When I’m working on developing an OpenTok application, I want to move fast. As a software engineer, I have loads of little workflow shortcuts, scripts, tricks, and favorite tools. When I started to build optk, I wanted to shave off just a couple seconds off of something that I had to do dozens of times a day.
As much as we love using OpenTok to get face-to-face with colleagues, friends, and family all around the world, its still important to physically get out there and talk to users to hear how they feel about our product. Last week a few TokBoxers, including myself, took a trip to Amsterdam for the annual TNW Europe conference. The venue was beautiful, the sessions were insightful, but most of all the people in attendance made our experience meaningful.
While WebRTC has been innovating at an impressively rapid rate, the users of the web and mobile apps have been delighted with lots of new experiences. We’ve started connecting to people across different timezones, countries, and even continents in real time, on just about every sort of device. But when we ask developers, the people who dream up the next wave of crazy ideas, what they need in order to keep delighting their users we hear a few things over and over.
One of the most requested features of the platform that developers are patiently waiting for is WebRTC broadcasts at scale. The technical challenge is about getting the right stream (with the right bitrate, and the right encoding) out to all the different types of people who are watching, with their vastly different networks and bandwidth capabilities.
What happens when you take an API evangelist for OpenTok and introduce him to a bunch of developers in a place he’s never been to, for example Tel Aviv? Yeah, I had no idea either. It turns out that in a place like Tel Aviv, where there are some brilliant startups springing up, there’s no shortage of awesome developers with endless creativity.
TDHack, the first Telefonica Digital Israel hackathon, took place this past weekend. I saw it not only as an opportunity to go meet some our extended family, but to jump out of the American startup scene that I know so well and see how things are different (or the same) in Israel.
Developing an iOS App itself is a huge undertaking: you want your product to be beautiful, interactive, and functional. That’s why Parse makes so much sense, it helps you avoid writing a backend server to power your App by giving you a data store and providing the most basic web services. These days many web services are incredibly powerful and help developers do really amazing things, like OpenTok, but they are targeted at having a backend. That’s where Parse Cloud Code comes in: it gives developers the ability to leverage the best of a back-end server in the path of least resistance.
At TokBox we can almost feel the excitement that developers are feeling for this year’s Google I/O conference, afterall our office is just a few blocks away from the Moscone Center. This afternoon we got to see Google tell developers about their Hangouts Platform and we were pretty excited to see what they had to offer.
It’s no secret that OpenTok and Hangouts share a lot of the same functionality, but we thought it would be really helpful for developers in our community if we pointed out some place where they differ. Afterall, for developers it should always be about using the best tool for the job.
This past weekend I got to travel down south for a pretty sweet event, Startup Riot MAKE. Startup Riot has been hosting a week-long expo/conference in Atlanta for the last 2 years as well as one in Seattle. This year they decided to add a hackathon into the mix to warm people of for the upcoming week of festivities. The hackathon is called MAKE, and thats exactly what these hackers intended to do. No BS, its time to make something awesome.
No, I’m not talking about the Rocky theme song here – I’m actually referring to the mascot at Princeton University, but now that you already have it playing in your head…
At TokBox we’ve travelled to dozens of Startup Weekend events but there was definitely a different type of hunger at Princeton Startup Weekend. Not many of these events get the chance to be hosted on a prominent university’s campus, with the leagues of inspired and creative students anxiously awaiting their opportunity to make a dent on the universe. It made the weekend exciting and fruitful for some of the future entrepreneurs that we met. I’d like to highlight some of my favorites here.
If Startup Weekend is entrepreneurship on training wheels, then we sure could use an event that’s one step more advanced. Once you understand the dynamics of choosing a team, the compromises involved in pivoting, and the pitfalls of not validating customers, there should be a place to dig deeper into your startup idea – execute, period. I’m glad to say this weekend I found that next step.
S.P.A.R.K Chicago kicked off last Friday like any other Startup Weekend, except these entrepreneurs were hungry. They knew that not only would they be judged on launching a startup in 54 hours, but the top three teams would move forward for another three days to find one ultimate winner. The stakes were high because the competition was steeper and the prizes were money. But what I saw motivating these teams was that coming out on top of this unique event would be something memorable (okay fine, the prizes valued at over $100k were part of it too).
Allow me to introduce you to some of the teams.
This past weekend Tokbox was at Game Hack Day in NYC and we must say it was more fun than we expected. The organizers had a great set of API presentations which included Foursquare, Twilio, OMGPOP, Aviary, and of course OpenTok. We also had the pleasure of learning more about some pretty cool libraries and hardware to hack with. They really went all out, even procuring Parot AR Drones and Microsoft Kinect devices to entice the participants and spark some creativity.