Social Avatar Hack Takes Top Prize at The Next Web Hackathon

Everyone has an email address. And it seems everybody is on Facebook or Twitter. Can you start with an email address and end up with the user's photo from one of those social web services? According to two hackers at The Next Web Hackathon, you most definitely can. Email to X won first place, which came with over $3,500 of Amazon Web Services credits. And it turns out the hack, which doesn't always use official APIs, may put those credits to good use.

You can get a feel for all the hacks by seeing the projects wiki page. All 12 that presented on stage after 48 hours of hacking made great use of APIs. Email to X was chosen for its immediate usefulness to developers and hacker ingenuity. The two winning developers, Emanuel Lainas and Thomas Schaaf, met at the conference. A combined 42 years old, you can see my interview with them in the video embedded below.

The one downside to Email to X is that it may not survive in its current state. Neither Twitter nor Facebook supply a way to retrieve avatars via their APIs. Lainas and Schaaf went to lengths to circumvent anti-abuse measures. However, the hack, which they've referred to as Gravatar 2.0, shows that officially sanctioned methods of retrieving avatars are needed.

One of the honorable mentions also has a developer aim. Deployr adds drag-and-drop functionality to the Amazon EC2 API. The Mac app keeps track of deploys and has a companion iPhone app, named Oops, that can be used to roll back changes.

The other honorable mention is EmbedBook, a solo project from Michiel Gardner to tap into your friends' Facebook shares and display them as a sort of visual Feed. Embeddable content, such as YouTube videos, are displayed on the page using the Embedly API.

During the two day hackathon there were 80 developers working together on projects. As usual, there was plenty of junk food and caffeine provided. In the end, there were many solid ideas and surprisingly great execution given the timeline. Be sure to check out the list of projects to see everything hacked upon.

Be sure to read the next Events article: Industrious E-Signature Hacks: Petitions, Delivery Slips and Parental Consent