Chikka tells story behind winning Facebook app

03 May

“I don’t think we won because of what we came up with in four hours, but because of what it can become.”

Thus stated Chikka Lead Engineer Melvin Fetalvero on what made the app which they called “Hear Me,” win as the Best Mobile Open Graph service at the Facebook Hackathon in Singapore.

Melvin together with Chikka developers Josh Basarte, Jason Sia and Miko Ignacio represented at the recent Facebook Singapore Mobile Hack where Facebook introduced the Open Graph API, a new technology that enables developers to create apps that put social interaction as its main focus.

At the Hackathon

After four hours of coding and hacking, Chikka team presented “Hear Me”, a native iOS application that allows users to post audio notes on their Facebook timelines.

Off-the-air at a recent guesting at ANC’s Future Perfect with Tony Velasquez, Fetalvero said: “I think what Facebook liked is how we envisioned a new user experience and our idea of bringing it over to Facebook while making sure that people are still the center of the activity.”

The Power of Voice

Designed as an alternative to the usual tweets, notes and comments, the group’s Hear Me app offers a novel approach to social networking through the use of voice. According to the team, voice provides a more personal approach to connecting online, allowing users to convey more emotion in their social updates and messages.

“Given that we live in a world that actually lives on the internet already, everybody has access to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram; I think one thing missing from all those platforms is emotion. You could use smileys or the usual “LOL” or “hahaha” but that doesn’t really convey what a person feels. So we thought how is it best to convey emotion? It’s through voice,” the team’s iOS expert, Ignacio, explained at the ANC Future Perfect interview.


“Aside from the time constraint, the bigger challenge I had to face was learning to code in PHP, a language that I was not very proficient in. Not to mention we were also just learning about a new technology that is Facebook’s Open Graph,” Javascript developer Basarte explained.

“On the backend side I’d say it was converting the audio file to a compressed format and at the same time securing a server with a public IP address before I can start installing stuff in it,” backend developer Sia added.

According to the team, there’s still a lot to review and develop about Hear Me since it was written on rush in a hack but they are positive on making the app available on the App store soon. “If we had more time we would’ve turned Hear Me into a “rap battle app” wherein users can record rap songs or ‘pick-up lines’ that are then sent as challenges to friends, resulting in an exchange,” shared Fetalvero.

Aside from the Open Graph award, Facebook also recognized three other teams for the Best Social app, Best in Games and Overall categories. Facebook organizes hackathons annually but it’s the first time they came to Asia particularly in Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul, and Tokyo.

In a statement, Chikka Chief Executive Officer Chito Bustamante said: “We are very proud of the team and we’re hopeful that more Filipino developers take the time to participate in local and international ‘hackathons’ as well as the growing developers community.”

Chikka, a subsidiary of Smart Communications, is best known for its flagship product, the Chikka Text Messenger, which is probably the world’s first commercially successful integration of web and mobile utilities.

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Posted by on May 3, 2012 in Chikka


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