NOTE: This is a guest post by one of our challenge match sponsors, Zencoder.
The Rails Rumble programming competition introduced Exhibition Matches this year – specific challenges for Rumble teams. Zencoder sponsored one, titled Best Use of Video/Audio. After weeding through some excellent entries, we’ve decided to award the prize to MovieNight.
Our challenge was simple:
Do something awesome with video or audio! Build a social app, a mashup, a business tool, a game, or something else. Check out Zencoder for backend video processing, or VideoJS to embed video using HTML5 or Flash, or another tool. You don’t have to use Zencoder, but we’ll offer you free encoding during the Rumble. Just do something cool that involves video or audio.
48 hours isn’t a lot of time, but it’s impressive how a good team will step up to this sort of pressure. 180 teams finished an app during this time, and the best were extremely impressive.
Several entries used video and audio, and we had a reasonably strong pool of apps to pick from.
We chose MovieNight as our winner. Movienight is a simple web app where users can watch movies socially. You create a “showing”, which says “We’re going to watch Movie X in three hours.” You can invite friends to watch with you. You can comment on movies as they go, along with friends. And, of course, you can actually watch movies.
There are several cool things about MovieNight.
It works. This is important; it’s hard to judge an app’s functionality when you can’t log in, or the core doesn’t work.
They have actual movies. You can actually watch Night of the Living Dead, Nosferatu, and Charlie Chaplin’s classic The Gold Rush. The movies are old, of course – public domain? – but there are dozens or hundreds of them.
It’s a cool idea. I can actually imagine using something like this. Not all the time, of course. But the idea is interesting: remote watching can still be social watching.
MovieNight isn’t perfect, of course. To really work, playback should be synchronized across every viewer, so if someone pauses the movie in one browser, it should pause in others. While some of the content is classic, most of it is crap. And the design is pretty rudimentary. But the team went from Zero to Watch A Real Movie Socially in 48 hours, and that’s pretty cool.
While there were several good entrants, two others stood out. Consider these “runners-up.”
AgileMeeting was the most ambitious of the batch. The site lets you schedule a meeting, invite participants, and hold a video conference right in the browser. Or at least, they do most of that – we weren’t actually able to get the video conferencing to work. Maybe we missed something, or maybe we used the wrong browser. But it looks like they got much of the way there, which is impressive.
Vidja is a really, really simple video sharing site. Upload a video and watch it in a HTML5 video player. No settings to mess with, no other features. We love the simplicity, but would have liked to see either a bit more design polish (simple and elegant) or a bit more functionality (simple and powerful). Sadly, the Vidja website isn’t up today. Hopefully it’s just a temporary blip.
Using Zencoder wasn’t a requirement of winning this Exhibition Match, but several of the entrants did. For example, MovieNight used VideoJS, the free, open-source HTML5 video player created by Zencoder.
Zencoder competed in the Rails Rumble in 2009, and built ZenVDN, which won the “Most Useful” prize. We didn’t compete this year.