From the floor of the Enyo Hackathon | webOS Nation

From the floor of the Enyo Hackathon

by Derek Kessler Sun, 05 Aug 2012 12:26 am EDT

From the floor of the Enyo Hackathon

More than one hundred developers ranging from novice to experienced gathered today at the HP webOS campus in Sunnyvale to participate in a day-long Enyo Hackathon. The day featured multiple presentations from webOS developers, an introduction to Enyo for those not familiar with the application framework, and several hours of 'hacking' time where HP employees offered assistance and guidance to the attendees. (full disclosure: HP is paying for my flight and hotel for this trip)

The event was mutually beneficial for developers and HP, with the developers getting hands-on experience and instruction in one of the more innovative app frameworks of our time while Enyo as a framework received wider exposure and was improved by contributions from the crowd.

Enda McGrath gives the introduction for the Enyo Hackathon

The Enyo Hackathon rolled from the starting line at 9:30 in the morning, with bagels and donuts, plus an iced trough filled with hackathon essentials: bottled water and Red Bull. After half an hour of breakfast and registration, head of webOS Developer Relations Enda McGrath took the stage to officially start the event and quickly turned things over to Gray Norton, head of Enyo development to give an overview of Enyo, including its history and why developers should consider it as their framework of choice.

After Norton finished, webOS developer Ryan Rix took a few minutes on stage to discuss how he's used Enyo for his application development. Impressively, he used Enyo for his slides, having helped build an open source application appropriately named EnyoSlides. The presentation is hosted online and can be remotely controlled and viewed over the internet, as well as accept comments and questions from the audience.

Ryan Rix presents at the Enyo Hackathon

Next up was somebody you wouldn't necessarily expect to see making a presentation at a hackathon, user interface designer Hal Saville, the beauty half of the Superinhuman Industries app house (the brains half being Jeremy Thomas, who joined HP in January 2011). Saville's presentation was on how to make visually well-designed apps. Saville was the visual thinker behind such webOS apps as Tron-tastic unit convertor Radius and beloved Twitter client Bad Kitty. He focused on the importance of stripping down information, keeping things simple, being okay with white space in a design, and using your content as your user interface. He also gave a quick preview of his next app, an app named Way that will save a point via geolocation and give you distance and direction to get back there - a simple app in concept, but with Superinhuman's typical high-end design.

PhoneGap's Herm Wong gave a brief presentation on Adobe's cross-platform application compiler, and then the developers were set off to hacking. While the traditional hackathon format is to start from scratch and see how much of an app you can complete in the time required, the Enyo Hackathon extended that include contributions to Enyo's documentation and even updates to Enyo's code itself. Throughout the day multiple pull requests were approved and added to Enyo, with a ringing of a bell into the main hacking space to signal the event. They're really into improving Enyo through community contributions.

What was most interesting about the attendees was the mix of developer experience, at the start, Norton quickly surveyed the crowd, asking who was had done development with Enyo, who had some familiarity with Enyo, and who was completely new to the framework. It turned out that the three groups accounted for equal portions of the hackathon attendees, with a good portion not even necessarily familiar with the progenitor of the Enyo framework: webOS. They're the web developers that HP wanted all along to be working on webOS. The primary specialty among many of the developers seemed to be JavaScript, which makes sense given the heavy JavaScript base of Enyo.

Enyo 101 introduction class

For that large group of new-to-Enyo developers, the Developer Relations team offered a "Enyo 101" class to give them the basics of Enyo app development. The developers that tried to crowd into the small conference room proved enough to prompt the hackathon's organizers to open a second conference room and run two concurrent 101 classes. I sat in on one class headed by Dave Freeman (the other was run by Markus Leutweler, both of Developer Relations), it ran about an hour long and was taught well enough that even code-ignorant me was able to understand what was happening. I wouldn't say I walked out of there knowing how to write an app with Enyo - I lack the JavaScript knowledge to make that happen - but I certainly got a better understanding of how Enyo is structured and works. At the very least I know enough to be able to break an Enyo app.

Helping out

After six hours of hacking, fourteen brave developers got up to present their work. What they created ran the gamut of contributions to Enyo. A lot of the developers took advantage of the assistance of hackathon sponsor Firebase, a Javascript-accessible online-stored database start-up. Attendee demonstrations started with a Flickr presentation app that gives the presenter the ability stream images to remote watchers (demoed from a Chrome on Windows and an Amazon Kindle Fire), with the intention of eventually whipping the app into a full-blown presentation app.

Another developer started creating an Untapped for wine, named Enyology, which he showed off in the browser and with the iPhone emulator. One enterprising developer put hours of work into making a basic app for Windows Phone with Enyo, with the majority of the work dedicated into a freshly-incorporated update to the Bootplate Enyo template to better support Windows Phone.

The most impressive and well-received demo, however, was not an Enyo app at all. Developer Blaine Bublitz put his time into making development easier for all Enyo developers. The Bootplate template is good, but it can require a lot of tedious customization to tailor it to the app in development. So one attendee created a command line tool that generates an Enyo scaffold from scratch with appropriately named files while including and packaging all of the necessary libraries. Bublitz's scaffolder also can handle debugging for Enyo apps and the developer plans to add a package manager to integrate items from the Enyo Community Gallery.

Final presentation at the Enyo Hackathon

And what's a hackathon without prizes? gave their favorite implementation of their service a $100 Amazon gift code, while Firebase (who had a lot of apps to choose from) gave a developer who put together an Enyo kind a super cool interactive Super Mario coin block tower lamp. The Enyo team gave the Bootplate scaffold builder a Nexus 7 tablet (irony alert inside Palm HQ), another developer a pair of Beats headphones, and yet another a third-generation iPad. All other presenters received a $25 Starbucks gift card good for "some java for today's JavaScript work".

All together, the Enyo Hackathon seems to have been a success for the Enyo team. A few dozen developers got experience with Enyo and some useful contributions to the entire framework were made by attendees. While events like this only have a small direct reach, the developers that came here are the dedicated type that tend to be community evangelists for the things that they like. By and large the attitude about Enyo was positive amongst attendees, but as those who added to Enyo as a platform can attest is in need of improvement going forward. More events like this and the conferences that the Enyo team has been attending will help spread the word and get more developers on board with Enyo.