Google Drive and Android Hackathon

Last week I attended a hackathon organized by Google Israel with some special guests – Google Drive’s Nicolas Garnier and Rich Hyndman and Nick Butcher from the Android team. The event started with a series of lectures on the first day and continued with a whole day of hacking on the second day and ended with the demos and the winner announcements.

The lectures were nice, but the two lectures I caught were pretty lackluster containing, mostly the same “themes” Google is pushing on Android developers this year. If you’ve seen some of the I/O lectures or have been to an I/O reloaded event you probably already know most of them (Project Butter, new notification features, compatibility with various screen sizes etc.). On the other hand the Hackathon part was amazing. About 30 developers showed up on the second day to code some Drive and Android apps, which is quite a lot considering it was a workday and a day before another major conference in Israel (Geekcon – the subject of my next two posts).

The work (hack?) room at the start of the day.

The work (hack?) room at the start of the day.

Before I start talking about the project I contributed to I want to highlight a few other teams and their innovative projects. There were plenty of teams to demo, so much so it took more than an hour, and there were three winner teams that won a goody bag with awesome Google swag. Unfortunately I don’t remember all of them but I’ll try to reach out to the guys that were there and create a list of people and projects.

Notable Projects

Password manager over Drive – A team of guys from onavo (one of Israel’s most successful startups) were probably the most impressive team. They really know how to work with each other and they coded furiously to create a secure password manager Android application that keeps your passwords safely encrypted on Drive. There is nothing more to say beside that they were one of the winners.

Onavo winning one of the swag bags

Onavo winning one of the swag bags

gdg-booktrunk – An interesting project that keeps track of the progress you made reading ebooks in you Drive folder and provides statistics and motivates you to read more. This project was started by Roman who I considered joining just for his sheer enthusiasm.


I arrived right on time for the team pitches in the second day so you can say I had the luxury of choosing the project I wanted to work on. I thought I’d hop between a few of them, but I ended up being stuck on some authentication issues for way too long and only worked on one project – I helped my fellow GTUG Organizer Ran Nachmany on a great idea named DogFooder. It is basically an artifact repository with great Android integration including push notification. The basic use case is having a web service that you send your APKs and metadata (like versions and release notes) to. The web service saves this to Drive and issues a push notification for subscribed devices, like QA’s devices or beta tester’s devices. They can then choose to download the APK and install it easily and quickly. This is a major pain point for mobile developers – propagating new APKs to test devices, and big kudos to Ran for thinking of this solution. In Zimperium we usually send the APKs but we have to send them to Gmail accounts because our mail server doesn’t allow attachments as big as zAnti (which is pretty small at 7mb). Only recently we started using a build server, but that still doesn’t solve the notifications and propagation problems. You can see how this can be very useful to mobile developers.

I joined Ran and wrote the web service and Drive integration but due to some Drive API quirks I only finished the code about an hour after the demos started, so we basically integrated it and jumped on stage two minutes later. Only by some incredible miracle did the demo work perfectly (typically – when we tried it again off stage something went wrong). We were also one of the winning teams, and we split the swag.

My half of the SWAG for being one of the winning teams.

My half of the SWAG for being one of the winning teams – a coffee mug and water bottle

I’ll save the technical details for another post because we still have some work to do before it is fit to be online, but hopefully we’ll get it into some alpha shape and put it on github soon because the guys at onavo really want to have this product, and so does Zimperium.

StartupOnomics Summit – Behavioral Economics for Startups with Dan Ariely

This weekend I attended the Israeli extension of the StartupOnomics summit, an entrepreneur centric behavioral economics summit. It had some great speakers headlined by Dan Ariely the famous professor of psychology and behavioral economics. In Israel we didn’t have all the lectures but we did see most of Dan Ariely’s sessions and even better – we got two full hours of his time for Q&A. The crowd in Israel included entrepreneurs from, Logicalls, xplace,, and many many more. It was fun and stimulating to talk with the people and hear their stories.

The crowd in the Israeli extension

The crowd in the Israeli extension of the summit.

Here are the notes I took while watching the sessions. I was familiar with a lot of Dan Ariely’s work, especially the various experiments and his keynote which was based on this TED talk. These are my notes from the various sessions and shouldn’t be seen as an exhaustive summary.

Labor and Love / Michael Norton (Here is a similar TED talk)

The concept behind this talk was that adding labor to a process or product will make the customer more likely to pay attention and take action.

  • People like what they invested time into, even if it’s a trivial amount of effort.
  • Showing progress and time savings also have a positive effect, for example’s search function that animates flights flying into the result list as it finds them instead of just showing a progress bar and the results when they are available. Doing it for more than 30-60 seconds might be annoying so use wisely.
  • Another interesting finding is that showing people what they like is easy but if you have the data to remove things they disliked it will leave a strong impression. This is because while a lot of people might know what you like; only people really close to you will know what you dislike.

Session with Dan Ariely

A session about irrational behavior.

  • Reward in future is less valuable then reward now, even if reward in future is better.
  • Taking away has a bigger effect than giving something.
  • A mobile phone is an excellent way to control and condition the behavior of people. It is frequently used and almost always around.

Israeli Q&A with Dan

Dan really shined answering questions from the Israeli audience. He was amazing at giving out valuable advice on the spot. Some of the highlights:

  • One company asked about how to incentivize people to car pool and he quickly came up with mandating meetings which can be done either on your own time or while commuting. I love this idea as it reframes the commute as a time for communication and idea sharing and not a boring ride where you are half asleep.
  • Same startup wanted to award top five carpoolers. Dan pointed out the fact that not everyone has an equal chance to get that award so it will be a bit unfair and they should think of other metrics like improvement.
  • I didn’t write the question but he suggested one startup that wants to gain credibility is to do it through promising a reward for finding an inaccuracy which acts like social proof – if no one claimed that prize than you must be right (that’s a fallacy because people just might not care enough to find problems, but it works).
Dan Answering My Question

Dan Ariely answering my question from San Francisco.

Another Dan Ariely Session

I only caught the end of this one so I’m not sure what the main topic was.

  • People with multiple debts will not pay the debt with the biggest interest first but rather the one that is smallest and easiest to pay because they want the number of debts to go down.
  • When you’re experimenting make sure to get people without prejudices. The example was of a campaign ad where the campaign workers overwhelmingly chose a video ad but actual voters that were tested chose an image ad. This happened because campaign workers put the most work into the video thus valuing it more.
  • Run more experiments.

Social Proof / Noah Goldstein

The main study described in this talk is about signs that hotel rooms use to persuade guests to reuse towels. This saves the hotel money but is presented as an environmental issue.

  • Social proof works best when you use a group your customer is in or will like. The shocking example is that copy about recycling worked better when the hotel room number was written although rationally that detail is irrelevant.
  • The counter-point is true too – if you want to prevent behavior don’t use social proof that will make people want to be on the wrong side because it is more popular. The example is a sign saying many people are stealing something.
  • They also experimented with giving away some of the savings to charity. They found out that just saying that they’ll donate part of the savings sounds like tit for tat and doesn’t really improve on the social proof version of the sign.
  • The version that worked best is one saying a donation was already given in your behalf for recycling the towel.

To summarize, I learnt a lot and it helped me put myself in the mind set for marketing my new project. I got some valuable advice from Dan and the local attendees. It was a great event and if you are interested in behavioral economics you should make sure to attend the summit next year.