25
  11. Anonymous
    1 January, 15:00


    Anonymous – 1 January, 15:00
  12. Commercial Financer
    4 January, 04:59

    Looks like one powerful room of people. Must have been a lot of fun for those that collaborated together.

    Commercial Financer – 4 January, 04:59
  13. jacques
    5 January, 12:33

    I hate you’ve included an ad about a ‘dead-test’ (in your Portuguese version). I enter last.fm to met with music, not death.

    jacques – 5 January, 12:33
  14. hob
    10 January, 00:07

    darn, where was this announced?! I like free beer :(

    hob – 10 January, 00:07
  15. tokyoshawn
    13 January, 13:39

    has anyone come with a plugin or app that allows last.fm to sit in top of all other windows like you can do with itunes? To be able to see what song is playing with some other basic controls would be so great.

    tokyoshawn – 13 January, 13:39
  16. Mo
    18 January, 21:58

    I love that hack about colours :D is it possible to make it able showing colours of top songs of the week or month? Because I want more of it, it fascinates me ;)

    Mo – 18 January, 21:58
  17. sanjuro
    20 January, 22:04

    Not to sound too negative, I love Last.fm after all, but I think you should really focus on solving all the fairly numerous problems that plague the core functionality of Last.fm rather than expanding in not so important ways (though the api-thing reminds me that none of Last.fm’s Facebook apps work at all). I can think of 4 MAJOR issues that need to be addressed: different bands with a similar name that are listed as one, variants of tracks and bands names which should be listed as one, the radio regularly failing to scrobble and the wrong songs/artists being played. I know most of these problems revolve the same central issue (you can’t precisely analyze what is scrobbled) but then you should somewhat change your approach, implement some user-based classification a la Wikipedia or something analog. Good luck!

    sanjuro – 20 January, 22:04
  18. Hadise Dumtektek
    20 January, 22:52

    I love lastfm and it’s events. Maybe next time I will join.

    Happy new years to All.

    Hadise Dumtektek – 20 January, 22:52

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