For the second time in as many months, it was a journey over the water to Amsterdam for a conference. It seems the place to be for Tech and for this beardy wanderer, with good reason. Not only did TNW manage to book some great weather to welcome us to the leafy Westerpark, but continued to follow the theme of finding some stunning architecture for the venue.
The event was split over three buildings in the Westergasfabriek, a repurposed 19th century coal gas plant. The main event was held in the Gashouder, a giant circular space with towering ceilings.
First we start at the Machinegebouw, where the Kings of Code Hack Battle was getting underway.
29 teams had 36 hours to hack together a working app, using any APIs they like from the wealth of Hack Battle partners, including Spotify, Sendgrid, Twitter and of course Pearson. Up for grabs for the best Educational hack were two Tobii Rex Eye Tracking Developer Kits.
The wealth of ideas spanned the bizarre (an recipe mash-up app that could encourage you to try alarming food combinations) to the highly topical (a DNS security checker), but all were enthusiastically developed into polished presentation material with just the aid of skill, willpower and copious amount of caffeine.
When the dust and Red Bull settled, there could only be one winner - Semasearch. This was a contextual information plugin for Chrome, allowing users to double click a word and receive information on it from Pearson, Wikipedia and other sources in a neat browser sidebar. Very slick, with massive potential.
An honourable mention goes to the team behind PineFo (pictured in the stylish black and white shot), who made an information aggregator that pulled in keyword based information from Pearson, Springer and others saving the hassle of sifting through Google results. Both teams are looking forward to hacking something together with their newly acquired eye trackers!
Day two and the weather stayed hot and sunny throughout, which pleased everyone (especially me, being British) and meant we could take advantage of the excellent outdoor breakout area.
We rounded the conference off with a sharply observed comic interlude "The Most Unbelievable Startup Ever" and some thought provoking talks from Ancilla Tilia and Stefan Molyneux on Privacy, Piracy, Money, Power and Politics. Be sure to check out the videos when they're up! Sneak preview HERE.
To sum up, great event, great speakers - put it on the 'to do' list!