If you need an app to help you pay last night's bar bill or hunt for tonight's nearest flash mob, those apps and dozens more were dreamed up last weekend at the 2011 TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon. Participating hackers and coders are still presenting their ideas live online through today (May 25).
The competition drew techies from as far away as Russia (and Seattle!). It began Saturday (May 21) at Pier 94 in New York City, when around 500 contestants formed competing teams and then worked through an overnight marathon to build new apps that will disrupt (and perhaps improve?) conventional pursuits and cyberhabits. On Sunday morning, teams made 60-second presentations of their designs to a panel of judges.
The apps ranged from Wiki Putt Putt (a new game) to world-shaking (or maybe in-your-boots-shaking) gizmos, like one that would tell you who you were a year ago by calling up, on any given day, text and photos you posted online on that date last year. This app's name wasn't Yesterday's-Navel Gazer.
The winners of TechCrunch's annual Hackathon inevitably attract the attention of wealthy investors. Last year a winning entry by the GroupMe team landed $10 million in startup funding. But most of the apps presented this year will flop. Let's call them flopps, or maybe flapps — a dumpster category that I hope will swallow up Chicks for Geeks and a few other novelties, never to be seen again (but here I exhibit certain biases).
While many techies compete because they're interested in making money, others use their time and teamwork in the interests of making a better world. My favorite among this year’s ideas is one for nonprofits. My friend Kristin emailed it to me (and inspired the writing of the blogpost you're now reading):
Joinable.org gives homeless individuals looking for jobs a way to get their foot in the door when they have no email access of their own, and no telephone or only a cellphone with limited minutes. From Joinable, social service providers including homeless shelters can acquire a low-fee program to use in providing homeless and jobless individuals with free voicemail, text-messaging, and email services. There's a demo online.
The three other top contenders were Dococracy (a document-sharing and -signing app), Doach the Dating Coach, and Dispatch IO (“We tame the cloud”). Runners-up: JoystiCC and (imho the top app name) VentureCrapital.