Rex St John reps a stable of APIs for Intel Mashery

I got on the phone with Rex St John, who is a Seattle-based evangelist for Intel Mashery.  He spends a lot of time working on the Intel Edison, but Mashery also accounts for a big stable of API's including Beats Music and Klout.  We talk about the distinction between public and private API's, developer experience, and touch on the future of hardware hacking at events.  

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Tyler Nappy is an NYC-based evangelist for Mailjet

I got on Skype with Tyler Nappy of Mailjet to talk about transactional email, the evangelism scene in New York City, and being a TechStars alum.  I met Tyler at HackCC in Santa Monica, a where I worked as a pinch hitter for their sponsorship team.  Mailjet is a transactional email service which has a strong presence and financial backers in Europe.

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Randall Hunt's background (NASA, MongoDB, AWS, HackNY fellow) will blow your mind

Via Mike Swift's referral, I got on Skype with Randall Hunt, who is an Evangelist at Amazon Web Services, based in New York City.  I felt that this conversation was a turning point, because in our pre-show warmup he mentioned he'd listened to my entire back catalog of shows to prepare.  Imagine how inspiring it was to get confirmation that my work is delivering value to someone who has been in the game for a while.  Anyway, we talk at length about the evangelism scene, HackNY fellowship, and what it was like to intern at NASA.  Plus, we chat about AWS products and how to be a friend to hackers.

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Mulesoft Evangelist Mike Stowe is completely self-taught

I got on a call with Mike Stowe of Mulesoft to talk about how they connect API's using an open source solution.  He actually picked up programming without any formal CS education (he originally studied to be a nurse), relying entirely on the generosity and power of community - now he wants to pay it forward through his evangelism.  

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MakeSchool evangelist Nicolai Safai got into evangelism via an unconventional route

I skyped with Nicolai Safai, an evangelist for MakeSchool.  MakeSchool is a practical education curriculum for software developers and startup founders.  MakeSchool is a YC Alumni company and is based in SoMA (they share an office with Apportable).  They offer a summer program and now yearlong courses.  Nicolai actually studied Neuroscience at UC Santa Barbara, but made the switch to tech via his long-time friendship with MakeSchool founder Jeremy Rossman.

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Neal Shyam of Challengepost powers hackathons and corporate challenges

I got on the phone (for the second time!) with Neal Shyam of Challengepost to talk about the hackathon game.  Neal has an interesting perspective because Challengepost is a platform to power any sort of developer challenge - in person at hackathons, or online as a longer form competition.  Brands like McDonalds and Coke have used the service, and many hackathons organziers lean on it as an event webpage.  It preserves submissions, several hundred thousand projects are indexed currently.

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Interview flow:

  • 0:00 Brief overview of Neal's background

    • Mechanical Engineer at CMU

    • worked on engines at caterpillar

    • ended up in B school at NYU

  • 0:48 - Brief overview of your ChallengePost

    • CP started as a competition platform

    • focused on building a community around hackers

    • CP is place for software developers and designers to show off their stuff

    • it powers registration, submissions, judging, sharing

    • Looking at CP’s data, you can check out each hackathon’s different set of sponsors - you can see the trends

  • 2:45 - What does a dev evangelist do?

    • Evangelist’s main job is to keep hackers engaged

    • if they run into problems get them the help they need

    • regardless of your event’s location CP can help

  • 4:18 - CP is a meta tool, what are unique challenges you have faced?

    • Civic Challenges are an interesting thing Neal has done work on that most evangelists never get into

    • Appquest is an example - ATT + NYC MTA

  • 5:10 - What did you work on before you became a dev evangelist?

    • Got the opportunity to open - started up a plant in mexico

    • worked in adtech before as well

    • billboards are heavily regulated depending on the city you are in - LA they are prevalent, Seattle they are almost nonexistant and highly regulated

  • 6:40 - How long has CP been running your Dev Evangelism program

    • have been operating for 5 years

    • about 2 years ago CP got involved in the hackathon scene

  • 7:10 - what surprised you as part of this role?

  • 10:44 - What is an API or product (not your own) that you love?

    • Textwrangler - does 80% of copywriting there

    • Cooking is a good metaphor for simplicity to other projects - instead of getting 100 tools, just get a good knife and a good pan.  

    • Atom or Sublimetext for coding

    • Dev Evangelists need to be good writers - Neal does many copywriting projects - blog posts, wrap ups, marketing for a challenge, newsletters, etc

    • Evangelists can recycle your old content, link back to your old stuff - your new audience will never be the wiser - “evergreen content”

    • BufferApp is a good way to schedule posts

  • 15:29 - What is your favorite hackathon format?  

  • 19:05  - Tell me about a great event you’ve been to in the past year

    • MLH - boilermake at Purdue

    • it was different - a bit more than just a hackathon - it had more of a festival vibe

    • had a badge challenge - (similar to defcon badge challenge)

    • lounges - 3-4 different ones

    • darkroom - for sleeping :)

    • mini challenges by sponsors

    • just a solid mid-sized hackathon

  • 23:20 - Throw a hackathon vs sponsor one - Which choice is better for a company who wants to get involved?

    • best thing is to sponsor one that’s organized by someone else - you should aim to be an incredible sponsor

    • put a lot of boots on the ground - be visible -

    • try to do a killer API session - optimize the developer experience -

    • soft tshirts are clutch :)

    • help regardless of the product - even if they aren’t using your stuff

  • 26:10 - Throwing your own hackathon

    • do not outsource a hackathon!! - don’t get an intern to run it or bring someone in

    • Are you really ready to throw one?  If you are …

    • ChallengePost blog is a resource

    • podcast is also :)

  • 27:40 - Do you think hackathons will play a role in the future of education?

    • they are self directed - will be a great learning tool for students who have the internal motivation

    • opt-in at this point in the hackathon lifecycle

    • recognition and prizes - reward as many people as you can, versus rewarding a few high performers

    • hackathon seems to be a supplement to education, not a replacement

    • power of a hackathon is that it lets you quickly discover your strs, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, and to ship!

    • educators can absolutely use the hackathon model to supplement curriculum - you can’t force it, though

    • since they are viral, you need to be open to newbs and support learning

  • 33:30 - Anything (product, API, idea) you want to plug?

    • Go to ChallengePost and create the portfolio - everyone wants to know what you are hacking on - gives you practice about talking about what you are doing

    • If you want to learn about an open source project - GitAtMe

    • PennApps winner which moderates FB comment spam -

  • 34:55 - Is there anything I forgot to ask that I should have?

    • Have seen a lot of accessibility related products - sign language, music, interpreters, etc - blurred lines between online and offline - this will continue to be a trend

    • music hack day

  • @nealrs on twitter

  • GitHub and Challengepost

  • Go to a hackathon!

Dennis Li of HackDuke is a case study for themed hackathon organizers

I got on Skype with Dennis Li of HackDuke, who now works at Coursera, a leading edtech company.  He founded HackDuke, which has the theme of "Code For Good."  They take the emphasis away from prizes and onto creating innovations with a social impact.  He is not quite a developer evangelist, but he does represent Coursera at hackathons now that he works in Silicon Valley.

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Mike Swift is the founder of Major League Hacking, the NCAA of college hackathons

I got on Skype for an interview with Mike Swift.  Most people call him Swift.  His background is as a Developer Evangelist, a HackNY fellow, Sendgrid and Rutgers alum.  He got into evangelism before founding Major League Hacking with Twilio Evangelist Jon Gottfried in early 2013 - it now spans 3 continents.  I'll be catching up with him in NYC at HackCon 2015, continuing my streak (also attended back in Feb 2014). 

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[Shownotes coming soon!]