TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon Developers Learn To Simplify Under Pressure

Under the pressure that is the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon, one team found itself stuck. The product was too complex to complete on time. The team members were tired and depressed and ready to give up until one member of the team, software engineer Alessandro Diogo Bruckheimer, came up with an idea to simplify their goal, and the app Should I Ride My Bike? was born.

The app is designed to help users determine whether they should ride their bikes. Several of the team members are from Brazil and the weather can be rather volatile, says team member Alan Rafael Fachini. Wake up in the morning, he told me, and it’s sunny and beautiful, but four hours later there might be severe thunderstorms and flooded rivers. If you have your bike, it’s not a pleasant experience.

To alleviate that problem, the team connected to geographical data, weather data and SMS and each morning instead of pulling out your smartphone and checking the weather, the app checks it for you and gives you a simple message: Take your bike or leave it home.

To make it a bit more interesting, says product designer/front-end developer Elle Sakamoto the message includes a fun cartoon to illustrate whether you’re taking the bike or leaving it at home.

The team members only met Sakamoto yesterday. They had a team of developers, but they didn’t have a UX designer. They connected at the Hackathon and the team was formed.

The beauty of the app is in its simplicity. It does one thing and it does it well, which for a Hackathon makes for a reasonable and more reachable goal.

Before they simplified, the had a broader vision, according to Fachini. They thought about an interface where you could enter the starting point and ending point, and the program would analyze the weather throughout the journey throughout the day. As it turned out, that was too complex and too hard to pull off.

The team made use of several API tools to make the final product come together. First of all, the weather information gets pulled from the Weather Underground API. The SMS piece call got built with the Twilio API and they used esri and ArcGIS for geolocation information.

“I’m happy with result and the new idea we came up with,” Sakamoto said.

At this point, they aren’t sure if they will polish it and make it into a product because they were unsure how to organize the next steps, but in an age where apps are growing ever simpler -think the Yo-ification of apps -this team came up with a simple workable idea.

“Instead of just leaving,” Fachini said, “we decided to focus on a thing we could deliver and we were able to do that.” And let’s face it, a lot of software developers could learn a lesson from their experience. Instead of going for the whole idea, come up with something you can deliver and get the product out the door.

The final member of the team was 27-year-old software engineer Evandro Luis Dutra.