Silicon Valley

Twilio, San Francisco

[youtube] According to The Business Insider, the Silicon Valley startup Twilio is the hot silicon valley startup to watch this year. Though I've heard a lot of humming about this company over the last year, I wasn't exactly sure of what they do or what they offer. So I snooped around their website for a while. According to the Twilio team, Twilio is about solving problems; direct from the website, they tell us in their usual casual manner: We're always building web applications, and sometimes we want those apps to be able to interact with phone callers. Maybe we want a customer to be able to call in and get information, or maybe we need to coordinate our employees more efficiently. Before Twilio, you would have had to learn some foreign telecom programming languages, or set up an entire stack of PBX software to do this. At which point, you'd say "aw, forget it!" Twilio lets you use your existing web development skills, existing code, existing servers, existing databases and existing karma to solve these problems quickly and reliably. We provide the infrastructure, you provide the business logic via HTTP, and together we rule the world.

In short, Twilio is like an easy-access outlet mall of solutions for all of your programming problems. I see why Business Insider is keen on them, good problem-solvers are hard to find.

Random Hacks of Kindness, Courtesy of the World Bank

A man stands on a roof as he awaits rescue in heavy flooding in Taimali, south-eastern Taiwans Taitung county on August 8, 2009 during Typhoon Morakot. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images) Next week the World Bank is teaming up with Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and NASA to put on their first Random Hacks of Kindness Hackathon, a 3 day programming marathon which aims to  develop software solutions for the challenges associated with natural disasters;  150 Programmers will work with disaster relief experts to identify problems and possible solutions for those living and working in natural disaster environments, taking into account the perspective of victims as well as first responders. 

Water flows past a severely eroded embankment near a damaged bridge that previously linked Pingtung and Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan on August 9, 2009. (SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)

I was in Taipei in August when Typhoon Morakat ripped through southern Taiwan, bringing unpredicted levels of rainfall with deadly effects.  The federal government failed to anticipate the Morakat's threat and was unequipped to respond accordingly.  Consequently, local communities, disaster victims themselves, were the first to respond the event, using limited bootstrapped technologies if any.

No doubt these solutions will be interesting for Taiwan as well as other communities plagued by natural disasters.  If you are interested in suggesting a subject matter expert or a developer or a specific aspect of the challenge, please follow this link. The Hackathon will take place in Moutain View, California on the 11th and 12th of November.