Cereal Hack was hosted by Sacramento’s Hacker Lab.  It’s an interesting space with a number of open meeting rooms, offices, and a large open space in the back for larger hardware projects.  On the long drive up, we settled on the idea of a lunch daemon that would choose a good restaurant for lunch while accounting for the food preferences/needs of a group.

How it works

  1. Users input their preferences/food restrictions.  They can also input settings like how often they like to revisit restaurants and the maximum distance they’re willing to travel.
  2. Anyone who showed up to join a lunch group that day would transfer their current preferences to the host by tapping their phones.  This was achieved via the Bump API. (Update: now defunct after Google purchased it.)
  3. Our app picks a highly rated restaurant in the area for the host based on those preferences and settings.

What we did

Here’s a screenshot of the app we built.


With two developers on the team, neither with real mobile dev experience, we took this project as an excuse to acquire some new skills in unfamiliar territory.  We settled on new skills in these:

  • PhoneGap for cross-platform mobile dev
  • jQuery Mobile plus a survey of some carousel plugins
  • Bump API for settings data transfer
  • Yelp API for restaurant data

That’s pretty much all components of the project, and is far more new material than I would recommend anyone take up at a hackathon if they want to win.  Our hope is to win in the future, and that this experience will help us get there.

The “Thanks” page exists to point users at some charities that focused on hunger.  Hackathons usually provide a wealth of food and not everyone is so fortunate.


We successfully used all of the components we had picked and produced a mostly working app.  If you’re interested in seeing the current public state of the project, you can check it out here.  Unfortunately, it was not the app we had set out to build.  We realized too late that while Yelp offers its data publicly on its website, not all of it is available via the API, and its user agreements for use of the data is somewhat restrictive.  Other services have become available since then that provide the data we do want, and I’d like to revisit this idea again at another hackathon.

Lots of photos were taken and shared on Hacker Lab’s Facebook page.  Here are a few I found that included Nick and me, along with others working on our projects and giving demos:


I went to a PyLadies event hosted by Yelp later, and picked the brains of some of their engineers.  Unfortunately, they weren’t so keen on the idea of sharing the data we wanted, preferring instead that people use Yelp directly to find restaurants.

My hope is that Yelp will change its policies in the future, but if they don’t, I’m sure we can make do with another service.  Until then, I’ll hang out at coding parties with these lovely nerdy ladies:


Categories: Projects

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