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Mon, Oct 02, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Computer geeks descend on Yahoo for `Hack Day'

HACK HEAVEN Techno wizards from all over the planet congregated in Sunnyvale, California, for 24 hours of mixing, breaking and re-applying computer programs


Canadian computer hackers, right to left, Jason Barnes, Robert Ellis and Peter Sawka collaborate intensely while ``mashing'' together Yahoo programs to make a creative new application of their own during the Internet search giant's 24-hour ``Hack Day'' in Sunnyvale, California, on Saturday.


Computer coding savants fueled by pizza, beer and rock music turned Yahoo's campus into a zany warren of online creativity at the Internet giant's first-ever all night hack-a-thon.

Software rebels traveled from as far as Australia and Canada to tear-apart, reconstruct and "mash up" the Internet search giant's applications at a 24-hour "hackfest" that ended on Saturday.

"This is the center of the Internet universe," Jason Barnes said as he and two other "Web2.0 Specialists" from the western Canadian city of Vancouver hacked on laptops in a booth in a Yahoo cafeteria dubbed "URL Cafe."

"All the energy and innovation that is here. If you loved the idea of space travel and had the chance to get aboard a space ship, wouldn't you go?" he said.

A tent village formed on lush grass in the Yahoo courtyard by sundown on Friday as some 500 hackers broke into clusters and cadres in nooks, corners, booths and rooms in the cafeteria building.

Yahoo's "Hack Day" launched with an outdoor performance by rock singer Beck, who got the throng bouncing with a brash collage of songs and genres that eventually triggered a body-bashing "mosh pit."

Hansen lingered afterward for a glimpse of what hackers were working on, telling Diana Eng her "Blogging in Motion" team project was "cool" and autographing a hacker's laptop with the message "MTV makes me want to hack."

Eng was using a sewing machine to make a handbag designed to conceal a mobile telephone camera being modified by teammate Emily Albinski to chronicle a user's day in images.

Pictures would be automatically taken at chosen distance intervals and then posted almost instantly on Web blogs via Yahoo's photo-sharing Web site Flickr.

"It's a whole lot of fun," said Eng, whose team came from New York City.

"Where else would we have a chance to build an application with Yahoo's help, and all these guys," she added with a wave at two engineers who whipped pulled up chairs and began to pitch in.

A short distance away, Jesse Zbikowski sat wearing oversized white-rim eyeglasses, a stained blue dress shirt, a tie, wrinkled pants and high-top Converse sneakers, one pink and the other yellow.

He sipped whiskey from a Styrofoam cup as he sat on a hallway couch and eyed the computer on his lap.

"Hacking is about taking what is out there and putting it together in interesting new ways," Zbikowski said.

Qingfen Huang and Kristopher Tate hacked Yahoo Messenger to automatically translate Asian language messages to English.

The Canadian team worked through the night to mash Yahoo calendar, map and Flickr software with original photos and video.

In the high-ceiling cafe some hackers shot at each other with foam pellet rifles as their more industrious peers hacked away.

The only onus Yahoo put on hackers was that they demonstrate their creations for all to see when the deadline arrived on Saturday. A panel of judges rated the hacks, looking for programing stars.

"The story is simple," Yahoo strategies vice president Bradley Horowitz said amid a sea of bleary-eyed hackers. "A bunch of people had a great time hacking stuff."

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