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Monday, August 13, 2012

Iron.io @ Box Hackathon (#redefiningwork)


The Iron.io community team just got back from the #RedefiningWork | Box Hackathon this weekend. It was a fantastic event with over 40+ teams spread across a large room and featured a rich set of API sponsors included SendGrid, Twilio, Parse, TokBox, Firebase, Mashery, and Iron.io.

Most the teams used the Box APIs to show off the versatility of having cloud-based document storage in conjunction with a rich set of hosted services. Pairing a rich platform like Box with cloud services in a hackathon makes sense, because nobody wants to stand up servers and manage infrastructure; everyone wants to just get to the coding. (It makes even more sense for apps in the real world, but we talk about that in other places.)
Box Hackathon - Presentation of Top 15

Team Mortgage Blade
You can see the list of teams and the apps they put together here. Two of our favorite apps – and the winners of the Iron.io API prizes – were Mortgage Blade and Avesh. Mortgage Blade's goal is to redefine residential real estate purchasing via a secure and virtual collaborative workspace, with Box as the central storage point and a rich set of the sponsor APIs providing core inputs and services. The team used TokBox, Twilio, and SendGrid for communications, Firebase for real-time document editing, and IronWorker for scheduling jobs in the background to crawl the web and extract lots of data, including things like daily minimum loan rates from various loan providers.

Team Avesh
Avesh was a one-person team (Avesh Singh) which created a neat SMS-based app for automating list signups. It was a brilliantly simple app – so much so that it ended up winning prizes from Iron.io, Twilio, and SendGrid. The app replaces paper signup sheets (and the associated effort to transcode data and deal with high error rates) by letting people sign up via SMS. Just include your name and email address and if it's a valid email address, you'll get an email and an SMS confirmation. If something goes wrong, you'll get a text telling you so. Simple, automated, and hassle-free. Tons of organizations and businesses could use this right out the gate.

Iron.io Webhooks Capability
Avesh made use of IronWorker's webhooks capability to eliminate the need for servers or even a back-end app. The text message goes to Twilio, which posts a URL to IronWorker, which kicks off a worker. This worker includes the entry in the contact DB, tests the email using SendGrid, and then sends out the confirmation / error notice. The other neat thing about this set-up is that it operates asynchronously and concurrently. Texts can be sent and workers kicked off without having to worry all that much about blocking. (Maybe with a conference or a stadium with thousands of people you might have to architect a few things to deal with the loads, but that's even more reason to use elastic and scalable services like Iron.io, Twilio, and SendGrid.)

Twilio Webhooks Request URL
(piping to IronWorker to kick off a worker process)
Special thanks to the Box team for putting on a great event and to the teams that put together some great hacks. We were honored to be a part of it.

Here are some more photos of the event.
Box Hackathon - Judges Table
Box Hackathon - Team Mortgage Blade
Box Hackathon - Team Avesh
(Avesh Singh)
Box Hackathon - API Sponsors
(Box, Iron.io, Twilio, SendGrid, TokBox
not shown: Parse, Mashery, Firebase)