Hack Event Survival Guide

I get to attend a lot of hack events as a Yahoo!  Developer Network Evangelist. These marathon coding sessions are a great opportunity to learn new skills, meet new people, and build something cool. I’ve seen some common problems and solutions appear at these events and this post will help those going to their first (or next) hack event.
Team Drop2Drink
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Preparing for the FCC

I’m heading to the FCC next week for a developer event.

On Monday, November 8, 2010, the Federal Communications Commission will sponsor an Open Developer Day event at FCC Headquarters in Washington, DC, to promote collaboration between Web developers in the public and private sectors, in furtherance of FCC goals to further innovation in accessible technologies and foster citizen participation in open government.

This will be a public, single-day event that prioritizes accessibility goals, though other Web solutions are also of interest. The event will feature guest engineers from the Yahoo! Developer Network and Yahoo!’s Accessibility team, and will have a component addressing the requirements and opportunities in the new Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act.

FCC Hosts Open Developer Day: Accessibility Innovation – Yahoo! Accessibility Lab

I’ve been playing with government data to make it ready for quick mashups. I threw a challenge to some other developers for creating a quick map mashup with a series of map points generated by a spreadsheet on Data.Gov. This is what Anthony Ettinger put together with Yahoo! Pipes:

It’s great to see how you can grab a spreadsheet from the government’s repository, convert it to CSV format, upload it to your server, and quickly parse that data for mashups. It would be easier if data.gov had the file in csv format instead of xls or zip. I could have saved the first few steps.

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Yelp is dead to me

Yelp is a web site that lets users rate and review local services and businesses. It was a great site when it first launched, especially in the Bay Area. People were passionately entering reviews and made it a great resource.

But then things started going bad. Yelp became the landing place for people desperately trying to be hip and clever. They write stupid, nasty reviews to get laughs and props from friends with no concern for the business involved.

Take this jewel by a pathetic poser in San Diego who tries to impress us with her hipster cred of wearing vintage clothes, smoking hookahs and going to La Jolla salons. She also likes to pepper her reviews by calling anyone she doesn’t like a hag

My “server” was this repulsive arabic hag that was so bitter from the second she came to are table saying “are you ready what do you want” the first 60seconds we were seated. We asked her to come back in a little bit….A little bit does not mean 2 minutes…. Anyways we ordered are drinks and hookah. 2 cokes, and MINT. She returns with sprite we say we asked for coke she stands there arguing for 2 minutes saying we said sprite…. OK WHATVER so then thy bring us are hookah. Is it mint? NOPE it’s grape. I tell her this is grape she said “This is what you order” at that point i found her funny. After 5 minutes of arguing that we said grape not mint she finally just walks away with the grape and someone else returns with a mint 15minutes later…
We payed the bill and attempted to walk out. She sees us leaving and says “Did you pay?” I said “It’s on the table.”
We begin walking to the car and i hear her comming after us saying “EXCUSE ME” we turn around. She says “You are short of pay you only paid for the total where is my extra tip?!”
At that point i snapped. I went off on her telling her she has nerve 1.asking for a tip and 2.thinking she deserves anything.
She made it into a huge scene! I swear! She had the nerve to tell us we were there for over 3 hours smoking hookah and asking for constant refills.
Funny part is we only got to smoke that hookah about 12 minutes because they would not give us coals and we did not get one refill on are drinks. HAHAHA

Why is Yelp to blame

It’s not Yelp’s fault that hags like PoshP need a forum to make people think they are cool. But it is their fault for encouraging this behavior and making it difficult to add reality to these comments. Another user could rate the above comment as useful, funny, or cool.

Where’s the reality check? Users should be able to give crap like this negative ratings. Is this rating: shitty, pathetic, or lacking in reality.

You can follow the reviewer and send a compliment, but you can’t leave a comment on the review. Yahoo! Local, on the other hand allows other users to leave comments and give negative ratings. Here’s an example of a rating I wrote about the Millenium restaurant in San Francisco. It didn’t live up to my expectations and I said so:

This was a big disappointment. I was told to expect the French Laundry of vegetarian cuisine. It cost as much as the French Laundry, but the food was simply mediocre. If you are looking for Vegetarian/Vegan food in San Francisco, go up the street to the Indian/Pakistani dives. The food is much better.

Another user pointed out the relevancy of expectations:

That’s a poignant observation – people I know either like it or hate it and I really think it’s a matter of price and expectations

Which led me to agree and give a followup comment:

Expectations are a large part of it. I received gift certificates and returned a year later. As I wasn’t expecting as much, I enjoyed the meal more.

Death to Yelp

So Yelp is dead to me now. I’ve gotten tired of wading through useless reviews by people more interested in expressing their inner asshole than helping others decide if a place is worth visiting. I’ve removed Yelp from web sites and applications I’ve built and replaced it with Yahoo! Local or other more specific resources. It still has potential as the site moves to new areas, but they need to introduce some reality checks before it becomes a total loss.

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