At this past workshop, Cemre Güngör taught us about the magic of Processing. He started off by giving us a list of seemingly random numbers and a challenge to figure out what they were. We got a quick introduction about how Processing works, started off with learning how to draw shapes on the screen and learned how to procedurally create a bar graph. By the end, we came up with a way to visualise the numbers with a dynamic parameter that let us figure out what the numbers were (turns out that they corresponded to the number of times the word “Election” has been mentioned in the news every month).
Cemre took a similar workshop from data artist Jer Thorp, who is known for his visualisation work at the New York Times and keeps a blog. Jer was kind enough to let us use his course material for our workshop.
This post is by 2011 hackNY Fellow Cemre Güngör, who interns with Etsy.
Whitney Hess is an independent User Experience professional, speaker and blogger who lives in New York City.
Whitney Hess joined hackNY at the New Work City coworking space to talk to us about the field of User Experience and working as an independent professional. Having suggested her as a speaker, I was very excited to get to meet Whitney. Only two of this year’s hackNY Fellows identify as designers, though all of the Fellows showed an overwhelming interest in Whitney’s talk. Whitney inspired many Fellows to learn more about design and user experience, which made her talk a success.
Whitney started her talk by telling the story of how she ended up in the field of User Experience. She told us that her empathy towards users was the most important thing she learned in the Human-Computer Interaction program at Carnegie Mellon, and having studied professional writing helps her express her thoughts clearly, which is a very useful skill in her profession. “User Experience is more than a collection of methods”, Whitney said. “It is a philosophy about how to treat people”.
The most informative part of Whitney’s talk was when she walked us through a recent project she worked on. We got to see the process in its entirety, starting all the way from user research, interviews, defining personas, planning features all the way up to designing wireframes and running usability tests. Seeing a systematic approach to getting to know the users and defining the product helped us understand what doing User Experience entails.
One Fellow asked Whitney what she thought about companies like Apple and 37signals who claim to design products for themselves, as opposed to researching what their customers want. Whitney said she thinks this “designing for yourself” philosophy is just marketing, and that “people like Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive constantly observe society”.
We also heard about what it’s like to work as an independent professional. Whitney talked about the difference between working with startups and big companies, coworking communities, and how she pitches clients and paces her work.
While she likes having different projects and working with different companies, she pointed out that one downside of being an independent is that one doesn’t always get to see projects finalized. Whitney told us she’s very lucky because she gets to pick her clients. “I’m not in the business for convincing companies to care for their customers,” she said.
In this post 2011 hackNY Fellow Misha Ponizil describes the lastest student workshop, in which Fellows teach each other tips, tricks and skills they know and are learning through their internships.
Preface about HackNY Workshops: Eitan Adler and I were talking during the beginning of the fellowship program and we decided that we had to get something out of the fact that we were basically living with 30 other coders who could all each teach us something we didn’t know.
There are always new technologies to pickup or at least get exposed to, and there’s no better opportunity than having fellows at New York’s hottest startups teach each other what we know. So we created workshops that we hold once a week with two presenters covering something we think everyone else will want to learn. We’re all experts in some area or another; workshops are how we share the wealth.
Wednesday evening it was my turn to present. I’ve been doing some awesome work with (and learning all about) Node.js and Socket.io at OMGPOP, the startup I have been working at for five weeks. I started by demoing a stock trading simulation that uses the technologies to simulate and visually display the execution of multiple trading algorithms.
By the end of the presentation, everyone in attendance was running Node and creating real-time socket-based functionality. While some parts of the talk focused on specific syntax and procedure for getting setup, a lot of time was spent simply on exposing the fellows to the possibilities of working with Node and Socket.io. The goal is that those interested in the features will have little trouble getting started after a full instructive overview of how it all comes together.
Next week we’re expecting some pretty awesome talks by two Fellows. We plan to have Cemre Gungor cover the Processing library and Grant Kot to demo and explain his work with physics-based animation. Guests are welcome to join our workshops, which are traditionally held midweek in an NYU classroom.
hackNY.org is proud to announce the class of 2011 hackNY Fellows!
Thanks to the generosity of a diverse community of supporters, we were able to expand our class from 12 members last year to 35 this year. Our Fellows come from 19 schools at 17 universities from as far west as Stanford and as far north as McGill! The Fellows program includes housing in Union Square as well as a series of pedagogical lectures introducing Fellows to founders, investors, and technologists from the NYC startup ecosystem.
The members of the class of 2011 hackNY Fellows and their host startups are:
My first day of my summer internship was by far the most epic first day I have ever had. Ever.
Through my summer fellowship with hackNY, I was matched with BankSimple, a NYC tech startup redefining personal banking. My first day of work landed on a Friday, and I showed up to the Brooklyn office at 10am (the latest I have ever been able to show up for a job), ready to go. I spent the day getting to know everyone and learning about the project on which I would start working on Monday, but mostly chatting and scheming with my “mentor” Allen.
I was about ready to pack up for the weekend when I was invited to stay and listen in on a company-wide Skype meeting and product demo. The two-hour long meeting was pretty epic. I got to hear all about the history of the company, learn about prospective capital options, and experience the awesomeness of a new financial-planning interface that is in the works.
But it gets better. After the meeting was over, CEO Josh Reich (recently named by Crains as one of the top “People to watch in Silicon Alley“) reminded the whole Brooklyn team about the dinner he was hosting at his house later that night. It being my first day as an intern, I was completely intimidated by the prospect of spending an evening with all my new colleagues at my boss’s house and quickly tried to come up with a reason to excuse myself from the invitation. But then Josh told us about the evening’s menu – homemade fried chicken. I could not resist.
Hours later, I was sitting in Josh’s home enjoying a delicious, home-cooked meal and unending beverages around one long table with everyone. It was exciting to be welcomed onto the team so quickly and greatly. I ended up getting home around 1am (the latest I have ever gotten home from a job), ready for bed. All I could think was, If this is what the first day was like, this is going to be a great summer!