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Hackathon report: [email protected] 2015

My friend Matt Tinsley and I were both RA's in Teal Resdiential College from Fall 2014 to Spring 2015. We are also both big fans of hackathons. Matt had the idea for and led the organization of a hackathon for Teal residents. I helped him out with logistics, and we worked on a project in the time we weren't doing organizer-y things.

The first two sections of this article relate to organizing the event, and the third is about the project I worked on.


Lots of things went well.


A few things were less than perfect.

My project

Matt and I worked on Emoji Predictor. If you've ever used a smartphone keyboard that suggests words as you type, you'll understand what it is. Our project suggests relevant emojis for you to use in your text messages.

We started with a database of all Matt's text messages. This would be our "corpus", or the body of text we would use to make inferences about which emojis should be used with which kinds of messages.

While making an iOS keyboard would have been really cool, we wanted to make a proof of concept and focus on the part of the project we found interesting: getting from a string to the emojis most relevant to it. We decided to make a web UI. I whipped up a simple application using Python, Flask, and JavaScript (our code can be found on GitHub).

While I was working on the UI side of things, Matt started working on the recommendation engine using Python Natural Language Toolkit. While he worked on that, I decided to work on a different implementation of a recommendation engine. I loaded all of Matt's sent messages which contained emojis into Elasticsearch and ran a query on that index using user input. This basic implementation ended up working decently enough.

Matt ended up having tons of trouble with Python and unicode, so for demo purposes we went with my implementation. I thought our product was pretty neat.

Because it relied on Matt's personal information, a live demo unfortunately isn't up anywhere.


Despite a few minor problems, [email protected] went very well. I was glad to help, and I'd love to take part in organizing more hackathons. Because it was a small event, Matt and I were able to hack on our own project, which was fun and educational.

If you want more information (especially about other people's projects), please see the official website for [email protected] 2015, hackteal.me.