Coding for GOOD at the YouTube and Google TV Hackathon

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Developers, designers, and hackers descended upon the Google LA offices this weekend to craft and compete for prizes, glory, and possibly free beer. A select few were there specifically to get a job. Crammed into a room and given only the weekend to come up with an application, website, or something unexpectedly unique that hooked into either YouTube or Google TV, these coders/hackers built some innovative pieces, which were presented before a panel of judges at Demo Night on Sunday.

You can watch what the hackers had to offer at the live-streamed Demo Night presentation, which also includes a look back on the weekend just before the winners are announced (you can find it at 1:36:48).

But what drew us there was the folks from GOOD, who offered up a unique opportunity for average coding geeks to compete alongside veterans for the chance at a job with their company. GOOD essentially uses technology, and the many ways it connects people, as a platform to do good in the world. So when they went searching for new employees, they sought out people with passion, not just skill and years of experience. After combing through countless applications they received from the result of an 8 week course that included 16 free coding lessons, they whittled their finalists down to three individuals. They sent those three to the Venice, California, offices of Google to take part in the Google YouTube Hackathon, where they were teamed up with experienced developers and GOOD staff to create apps with the new YouTube API.

google youtube hackathon 2013 003 300x225 Coding for GOOD at the YouTube and Google TV Hackathon We spoke with Chelsea Spann, the account manager at GOOD, who told us a little about the three participants and how they came to be involved in GOOD and the YouTube/Google TV Hackathon.

“GOOD is an online community and media platform that gives people the tools to do good in the world and make stuff work. We started out as a quarterly magazine and it evolved into an online site. Good.is
It has a lot of learns and do’s. We’ve turned it into more of a social media platform. What Facebook is to your social self and LinkedIn is to your business self, GOOD is to your civic self. We provide a lot of content and develop a lot of articles around doing good in the world. And then we also develop this new thing called DO’s, which we just implemented late last year. And it’s where you have something you want people to participate in and have some reflective action to do good in the world, whether that’s a block party or a fund raiser or a run. You invite people and together “let’s DO.” So the bigger thing of the site is how do we measure the impact we’re trying to create in the world when we’re trying to do this good. You can push out content all day and that used to be a niche market, but it’s not anymore. Everyone is writing about the tools to do good in the world. Doing good is now a buzzword. So how do you move past that? How do you measure that impact? That’s what we’re trying to do.

google youtube hackathon 2013 002 300x400 Coding for GOOD at the YouTube and Google TV Hackathon “One of the ways we did that was Coding for GOOD. GOOD is a wonderful company because they try to come up with new models, especially in our hiring process. Our CTO, Doug Sellers, looked at our tech team and a lot of the talent of the tech team, he specifically picked through other people he’s met. And a lot of these coders are self-taught. Some of them have their PHD. Some of them have their masters in Computer Science. But half of them don’t. And they had to teach themselves and they’re quality incredible coders. So he wants to find those people, but for there to be system beyond him selecting those people. So we did this case study called Coding for GOOD, where we developed an online curriculum of 16 free lessons that taught languages that range from HTML5 to CSS to Javascript to API integration and really hand fed people the information they needed and collected the best of sites where people could learn: Code Academy, Corsica, etc. The participants were able to go on the site to learn, challenge themselves and quiz themselves after each lesson. And at the end, submit a project to show what they learned, whether it was a website for something they’re passionate about that does good in the world. So the three contestants that we have here (Corey Speisman, Brian Bonus, and Ada Ng) submitted the best applications. And each of them had a story that aligned with what we were looking for, which is someone who has novice skills, who just has an interest in coding, but not the formal education. Someone who is passionate about it and is looking for a job, but doesn’t have the background or the criteria to get a job, except that they love it themselves and taught themselves.

“With this program we got a lot of people asking us how we can integrate it into schools. A teacher’s union came to us and said, “We’d love to use this to teach our teachers, because this is the *NEW* language. Spanish and French are not the only languages kids need to learn in school. Kids are learning this from a young age. We had a 9 year old email us to tell us he’s taking our courses. Kids are learning this and we need to keep up with the next generation and provide the education online in order to keep up and in order to give them the skills so that they’re not piecing together the videos on YouTube to try to learn something.

coding for good at the google youtube hackathon cory ada brian 300x300 Coding for GOOD at the YouTube and Google TV Hackathon

Corey, Ada, Brian

“This was our opportunity to get that person we wanted on our team, but how do you test those skills? They send us their projects and that’s terrific, but we really want to bring them into a recruiting process. So we brought them here (to LA) and interviewed them all day on Friday. One’s from New York, one’s from Washington DC area, and one is from LA. We flew two of them in, got them together, and they’ve been pow-wowing all weekend at this Hackathon to create an app using either the new YouTube API or Google TV. They joined teams of 5 or 6 and had three of our tech people join each them as mentors. Then they had to develop their ideas together all night, all weekend.”

Ada Ng

When I was in high school I tried my hand at coding, but decided not to pursue it in college. I went to Cornell and the campus I went to didn’t have a lot of courses in Computer Science, so it became something I put in the back of my mind. Recently as I was going through my studies, I realized how relevant my design background could be to coding and how technology is so relevant to people. I went to the College of Human Ecology, so its studies that revolve around people, psychology, their upbringing and their influences. And you know what technology is getting big these days. How can I bring my specialty in user experience for people to technology? Then I remembered I love this stuff and here I am.

Corey Speisman

I did an undergrad in music and worked in the music industry for about a year when I decided it was time to go back to school. But when I applied for something in Computer Sciences, I kept getting the same feedback, that I was a good looking candidate, but I didn’t have the prerequisites that I needed. So to get where I wanted, I’d have to take the math and the coding classes, but it would be a four year experience.

I learned a lot of object oriented programming and dealing with APIs. I’ve never dealt with APIs before the Coding for GOOD lessons. I’d love to take on an entry level developer position and hopefully get to work in the technologies I already know and learn more.

Brian Bonus

I’ve been a fan of GOOD magazine for quite some time. The Coding for GOOD project came up on my Facebook feed. I’ve been teaching myself Java and a couple of other things for a little while. I knew I wanted to get to Javascript and HTML and CSS and this became a reason to accelerate that timeline.

The most important thing I’ve learned is how much I don’t know and how much more I have to learn. I feel like I have a good grasp of the fundamentals that would make me a solid junior developer. But that’s a great starting point for me to learn more about so many other tools and ways of thinking about solving problems.

THE WINNER

google youtube hackathon 2013 011 300x225 Coding for GOOD at the YouTube and Google TV Hackathon Announced this morning, Brian Bonus, the self-taught coder from LA, was awarded the job at GOOD. As part of a five person team, Brian spent the Google YouTube Video Hack-A-Thon building an ed-tech app that allows teachers to test their students during video lessons and get real time responses from them via their mobile devices in the classroom. His team also took home the prize for “Best Teamwork”. According to GOOD, “It was his ability to collaborate and his passion for making a difference in the education sector that ultimately earned him the job on the GOOD development team.”

“I’ve had so many great experiences; it’s been a blast over all. The spirit of collaboration at this Hack-A-Thon was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my professional or personal life. There’s something really electric about a bunch of people coming together to come up with cool ideas and then actually executing them in a really short period of time. That’s such an amazing environment to be in. I look forward to doing more of these in the future.

Coding for GOOD has been an amazing opportunity to bridge the skills gap and despite a bad job market has validated all the hard work that went into my learning and growing as a programmer and now as a GOOD
employee,” said Bonus after being awarded an opportunity at a full time job at the GOOD headquarters
Monday afternoon. The entire GOOD office, including GOOD’s CTO himself, was on hand to welcome him,
cheer his success and even show him his new desk.

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