Helping a Dozen Developers Create Value at Developer Week 2017 Hackathon

//Helping a Dozen Developers Create Value at Developer Week 2017 Hackathon

In my role as Developer Advocate, I frequently get to help do something good for other people under the guise of doing “business”. At Developer Week 2017 in San Francisco, that meant providing developers an opportunity to win $2,000 cash while building open source tools that would help other people.

Perfecto’s hackathon challenge was to build an analyzer for HAR files that provides insights into errors, performance, and content structure. They could use whatever languages or frameworks they wanted to implement the solution, and projects should readily allow for the integration of other tools and languages (i.e. import HAR and export analysis programmatically).

We wanted to provide something unique to participants, something that didn’t require people to sign up or get treated like an API freemium lead, something that encouraged developers to create value for each other. The participants didn’t disappoint. They understood what we were hoping for and produced some really interesting, valuable tech.

Why an open source challenge around the HAR format?

The “Http ARchive” file format is an open standard for encapsulating a snapshot of HTTP traffic from things like web browsers and mobile devices. It includes rich detail such as the load times, headers, and payloads of each network request made by a web or mobile app.

This information often helps developers and engineers to collaborate or diagnose page performance and security issues, but looking at the raw file itself is a bit like drinking from a firehose:

What cool things did teams build?

True to the Perfecto mission, we wanted teams to focus on building, not on setup or configuration. So for the challenge, we provided teams a set of example HAR files they could use as a baseline.

Team Intense Donut built a very cool data visualizer that could be configured for multiple paths of analysis. Since they’ve hosted it on Heroku, you can try it out for yourself:

In similar fashion, other teams provided a mix of visuals and insights:

Team Parsnip, consisting of Angel Rivera and three awesome students, built a really interesting Clover integration that would automatically ingest HAR files resulting from automated testing cycles and message back insights like API key security issues and other validation problems (demoed by Margaret Ha, very cool work from her).

Who finally won?

It wasn’t easy picking a winner, since a number of teams took different approaches to solving the challenge. Our CTO, Uzi Eilon, and I used a 3-point system across three considerations: functionality, applicability, and feasibility. In the end, it was a 1-point difference that broke a 3-way tie.

Siddhant Sanyam and Chakshu Ahuja of Team HarT took the concept one step beyond the challenge by creating a platform in which people share and collaborate over HAR file analysis. Their platform allowed users to write their own algorithms in Gist to create recipes that perform any kind of analysis… performance, security, coding practices, you name it.

Rather than simply building an analysis engine, they built an ecosystem of algorithms that other people could contribute to. They thought outside of the box when addressing the challenge, nudging them 1 point ahead of the other 2 tie-break teams.

From a business perspective, this broke the 3-way tie with the other top contenders because it considered the social and community aspects of the challenge, not just the technical value. It was an interesting approach that can be used to help others, and we thought that type of solution to the challenge was awesome.

What are some practical uses for the HAR challenge?

For developers, this kind of challenge is an opportunity to show how cross-functional (code/product/market) thinking improves the impact individuals in a team have on a broad community. The top competitive teams produced useful tools that everyone from web developers to non-technical folks might use to gain insight on how to improve their web and mobile apps.

While Perfecto has a public cloud that you can try out yourself, and customers can use our REST API to integrate real device and browser testing into their own workflows, it was really great to branch out and do something totally different from all the other vendors at the hackathon. I have a feeling we’ll be doing it again.

Want to learn more?

If you’re interested in all the projects created around our HAR challenge, you can reach out to individuals via Accelerate.im. We’re also very interested in ideas you have for hackathon challenges, so don’t hesitate to leave comments and reach out to me via Twitter.

Paul Bruce is a Developer Evangelist at Perfecto, focusing on the value of quality and velocity throughout the software lifecycle. He previously worked as an advocate for API development and testing practices and as a full stack developer before that. He now writes, speaks, listens, and teaches about software delivery patterns in modern enterprises and key industries around the world.

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