November 11, 2013 - by Emily Busse
San Francisco — Node Knockout 2013's competition phase concluded on Sunday night exactly 48 hours after it kicked off at Joyent's headquarters. NKO2013, as it's known, brought in 400 teams from more than 20 countries to compete in the world's biggest Node.js programming hackathon. Teams now await the judging by the panel of more than 100 volunteer judges over the next week.
After code deployments were halted at exactly 4pm local time (00:00 UTC), a final round of food and beverages were consumed. Weary engineers, eager to demonstrate their hard work stepped up to the microphone for three-minutes of live demos. Google Hangout demos from remote participants continued into the night, MC'd by Daniel Shaw, CEO of The NodeFirm. All web-deployable demos are viewable at nodeknockout.com/teams. Winners will be announced next week and the top 100 winners will be memorialized on the permanent leaderboard there.
On Friday night, kickoff speakers included lead Node.js gatekeeper Isaac Schlueter. Then the night launched with food and hacking. Scattered around Joyent’s San Francisco office, the teams staked out a spot, and their hundreds of competitors working from around the globe got to work on projects ranging from video games to hardware hacks.
“[Node Knockout] is showing what you can do with technology,” said Knockout organizer Ash Bhoopathy. “Oftentimes you don’t have the creative latitude to create what you want. A hackathon is the perfect time to stretch those creative muscles and Node.js is the perfect tool.”
Gerad Suyderhoud, one of the original founders of the four-year-old event, explained they decided to organize the first Node Knockout after winning a Ruby Rumble hackathon.
“We waited and waited for someone else to [organize a Node.js hackathon], and then we just said, ‘OK fine we’ll do it ourselves,” he said. “It started with a single tweet and ballooned from there... There’s been so much support from the Node.js community from day one. It’s been an awesome experience.”
Suyderhoud described their first year of Node Knockout as “running around with our hair on fire, not sure if it was going to work,” and said the event has evolved since then, maturing and growing alongside the Node.js ecosystem.
“Before it was only people on the fringe,” he said. “Now it’s people from all walks. That’s exciting.”
For participant Jacob Groundwater from New Relic, it’s a chance to showcase his project, NodeOS — something he describes as “having a very catchy name, but is terribly misunderstood.”
The team is working to install their stripped-down OS on a Raspberry Pi computer: “It started with a crazy question,” Groundwater explained. “We wondered, ‘What if we took npm and just said, ‘That is going to be the main package manager for the system. Nothing in between.’”
Groundwater, in his first year of Node Knockout, said the event gives them the chance to share NodeOS with others who are interested in what they’re doing.
“It’s fun, it’s open, and it’s free. You can contribute immediately...and Node.js is the glue to make all that craziness work,” he said. “I’m taking something that was literally made right here and I’m taking it in a brand new direction.”
One team had already set up camp early in one of Joyent’s side rooms, eager to get a jump on their project after traveling 1,700 miles to get here. Team TangoSource, from Colima, Mexico, showed up at 9 a.m. after making the trek to compete. The team of three was devising a plan to build a zombie-themed video game with real-time communication, in which you have the option to either control the zombies or annihilate them.
Narciso Guillen said their game idea was somewhat last-minute, but that’s part of the fun of Node Knockout.
“I started playing around with Node last year, and wanted to come up and compete, meet cool people, and learn a lot,” he said. “Besides that, we’re competing and we’re trying to tell the world that we do know what we’re doing.”
Teammates Juan Alberto Alcaraz Zamudio and Zaida Jeaneth Farmer Medina echoed Guillen’s excitement. Their team and the other hundreds of competitors will have until Sunday night to submit their projects, and will find out who won Node Knockout 2013 the following Sunday.
Pointing out the dozen or so empty Red Bull cans already strewn about their desk, Team TangoSource summed up their game plan in one sentence:
“We’re not planning to sleep tonight.”
Congrats to all of the participants for completing the event, and thank you to the Node Knockout team of organizers, sponsors, and volunteers.