API Hack Day Austin Winner: Hotel Deals iPhone App

I had a lot of fun on Saturday entering the Austin API Hack Day held at Hub Austin Coworking in South Austin. I came to API Hack Day last year without a plan or a particular project to create, and then sort of browsed through the InfoChimps and Mashery APIs to find something to create – our team ended up creating Application Trail, which was a jQuery Mobile web app for finding hotels along the Appalachian Trail, but it was sort of half-baked and didn’t really work.

Part of that was just the process of building a team from scratch – 4 developers who didn’t know each other before the event (well, I’d actually gone to grad school with Alex, so it was great when I saw him there, but hadn’t seen him in four years, or ever written a program with him). Chances are, you don’t share too many languages, environments, or even basic development tools in common – for instance, GitHub + Rails + heroku – great if you’ve done it before, but if that’s the first time you’ve touched any of that, 8 hours isn’t enough time to start to contribute to a project.

This time around, I knew what I wanted to build before I got there – I’d spent last week in Florida with my wife for the Florida Drupal Camp in Winter Park, and the 26.2 with Donna Marathon in Jacksonville Beach, and we stayed at several hotels that we found with Hotwire Deals. Unfortunately, Hotwire doesn’t have any mobile apps – just a mobile web site that I found hard to use. What Hotwire does have is an API exposed through Mashery, which was one of the sponsors of API Hack Day – I was able to build an entire iPhone app around the Hotwire API in 8 hours!

This little app won the Mashery API Prize, and the grand prize for Austin API Hack Day. I’m really happy with it, and getting it ready to go live in the App Store!