Something that’s a potential watershed in the generation of interactive TV takes place next weekend. Something not on anyone’s radar screen just two years ago, now quite commonplace in the digital frontier–the hackathon.
What’s a hackathon? Groups of people coming together in one place over a weekend, firing up their imaginations and coming up with new Internet, mobile or tablet applications and services. TechCrunch’s first Disrupt conference in New York almost two years ago introduced me to what a hackathon could produce. Whether what gets created goes on to mass adoption by us, or crashes and trashes a particular weekend, the big outcome is a service developer community, often linking up people of color, more intent on producing new ventures and developing for the long haul.
On April 21, Google will wade into this environment with a pair of hackathons, happening at their Mountain View, California headquarters and a new London campus. Over that weekend, developer teams from the estimated 200,000-plus Android developer community will show up and for the first time, get imaginative over interactive TV. They’ll be cooking up applications for Google TV, which first and foremost is an open ITV platform, and which will work or not depending on how or if the public embraces the services using that platform. The best work emerging from the weekend at each location will be surveyed by a panel of judges, and prizes include trips to Google’s annual I/O developer conference, a step forward to get a new service aboard Google TV.
At Mountain View, the judging panel includes former Sling Media chief executive Blake Krikorian, The Next Web West Coast editor Drew Olanoff and Canaan Partners venture partner Mark Mangiola. That’s big in itself. We’ve got a technology venture chief, a venture capital rep and a Internet news player seeing for themselves where interactive TV may go. Who knows what will come from that?
How about for starters with Mangiola, a VC willing to encourage other VCs, angel investors, incubator and accelerator ventures to rethink their apathy on new TV project investment?
Here’s the bottom line: Google is the first mover in encouraging these hackathon communities–and the tech crowd at large–to play full out in interactive TV. For the first time in public, developers with sights on Web, mobile and tablet apps will get motivated to include ITV in their game plans and ultimate goals. Or fuel their course primarily on ITV. As a credit card company message concludes, priceless.
Way to go, Google, for this initiative. Now here’s some next steps to take:
1) Make noise about this. Lots of noise. Don’t leave it to a blog post on your Google TV site to showcase these hackathons to the world. Get your PR staff working the phones to TechCrunch, PandoDaily, All Things Digital, etc. for coverage, not to mention the local newspapers and TV stations in California and London, plus USA Today.
2) Broaden the base of participants. Go beyond the Android developer groups. Invite members of Women 2.0, Women In Cable, NAMIC, Consumer Electronics Association, NAB, NTCA, NATPE,New York Television Festival etc. to come in and play.
3) Encourage investment makers to witness the proceedings for themselves. Make calls to all those Silicon Valley VCs up and down Sand Hill Road to show up next weekend. Have angels like Ron Conway in attendance. Ditto Y Combinator, TechStars, 500 Startups and that bunch. No see, no appreciate, apathy on new TV ventures continues.
4) Keep the Google TV hackathons coming. Do one in New York, one in Los Angeles, one in Chicago, one in Florida, one or more in Texas, and so on–the more this year, the better. Implement the three previous steps with each event. How about one in Boston next month at The Cable Show, co-partnering with the Imagine Apps Challenge taking place there? Great way to generate ITV and some valuable TV and cable industry relationships, especially when you’re about to own Motorola Mobility, one of the two powers in set-top boxes. Explore similar tie-ins at other TV and technology events worldwide.
Get hacking, everyone coming next weekend to Mountain View and London. You’ve got some interested eyes in what you dream up, and ultimately, the interactive TV marketplace we see.
Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!