Fellows’ Perspective: Sledgehammers and Awesomeness at Tuesday’s NYTM

Tal Safran is a computer science student at NYU and a HackNY 2010 Fellow. Tal is working at Aviary.com.

I went to the NY Tech Meetup this past Tuesday with several HackNY fellows, and all I got was this lousy iPad:

Smashed iPad at June NYTM

Here’s what happened: in the middle of an otherwise ordinary presentation for Meetup.com, NY Tech Meetup founder Scott Heiferman whipped out a sledgehammer and proceeded to Jimi-Hendrix the crap out of a brand new iPad just to drive the following point home: sometimes you need to use the Internet to help yourself get off of the Internet.

And Meetup is certainly great for doing that. I live in NYC year-round and have been to a few Tech Meetups prior to this one. In fact, I was fortunate enough to present at the event back in April. With me on stage were “fellow” HackNY Fellows Ian Jennings and Max Stoller. It was a great experience.

How did we get there? We participated in (and won) the NYC Student Hackathon, which coincidentally was HackNY‘s inaugural event. At the Hackathon, over a dozen companies presented their APIs and swarms of students were given 24 hours to write the funkiest, most creative apps and pitch them to the crowd. It was a crash course in what all successful start-ups do: find an inventive, useful application that fulfills some need and show everybody why it’s the next-best-thing.

Back to the Tech Meetup on Tuesday: there were presenters at all stages of the startup cycle. Some were 50-person companies with heavy investment while others had little more than prototypes with 1-minute demos (after time expired, they got gonged). The demos were interesting, sure, but HackNY has sharpened my vision and given me perspective: while the presenters were on stage, I was analyzing everything. I noticed the other Fellows were, too, and in between demos we would discuss the products, the presenters, and how we would’ve done it differently.

We’re becoming comfortable with the process. hackNY is helping us take the tools we learn at our various schools and actually create something with them. I’ll take that any day over working for some corporation.

Sometimes you need to use the Internet to help yourself get off the internet. And sometimes you need people from academia to help you figure out what the hell you’re gonna do with yourself after you leave academia.


Before I go, some standouts from the Tech Meetup:

  • ThumbPlay gave a sneak-peek of their next-generation online audio player, all written in HTML5.
  • Kyle Bragger introduced Forrst, a place for developers and designers to share their work and give each other assistance. It’s invite-only for now, but the splash screen is so damn cool.
  • Perpetually floored everyone with their super-smart tool which pairs analytics data with visual snapshots of your web site at any given point in time.