I attended the first HackNashville event earlier this year, and had a great time. However, I was just switching back into programming, and I really was focused on what languages or tools I would use more than the problem I was solving. I worked on a file system visualizer and a wine list application.
When I saw there was going to be a HackNashville Hacktoberfest I jumped at the opportunity to do it again. I had gotten a chance to meet a lot of smart people, try out a ton of different languages, and learn a ton just by listening to others talk about what they were doing. I had just started a new job, and I really wanted to work on my python skills this time. I had gotten out of thinking about tools which slowed me down the last time, and wanted to solve a problem that really plagued me personally.
Friday night, we heard the pitches from all the people that had projects in mind, and we were off into development immediately.
I am a type 2 diabetic, a genetic disordered that when triggered (no one understands why) causes the insulin in your blood to be unable to lock the doors to your cells and stick the sugar inside of them. Sugar is the root source of the bodies energy. Diabetes affects 65 million diagnosed people, and estimates suggest that another 28 million are walking among us undiagnosed or soon to be diagnosed. It does not care about race, religion, money, or age.
As a diabetic, I have to constantly track a series of numbers, and be a statistician for several weeks a quarter. This is really belabored by the fact that I’m also a tight controller, which means I control my diabetes via diet and exercise not medicine. All most diabetic have to work from is a Glucometer, which is basically a device that when we prick ourselves shows us a number that is close to our current blood sugar. This device doesn’t come with a way to hook it up to the computer, and if the manufacturer makes a way, you’ll have to contact them to get it. Each manufacturer has it’s own software etc, and insurance only covers certain meters. The meters are great for moment in time, but they don’t help you find patterns in your behavior, and the value of the numbers is lost at times because you only see the number not how it looks in the course of your care.
To top all that off once a quarter many diabetics under go something called a 360 check. It requires you to take your blood 7 times a day for 3 days. If you miss one of these 21 checks, you start over from that point until you get 21 in a row without a gap. The testing costs $11 a day, and I know several people in my support group that regularly speed over $100 trying to complete the assessment. This can be exacerbated by your lifestyle, age, education level, and income. Check out the form here. Imagine you are elderly, vision impaired, or slightly under educated! I’ll wait! It is a nightmare!
Three guys signed up to join in on my effort to simplify this process and make it more accessible: Jacques Woodcock, a man I meet at the PHP Users group, Ryan Macy, my day two coworker at BorderJump, and Ben Slayton, who I met at the last HackNashville event, To be flat honest, they carried the weight of this project squarely on their shoulders. Each one stepping up time and time again during the weekend to solve technical problem after problem (Y U NO USE HIGHCHARTS?) that popped up during the weekend. We gelled very well Saturday, and really honed into our problem and how to solve it.
The next problem we wanted to solve was passwords. We decided to use the phone number as the username and to store no other data about the user. We used Twilio’s phone number verification and regionalization as a trusted auth type, and for web access a text message was sent on login that contained a random set of numbers to use as the password.
Then, we decided to offer advice based on your 7 day Glucose average on how you could improve it. We loaded a few helpful suggestions into the system based on how far your average was from normal. This feature was made available via every input method! It was immediate feedback to your latest submitted reading via phone and text, and always available via web.
The final part of the application was charting, and this was a labor for sure. We tried several fully open source options and didn’t have much success. After much toiling, we settled on Highcharts. This led to the creation of nice graphs that really put your glucose patterns in perspective.
You can see and use the application Glu at www.glutracker.com.
Again this time, the presentations were my favorite part. I love seeing what can be built in 48 hours, and how fast people can unite around a project and contribute. My personal favorites were the soundwave game by Ben Stucki and the Blackboard system had used both voice and the Google translate API to deliver a multilingual and multi-platform chat solution by Michael Puckett and team.
Just like last time, there was food, snacks and drinks aplenty. I’m very thankful that in most every meal there was some option that worked for me, and I didn’t have to search for food. In fact by the time the weekend was over and I was back home, I was left wondering why food was not just showing up at home for me to eat. I think it’s a real testament to how much the organizers and sponsors care about this event. I really appreciate how they treated us like royalty and just let us do our thing and code.
Emma, Flo, Number Garage, and Edo Interactive provided everything we could possibly need. It was also great to talk with people from each one of them. Learn a bit more about what they were doing. I have a soft spot for Emma since they are a fellow python shop, and employ many awesome people that I’ve met before at HackNashville.
Finally the team that put on Hacknashville; Calvin, Ben, Jamin, Avery, Phillip and hopefully I got everyone, you guys are awesome. Thanks for making a space and environment where we could just be ourselves. I can not imagine how hard it is to put this together, and you guys should be commended!
So what’s next? Well, we are already working on developing Glu into a better tool based on user feedback. The Glu team is hard at work trying to find the right way to serve our user base, and have something sustainable.
And we are eagerly awaiting HackNashville’s third event!
The Glu Team: