Mark it down. Hackathons are trending.
Just 10 days after Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) hosted a coding fest for its Chromecast streaming stick, ESPN ran its own 48-hour hackathon to see what digital media goodies its developers could create for sports fans this year. Unlike Google's event, the fourth annual ESPN hackathon was entirely an internal affair. It is keeping the results under wraps for now, but it did share a few details of the developer challenge with us.
The ESPN hackathon gives developers exactly two days to build a working model of a sports-related application. Kevin Ota, ESPN's director of communications, told us it has certain underlying priorities -- like supporting coverage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup -- but participants are allowed to work on whatever projects interest them. This year, more than one team experimented with biometrics and tying users' quantified activity (using a fitness tracker like Fitbit) with an ESPN app.
"It just keeps getting better and better," said Ota. "It gets better in terms of the organization of it, the creativity, the level of development… We keep adding to the team. We have more talent, dev talent every year, and in this event, it really does show itself."
ESPN has committed to turning the winning application from its annual hackathon into a commercial product. The SportsCenter Feed app introduced last year was the winning entry in the company's first-ever hackathon. Ota said this year's winning team may have its application targeted for an event-specific launch next summer. (The World Cup, perhaps?) ESPN will determine the official product roadmap sometime in the new year.
Thanks to innovation on the web, software development has become a major priority for programmers like ESPN and TV service providers. Software is now driving new user interfaces, interactive applications, and multiscreen video experiences. It won't be long before we find out what 2014 has in store.
Until then, it's happy hacking. And happy holidays.
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading Cable