Our Favorite New Apps From The Node.js Knockout Competition

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Over the weekend, over 200 teams of developers met up to participate in Node.js Knockout, a 48 hour coding competition with one basic rule: you *had* to use node.js to build your app. The deadline was midnight on Sunday, which means that the finished applications are currently being subjected to the scrutiny of the expert panel of judges and – perhaps even more terrifying – the general public. The winning team walks away with a whole bundle of prizes, including an iPad for each member.

So what is node.js? Without getting super technical, it’s a framework for JavaScript that allows developers to easily write programs that run on the server, rather than in the browser like JavaScript normally does. Node’s design takes advantage of this fact by using a novel approach to I/O that allows a lot of users to access the program at the same time. If that whets your appetite, Simon Willison gets into some more technical details. Side note: if you like to build things (especially under arbitrary deadlines), using node.js or anything else, you should come show us what you’ve got at the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon on September 25-26 here in San Francisco.

Voting for the best application is open now through Thursday night at midnight, so head over and cast your vote. Here are our favorites:

Swarmation – This multi-player game reduces each participant to a single pixel. Players must work together (or not) to move their pixels to form patterns that are chosen by a Tetris-like unseen overlord. Gameplay is super smooth and it gets very interesting to watch the strategies employed by each player. Huge time sink potential.

Drawbridge – This one has some serious potential to turn into a revenue-generating business.
Multiple people can share a sketchpad to draw out quick notes, ideas, whatever. It can be tough to control using a trackpad, but a mouse is better. The real win would be if the team can get it to work on the iPad – unfortunately it doesn’t right now, but that’s definitely an app I would pay for.

Jackalope – You’ll want to open two windows for this one: the admin pane and the demo site. As you mouse and click around on the demo, you can watch all of your actions reflected in real time on the admin page. Now imagine getting this data from all the visitors to your site, in real time. Another one that has a clear potential for revenue.

Salamander – Multi-player snake. Eat the apples to grow – trap your opponents in the corners of the board. Similar to Swarmation in that it’s a simple concept, easy and fast to control, interesting to watch player behavior, and (of course) a massive time sink.

Tweet Quest – This one is actually really fun. You’re a knight in shining armor with nothing but your wits and your sword (at first) to help you make your way through a rat-infested dungeon. Hook it up to your twitter account and it imports the avatars of the people you follow – and photoshops them onto the bodies of the rats that you must destroy. That doesn’t sound like much but it really is what makes the game what it is – seeing the alerts that I had defeated both Heather Harde and Paul Graham pretty much made my night.

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