Events May 7, 2013

The Hackers Behind Greylock’s Hackfest: Feross A.

Meet One of Stanford’s Top 5 CS Students

Next up in our Hacker Series is Feross Aboukhadijeh, currently a student at Stanford University where he is pursuing his Masters Degree.



Already named one of Stanford’s top 5 CS students by PandoDaily & featured by New York Magazine & dozens of other outlets for his 3-hour project, YouTube Instant, Feross has been building & hacking from a young age. To qualify for this year’s Greylock Hackfest, Feross & his team created a platform that will let you monitor visitors via your website called CCTV.js.

When he isn’t indulging a closeted love for emus, he’s building lots & lots of websites. You can read more about his many projects here — or meet him in-person at Greylock Hackfest by applying to compete! Though, a word of warning: just don’t get on his bad side & leave him around your appliances…

Q: What was the first project you built?

In 9th grade, my friends and I were obsessed with watching flash movies and videos on websites like Newgrounds and eBaumsWorld (this was before 2005, so YouTube didn’t exist yet). I spent lots of time on these sites so I knew about all the best videos and games. I thought it would be really cool to make a website that collected all my favorite flash animations, videos, and games from around the Web in one place. So I built Here is what it looked like:



The full story of how I learned to program computers is here.

Q: What’s your earliest memory of programming/hacking?

When I was around 7 years old, my parents bought a new microwave for the kitchen. While they were carrying it over and plugging it in, I got my hands on the manual that came with the device. I learned how to use the “child lock” feature, which one could activate by pressing a hard-to-remember series of keys. Whenever I got grounded, I would “get revenge” by setting the child lock on the microwave so no one could warm up their food.

Q: What tech or language are you most excited about & why?

I’m incredibly excited by WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication), a new JavaScript API and web standard. It allows websites to open peer-to-peer connections directly from one user to another. It’s exciting because it will finally let us make the “distributed web” into a reality. With WebRTC, we can fight censorship and centralization of the internet by serving websites using peer-to-peer technology. Site hosting will be democratic, ad hoc, and immune to government censorship. This is what PeerCDN (a project I started) is trying to accomplish. See:

Q: What would be surprising to your friends to learn about you?

I made this website.

Q: This is your first Greylock Hackfest, what are you most looking forward?

I love to build hackathon projects that have impressive and/or surprising demos. The moment when you unveil your hack and see everyone’s reaction is priceless. It’s the reason why I work so hard and push through the effects of sleep deprivation, even when my body is begging me to just close my eyes. I’m most looking forward to making another amazing demo.

I also love the adrenaline rush that I get when I build stuff at a hackathon. Even when I’m not competing, I sometimes like to hang out with people who are competing in a hackathon in order to get into “hackathon mode”, which is the name I gave to the state of hyper-focus and hyper-productivity that I easily slip into when I’m at a hackathon. I can produce a week’s worth of work in just 12 hours, if I’m in hackathon mode. It’s not sustainable, nor is it healthy. But it sure is fun.

Q: What would you tell someone interested in applying to Greylock Hackfest?

The best way to learn a new skill is to practice, practice, practice. A hackathon is the perfect place to try out a new programming language, play with a new library, or try to make progress on a crazy, experimental idea that you’ve been putting off for a long time. Building something cool at a hackathon doesn’t take superhuman ability. It just takes a willingness to get your hands dirty and build stuff. It doesn’t matter what you build, as long as you pick something and start. Come join us, you’ll have a great time! And if you see me at the hackfest, feel free to come over and say hi!

Building something cool at a hackathon doesn’t take superhuman ability. It just takes a willingness to get your hands dirty and build stuff.