Priest in the Church of England. Trustee SPCK. Father, husband, son. "Small acts of Good change the world."

Category: hackday

GovHack, MelHack and Hack Days in Australia

I’m just now resurfacing after a mammoth run of Hack Days here in Australia. First there was the pre-govhack briefing run by Deloitte Digital. Then there was the GovHack itself up in Canberra, and finally this weekend there was MelHack run out of Lonely Planet.

Dr Nicholas GruenI made it up to Canberra for GovHack and had an incredibly inspiring time – we heard from Dr Nicholas Gruen (chair Gov Internet 2.0 task force) on the reasons Government were engaging in this area, we heard from John Allsopp (organiser) about the reasons for running the event and how he’d managed to pull it all together in just 3 weeks – seriously amazing.

I was lucky enough to be asked to deliver the keynote – I preached – I used the words piffle and tosh and I said something about this being an important inflection point in history, where we, the geeks, had for the first time the power to actually change the world – and that we can do it without throwing stools through starbucks windows (however tempting that may be). I talked about the fact the government were in the room with us giving us the data – that they were positively encouraging us to take it and use it to better inform the electorate – how bloody impressive is that? So we mustn’t sit here and play, we need to change the world.

They did it – the winners were an amazing gang who’d not met before the event but got together and built one of the most disruptive ideas I’ve ever seen… image a world in which you could easily see and understand the links between lobbying companies, companies bidding for work and government departments…. it would make government types squirm right? It did. Lobby Clue took the main prize – there were some really impressive builds from the rest of the group that you can see over on the wiki.

Pat and the gang hackingMove on a week and we’re back in Melbourne at the joint Lonely Planet / GovHack hack day – called MelHack. Phew…. first external hack day I’ve run since Over The Air in London a few months ago and I’d already forgotten how much work is involved in keeping a group of about 30 people fed, watered, inspired and cool in a building that’s air-con is playing up.

Melbourne is a cool town. It’s full of the types of people that like to go to interesting events like Trampoline. But this was the first external event I’d run here, and whilst in London I’m confident enough to stick my neck out and say we’ll comfortably get 400+ people to a hack day given the budget and space – I really wasn’t sure how it was going to fly here. We didn’t have a mass of space – we ran the event at the Lonely Planet HQ in footscray – and we certainly didn’t have a massive budget – so I concentrated on quality rather than size…. and boy did we get that. Over 50 people came through the door over the weekend and 12 ideas were presented by both staff and external devs. The quality of the people and ideas was massive.

The winners built a day trip generator using Lonely Planet POI (Point of Information) data. The application is live and working – but it does tend to struggle at the moment as it’s using the anon LP API access which is heavily throttled…. but when that’s fixed it’s stunning…. all the other ideas are listed over on the wiki – and are well worth a read and a play. The presentations are also worth a watch and they’re up on YouTube now.

I’ve been asked a lot here in Oz how you organise one of these events and if it’s only certain companies that can run them – not true. Hack Days are a lot of work, but easy enough if you think about the logistics in advance and you remember one thing above all others…. it’s all about the developers. Ross Hill took a short video interview with me talking about this very point – and if you’re interested in gettting your own hack day off the ground it might be worth a watch.

Help find me a new camera

Since I’ve been bombing around the world my Casio Exilm Z850 has been a constant companion. I rate it really highly (must write a review soon) – it’s constantly dropped from the height of my motorcycle tank bag, it’s been soaked by sea-water on at least two occasions and still it ‘just gets on with it’ and takes photographs that when I got the camera I thought were awesome and now, think are pretty good.

The time has come to replace this stalwart of my gadget armoury and I need your help. I’m totally stunned every month when Lonely Planet Images release the photos that have been added to the library over the past few weeks – and I want to take photos that make people go wow.

Some background – when I was in school I desperately wanted to be a Photo Journalist – I worked for the local paper for free and I badgered my Dad until he bought me an Olympus OM-10 from the local second hand stor

e – complete with ‘manual adaptor’. It had a light metre inside but other than that I was totally on my own. After months of paper-rounds and being paid to take my friends band photos I managed to scrape enough money to ‘upgrade’ the the Olympus OM-2n .

It made a big difference to my shots, as did the purchase of a 2x adaptor and, at great expense, a 75mm Olympus lens.  I held onto the dream of becoming a Photo Journalist right through my engineering apprenticeship (where the camera managed to earn me some money on the side in Caerphilly town centre of a Saturday morning) and right into University in Swansea, where finally, the dream died and I sold the camera for much needed rent money.

Since then I’ve had a succession of crap compact cameras that just didn’t cut the mustard. The Casio has rather re-ignited that old desire to take wonderful photographs and I find myself slipping it into manual as much as the fully automatic settings – I’ve even bought an old Konica Minolta 35mm SLR to mess around with (it’s been out of the bag once).

My composition needs a little work , I need to get my head out of snapshot mode, but I feel the old juices still flow and can’t wait to get back into thinking through a shot properly before I take it. So now the tough part – I need a new camera.

Requirements:

  • Tough
  • Light
  • Compact
  • Decent video mode
  • Solid lens support
  • Easy to charge (I’m running this from the motorbike / powermonkey)
  • Easy to transfer images (no propritary connectors – worst case – SD cards are good)

Let’s ignore the money side of things for the moment and work the ‘perfect world senario’.

What do you suggest? I have a totally open mind and no legacy kit to support.

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More Mashed details

It’s been a hell of a couple of weeks, as well as working on Innovation Labs I’m also pulling together everything for Mashed in June – the good news is I’ve managed to secure the dates and venue – it’s going to be held at Alexandra Palace again and it will run over the 20th 21st and 22nd of June.

There’s going to be a conference on the Friday, and then the hack event over the Saturday and Sunday as before… more details being arranged as I type this and I’ll try to keep you all up to date as more details emerge – I’m also going to blog here quite a lot about organising this thing – for me more than anyone else – as last years flew by so quickly I missed a lot of it!

Hack Day 2008 – rather Mashed 2008

So last year the BBC and Yahoo! ran the stunningly cool Hack Day London. It was a brilliant success, and frankly I’ve been biting at the bit to organise another one. Last week I got the nod from Ashley Highfield that the budget had been cleared and we could run another one!

It’s very early days yet, but so far we know that it’s going to be late June, venue to be decided and we’re looking for other people to work with. Obviously we worked with Yahoo! last year (who’s idea Hack Day is) – and this year we want to work with as many people as possible.

I think the only major change will be that we plan to run some kind of conference on the Friday before the weekend event and that we wont be having a massive band on the Sunday night – rather we’ll be doing something (and this is soooo cool) on the Saturday night.

Oh… one last thing… we’re changing the name this year to avoid any confusion… henceforth it’ll be called Mashed.More news as the planning progresses.

Hack Day Badges – The invites are out

Hack Day: London, June 16/17 2007Exciting news if you’re applying for or have applied for tickets for Hack Day – first of all we’ve just sent out the first 300 invites to people who have applied – we have about 150 left to do – that essentially means there are few places left, so if you’ve not got your name down – now is the time to do it.

The last week has been incredibly hectic. I’ve been up to Ally Pally twice to sort the final layouts, I’ve also been working on the fine detail of the event structure and how everything will fit together – the biggest problem is how to keep 500+ bandwidth hungry users spread over the West Hall in an even way so that we don’t swamp any of the APs. I think we’ve solved that now thanks to some intelligent layout and clever thin client APs but ultimately down to Tom Coates idea of a Wi-Fi ‘weather map’ – the idea being that on the main screen in the hall we’ll show every 10 mins or so where the best places are for good clear bandwidth and where clumping is occurring – giving everyone the opportunity to migrate to different hot spots to get the best signal.

The other really cool piece of news is that Tom Scott from the backstage list has put together an unofficial wiki for people to get themselves set up for the event before they come.

Okay – in an effort to cut off the massive flow of “I’m attending, want
to make a team” traffic that I’ve already contributed to – and because
there seems to be no other official discussion routes! – I’ve set up

http://hackdaylondon.pbwiki.com

as a strictly unofficial Wiki site. Hopefully it’ll be a useful
discussion point as it is for BarCamp – there’s a starting template for
team lists and interests, useful links, etc. etc.

It’ll probably get overtaken by an official discussion board at some
point, but it should do in the meantime!

— Tom

… and as you’ve seen at the beginning of this message there are now a very nice collection of badges to slap on your blog – go grab them over at the hackday.org site

Hack Day 2007

I don’t normally talk about work here – but this is really really cool.

For the last few months I’ve been bursting at the seems to talk about this – Hack Day 2007 – it’s going to be held at the amazing Alexandra Palace – known to us biker sorts as the home of the London Motorcycle Show (now at ExCeL) – and now the Superbike Magazine Bike show.

I was dead chuffed when we decided to hold it there. There’s so much history for the BBC there, and it seems perfect to me that the place of birth for TV, is the place of birth for a whole load of amazing stuff that can be distributed in so many cool ways. Ally Pally was the first place that broadcast regular HD TV transmissions way back when TV sets were 4” wide…. it just seems fitting that we’re now trying to work out how we wire the worlds most advanced studios (at the time) for wi-fi!

From the backstage.bbc.co.uk blog

We mentioned this some time ago to get the dates in you diary – but now the time has come for you to sign up!

http://hackday.org will take your applications – the wording on the site is a bit ‘official’ but that’s what happens when lawyers attack.

The event is going to be truly amazing, Tom and I (not to mention a whole army of really passionate people at both organisations) have been working our bums off to make sure it’s going to be THE event for hackers in Europe. Essentially 400+ developers will descend on Alexandra Palace on the 16th and 17th of June – there’ll be truck loads of pizza, beer, wi-fi and shed loads of help.

The plan is arrive Saturday morning, register and listen to some funky people talk about funky stuff, before 24 hours of hacking madness begins – we’ve got the run of the palace overnight so you can pull apart and build ’till the wee small ours before grabbing a nap in a quiet corner. Once the hacking is over and done with you’ll be able to present your ideas to everyone on the main stage – just before we announce the winners and the evening gig starts – the band is MASSIVE – not telling who it is yet (it’s not Beck).

We’ll be handing out extra tickets for the Sunday night gig – so if you get on the list you’ll be able to bring along a couple of friends for that night.

So you have no excuse – if you’re part of backstage.bbc.co.uk – then you’re right in the middle of the community that will rock this years Hack Day!

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