Last weekend after the Lone Star Ruby Conference in Austin, a group of developers gathered at Capital Factory for an overnight hackathon with a focus on communications. In addition to the awesome support and space donated by Capital Factory, the event was put on by, Twilio, SendGrid, and Searchify. The prizes were big ticket items, with first place taking home a MacBook Pro with Retina Display, and the runner-up getting a Thunderbolt Cinema Display. There were also prizes for the best use of Twilio and the best use of SendGrid.

After some dinner and a quick brainstorm session, the hackers got to work. I only made it until midnight, but several teams didn’t sleep a wink from when we kicked off at 7pm Staruday until demos started at noon on Sunday. There were 9 awesome demos, and it was very tough for the judges to decide on the winners.

The first place hack was, created by Jesse Lovelace. is an online deadman switch that used SMS, phone calls, and email. Jesse started the demo by describing what a deadman switch is: “You might be going into a drug deal, or smuggling something…” and you need to make sure you come out alive. Using, you can tell the other party “if you kill me, then this thing out there is going to send all these important documents to the police.” To use, you define some arbitrary content and the intended recipients for the content. If you don’t respond to the text or email that sends you periodically, it assumes you’re dead and sends that content out.

The runner-up was NotifHack, created by the team of Ben Hamill and Bob Potter. NotifHack uses webhooks to watch your inbox and alert you via SMS if an incoming email matches your filters, allowing you to disable annoying push notifications on your phone without missing the important stuff. Filters can be based folders, subject line, from address, to address, etc. You can also reply to the text with instructions to manipulate the email, such as archiving or deleting it.

The winner of the Twilio spot prize was Textopia, a hack created by Julien that allows you to interact with Wolfram Alpha (the engine that also powers Siri) via text message for times when you don’t have data access on your cell phone. Textopia also tied into to allow to text things like “send me the last email I received” and get the results via text.

The SendGrid prize went to Patrick Lu, who also happens to be internet famous for taking a picture of a wedding proposal that went viral. Pat created OrangeSend, a service that allows you to forward an email to add You then receive a link to the that content that you can then share with friends, so you can easily share emails your receive with your social networks or friends.

Other hacks included:

  • Infoquarium by (Jeff Linwood)[], an iPad app for displaying email and twitter updates as a fish tank so you can check your status on an info appliance without becoming too distracted.
  • Email ⇔ SMS Gateway from Dominik. Let’s you send and receive SMS messages in your email. Send by putting the recipient phone number as the subject line, and responses go to your email.
  • from Taylor and Nathaniel, An email queueing system that removes the scheduled send if the user gets in touch before it goes out.
    Reply Analytics
  • Reply Analytics by Eric, an awesome dashboard that allows you to view email response time (“the most important metric for customer happiness”) based filters of your choosing.
  • Email Breakdown created by Dan DeFelippi. Email breakdown Generates a infographic for your email account showing Total emails, total attachments, emails per day, email sent per month, avg emails per day, top contacts, and more.

After that, I hit up some awesome craft beer bars with some new friends that I made at the hackathon. It was a great time, and I can’t wait to go back to Austin! Thanks to all of the teams and hackers that participated, and I’ll see you again soon!

Brandon West
As Director of Developer Relations for SendGrid, Brandon's focus is on empowering developers to build things, gathering feedback for new features and improvements, and fostering a cooperative developer community for anything that needs email integration.