Posts by Matt Albiniak

Matt Albiniak

API Hack Day – Chicago

Don’t believe what you’ve heard, good things can come in small packages. There’s been a growing trend towards building small things in even smaller amounts of time: hackathons. These events challenge developers to think up and build something in insanely small amounts of time. Over the past (holiday) weekend, a group of Nerds headed to the API Hack Day in Chicago put on by MasheryApigeeTwilioSendGrid and hosted by Morningstar. Yeah, we spent one of our three day holidays writing code. This whole Nerd thing isn’t just a schtick.

Turns out that thinking small is really hard, but that challenge is what creates the energy of hackathons. Some of the projects were intentionally a technology proof of concept, others went through their first sprint to produce the minimum viable product, and a couple others had some really great ideas that needed more time to execute. The Nerdery team spent the first few hours thinking of things we’d find useful, then checking to see if an API existed that would supply the data we need; web APIs (application programming interfaces) are ways for developers to access data from different sites or applications to create really cool things. We wanted to create a reverse alarm clock to wake you up when your bus or train was actually in the area (based on GPS). Turns out the Chicago Transit Authority wasn’t up and issuing API keys on a holiday weekend.

Next up was the idea of using SMS or voice (via Twilio) to send you notifications when any of your Facebook friends check in near you using Facebook Places. Facebook’s iOS app does that in theory, but it’s not entirely reliable. We wanted to create a way to make sure those notifications got to you. Kelly and Dave whipped up a way for Facebook to store a default location (eg, 60607) or reverse geocode the last Place you checked in via Facebook. The application, which only needs to be run once as a Facebook application due to Facebook privacy and permissions, would then check on set intervals to who has checked in within a user defined distance since. A new check-in would trigger Twilio to place a voice call. Depending on the number of check-ins, you’d either get a name and place read to you, or the total number of friends nearby. The guys wanted to play with the text to speech, so we used voice.

This was a hackathon with a very finite amount of time, so if there’s a “why didn’t you add this or integrate with that” question, the answer comes down to time. We Kelly and Dave built a quick and dirty hack using Twilio (new to us) and Facebook (new everyday thanks to their rapid deployment) to see what we could do in eight hours. Anyone who overcame that looming deadline anxiety and hung in the hack the whole day won, and it was fun to be involved with it — even if I my only contribution was assaulting people with buzzwords and getting them doped up on caffeine. There were some big ideas and awesome concepts, so we were all blown away when they announced team No Brandcuffs, Braugh as the first place winners. We leveraged the momentum to announce our IPO and spinoff a new company Intr_dgl.

In related news, I’m incredibly excited about the notion of “the brand API” — just look what NPR and Best Buy have been able to do. I’m willing to bet we’ll continue to see aggressive investments by brands into an API, either public or private, over the next couple years. We’ll save that conversation for another post another day, or maybe we can carry it on in the comments. In the words of my friends at Apigee, “I <3 APIs.”

ps, if you’re into the whole masochism thing, or just like a really good challenge, you can find hackathons at Hackatopia.
pps, be sure to check out our 24 hour Overnight Website Challenge to put your code to good.

Filed under Events, Nerdery Culture

SocialDevCamp Chicago

It’s fun watching the ever-changing digital landscape. If there’s one thing the web is doing, it’s going more and more social. Facebook crested 500 million users. Google just launched SCVNGR, and there’s a lot of talk of them creating a social service to compete directly with Facebook.

If you’re a developer in Chicago August 14-15, there’s no better place to be than SocialDevCamp at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where a few hundred likeminded nerds will be figuring out how they can leverage the social web to create great new applications. With two tracks going each day, plus an unconference and a Hackathon*, there’s something for everyone — social application and platform developers, mobile social developers, evangelists, and enthusiasts.

If you’ve got time on Sunday, swing by the panel discussion “Using Hackathons & Code Sprints for Innovation and Social Change.“ I’ll be sharing my own experience/flashbacks from our own Nerdery Overnight Website Challenge – a 24-hour nonprofit nerdathon we’ll be bringing to Chicago.

*For the Hackathon, I’m bringing a palette of Red Bull, ramen noodles, and my vuvuzela to cheer on our team – who as of August 2nd will be the founders of our new Chicago office.

Filed under Events

Ad:tech Chicago – holy #&%^$@! amazing conference


It’s Christmas in September for this nerd. The powers that be gave me the head nod to make the pilgrimage down to ad:tech Chicago. I wasn’t sure what I was really getting into, but seeing as most of the agencies we work with were either attending or sponsoring, it was pretty clear there was a compelling reason to go.

After day 1, I’ve seen the light. With four sessions to choose from every hour, amazing keynotes in the morning, and great conversations between sessions, well, there’s no way it’s all ever going to fit within a single blog post.

There are a couple sessions that nearly knocked me over, though.

  1. The Transformation of News Media: How to Thrive in the Age of Chaos
    Who woulda thunk anyone could learn so much from the financially-challenged news media industry? It’s amazing how much harder you’re forced to think when you’re under the guillotine. No doubt, news media revenue is largely stagnant, and those failing to innovate have died. This humble nerd’s opinion? The places they’re looking at going are the same places our agency partners are going to start heading. Highly targeted, hyper local, deeply relevant content and user experiences…and not just via mobile.
  2. Master Class Workshop: The Modern Agency
    With a panel comprised of Draftfcb, TribalDDB, and Razorfish, this was bound to be interesting. And it was. Key take aways:

    • Clients don’t see agencies as strategic partners. The panel seemed to agree – this is where the opportunity is, and this is where agencies should consider going.
    • Agencies that become strategic partners should expect to see a shift back to bundled services.
    • Agencies need to move faster to include strategy that embodies emerging technologies. They didn’t with social, and that’s why internal marketing teams are handling the social channel.
    • The new agency model involves triangulation between marketing, agency activity, and digital. I think. Anyone able to clarify this?

    I think it was the comment that “agencies are comfortable” that made me see the dangerous parallels between the agency world and the news media world. I hope I’m wrong, or that agencies can make the quick move and innovate for their clients.

Every single session I attended put the gray matter into speeds beyond the legal limit. Instead of brain vomiting all over the place, final thoughts: Think hyper local, highly relevant, contextual experiences and content delivery. Not everyone is on Twitter, but the ones that are are the influentials (not my words, but hey).

Turns out ad:tech really is “The Event for Digital Marketing.” Nerdery Interactive Labs isn’t a digital marketing shop, but that’s exactly who our partners are. Throughout the day, this nerd got bathed in the challenges our partners face. Understanding the challenges of agencies  puts the Nerdery in a position to become better and more strategic partners, something we all hope carries significant value back into the work we do.

If you’d like to catch the tweets from ad:tech Chicago, you can read them from me or everyone there.

We know where you are, but what are you doing?

Photo: Dustin Diaz

Photo: Dustin Diaz

What are you doing? It’s the question Twitter has been asking users to answer (in 140 characters or less) for the past 3.5 years. Starting in the near future, Twitter is going to be including more than what you type.

Twitter announced Thursday that tweets will be carrying location meta data automatically generated by the user’s device, assuming that user has opted-in. Uh, what? If I’m on my GPS-enabled smartphone, my Twitter client will be able to attach the current GPS location to my tweet.

Ok, but wait. There’s a considerable population in the “Twitter is absolutely useless” party, so adding location data is the metaphorical screen door on the solar powered submarine, right? Well, maybe. There’s been a noticeable increase in location-aware services, from Google Latitude to Brightkite to Foursquare to Acrossair’s “Nearest Subway.” Additionally, there’s a dramatic increase in the number of GSM/WCDMA (GPS-enabled) phones coming into the market (PDF), and we all know how iPhone users like using their data plan.

So where’s any of this headed? That’s a great question, and one someone far more creative (you, maybe?) will hopefully answer. Here’s what Biz @ Twitter had to say:

It’s easy to imagine how this might be interesting at an event like a concert or even something more dramatic like an earthquake. There will likely be many use cases we haven’t even thought of yet which is part of what makes this so exciting.

Now before we get all bleeding edge and leverage the open door, let’s look at the bottom line (buzzword bingo!). Twitter is a microcosm. Best guesses put the active user base anywhere between 2-8 million, +/- 95%. It’s not Facebook with their 250 million active users, but if you’ve been keeping score at home, you know that Facebook considers Twitter a formidable opponent. Said another way, if Twitter is adding location aware services, I’d be willing to bet a pack of Ramen noodles that Facebook will be soon, too.

So now, independent of Twitter, let’s start thinking about the ways we can create a better user experience with this new piece of  context-rich information. Build a unique and dynamic experience based on where that user is at that moment. It’s not just on the web, it’s not just at your desk, it’s going mobile, but apparently it’s starting with Twitter.

What compelling ways do you think your clients and their customers could interact and drive value for both parties? Here’s a freebie, here’s 5 more from Mashable, and for good measure, some other cool ways Twitter is being integrated (sans location aware) into marketing, communications, and of course, politics.

If you’re the creative marketing type and would ever like to bang heads and see what we can both strategerize for your clients (eg, you think it, we’ll build it, we all high 5 afterward), contact me. Via Twitter.


Filed under Web Culture

Google Chrome OS announcement makes nerd’s pulse race

It’s been speculated for a while now that Google has been working on a netbook-optimized operating system. Well, tonight, it became official.

So today, we’re announcing a new project that’s a natural extension of Google Chrome — the Google Chrome Operating System. It’s our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be.

Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we’re already talking to partners about the project, and we’ll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.

Going on, they talk specifically about the architecture it’s going to run on.

Google Chrome OS will run on both x86 as well as ARM chips and we are working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of netbooks to market next year. The software architecture is simple — Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel.

Wait. Did they just say a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel? That’s kinda-sorta what OS X did, but Apple doesn’t seem to want to make a netbook.

Now it gets interesting (aka “opinions”).

  • Chrome OS will compete with osx (~linux/bsd with a better windowing system), especially since Apple hasn’t talked about releasing a netbook. If Linux was built with a more intuitive and polished GUI, I think it’d be more widely adopted than it is.
  • Also competes with Microsoft (win7, gazelle (pdf link) and their oem relationship with netbook vendors

And if I had my fingers crossed with a wishlist in mind, it would be:

  • Native iscsi support – load the kernel from the web
  • A better package management system to preserve the UX (ie, a lesson learned from android)
  • Webkit (osx, chrome os) creates a better opportunity for SaaS and PaaS

If you’re interested in real insight, these are some great places to start:

Filed under Technology

BooneOakley hacks YouTube

There’s a lot of good things about working around The Nerdery (free crack/energy drinks, four-legged vacuum cleaners, rad people, etc.), but my new favorite perk is learning about the population that lives in
agency world ecosystem.

From my naive vantage point, agencies fit into one of two silos: those that take themselves way too seriously, or those that have a goofy amount of fun with their job and push the interactive agency space into cool places. Guess which one I like working with?

Enter: BooneOakley.

On the scene since 2000, these guys just launched a YouTube site. No, I’m not saying that like “they’re on The Facebook.” They literally launched a YouTube site, powered by YouTube, and getting ALL traffic
redirected from

Here’s the real fun. It’s functional. Fully. Functional. Leveraging embeddable annotations, you can fully navigate through different parts of the site. And you should, especially the bios with the pooping dog.

These guys get it, have fun with their work, are pushing it ahead, and hopefully will return my phone calls. If there’s one thing nerds like, it’s partnering with agencies that get it, have fun, and do innovative

Dig it? Get up in their tweets, or leave them a YouTube message.

Matt Albiniak is a Sr. Account Nerd at Nerdery Interactive Labs. Learn more about him on the Periodic Table of Nerdery.