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

Tag: melbourne

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.

I don’t mind the rain… I’m Welsh

Taking my lead from Mr Dalton, this weekend saw us planning a ride up to Yea and back via a whole collection of roads that you really shouldn’t take a gixxer on – but Mr Dalton, being Mr Dalton – a farm boy from New Zealand type – ignored such advice as ‘you haven’t got the ground clearance’ to declare ‘I’m inclined to ride unless utterly shite, are we not men?’.

BOM Radar from BOMradar iPhone AppHe was of course referring to the slightly dodgy weather forecast for the day. ‘Cloudy start with chances of isolated showers in the afternoon’. So I replied ‘Quite, I’m inclined to ride come what may… grew up in Wales – meet yours?’. You could argue this was tempting fate – but a quick check of BOM* radar that morning suggested a small windy front clearing for a good ride later in the morning.

We headed off and hit the Hume Freeway on time to meet up with Jamie… it was then Nigel realised we needed the Hume HIGHWAY, one junction back along the M80. ‘Shall we just go back?’ I meekly suggested…. ‘No! We’ll meet him down the road – call him’. Or something along those lines – suffice to say we missed Jamie and finally caught up with him a few miles up the road at the Craigieburn Servo (service station for my UK readers).

BOM Radar from Oz Weather iPhone AppThis was actually a fortuitous turn of events – the weather front was massing and again checking the radar we saw it was just a band of rain and we’d sit it out. An hour later I decided to check the radar from another source – and was rather amazed to discover the difference in radar images from two different iPhone apps… it appears that a radar station was down – and whilst my app (Oz Weather) reported this, Nigel’s didn’t (BOMradar) – but continued to show a small amount of rain. When the radar station came back online I saw what the weather was really doing – to which Nigel quietly stated, ‘sod this for a game of soldiers’ and fled the scene.

So our 288km ride turned into 50km north of Melbourne and back again in the pouring rain. Ah well – can’t have it all.

*BOM – AAustralia Bureau of Meteorology

It did however result in a nice collection of photographs of a typical Australian Service Station – sorry Servo – in the rain.

Here’s the moment, caught on camera that the whole thing ‘just went wrong

The London Biker Down Under

Just wondering if I should change the name of the blog – but hey sod it 🙂

Dad and me in MelbourneReally starting to settle in now. My Dad is still here with me, and the wonderful thing about that is that he does all the cooking, the cleaning and goes looking for places for me to live…. fantastic! So I now have a flat.

The flat is in a high-rise appartment building just down the road from my current (see the google map below) corporate appartment. It’s right by the station and right in the middle of the CBD (Central Business District) .

With Dad here I’ve not had time to myself to really think about it, and we’re chatting at least twice a day, but I’m a bit worried that when Dad goes, I’ll be left to stew in my own thoughts… and generally that’s not a good place to be. I’ll have to find something to distract me… perhaps morning meditation from 5am and then rugby practice every night!
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Australia… slightly delayed

This post has taken a little longer to get up due to a wonderful WordPress upgrade that borked one of my plugins and stopped me being able to log in. The wonderful people at Dreamhost however helped me fix it.

Me @ WilliamstownSo I’ve made it to Oz – in one piece – which was as big a surprise to me as it may be to you. After three weeks on the road to Russia and back and a short amount of time back in blightly before I had to dash out here I was a bit worried I’d miss something, but so far so good.

Melbourne is amazing – there’s a bunch of photos on my flickr stream – but wow what a city. I loved London so much – but this place, frankly is better. Well it is at the moment 🙂

I’ll spend some more time, when I’ve settled in, writing some more about the areas I’ve been to and what-not now the site is fixed.

If you want to get in touch with me – remember I’m 10 hours ahead – drop me a note or skype me on matthewcashmore