<- Part 1: the conference
On Saturday, once everyone had got a good night’s ‘sleep’ (our hotel was just next to a loud club which only got quiet after 3am), we walked over to the Impact Hub.
Before I get started, I’m using the word ‘hack’ in the non-malicious form. Tabloids use the word ‘hacker’ to describe someone with malicious intent who steals data or takes down websites (for example, this article in the Mirror). We use it to describe someone who thinks the best way of learning is by doing. A hackathon is just a group of sleep-deprived developers playing with something new.
The event itself was free – paid for completely by the wonderful sponsors.
Before the hackathon started, not many people knew what they wanted to make (including me). Luckily the sponsors got a chance to inspire us with their products and announce their prizes. There was a variety of companies attending, each with some cracking prizes for the teams making best use of their services.
Last weekend saw me heading to Birmingham to attend Hackference, a 3-day event for all sorts of programmers. There was a conference on Friday at the Electric Cinema, followed by a 24-hour hackathon at the weekend.
What follows is my account of the weekend, aided by plenty of tweets. The weekend was so jam-packed with stuff to blog about, so I’m going to split it up in two.
Part 1 – the conference
The Electric Cinema was a really cool venue. There were two screens, so two talks could happen at the same time. This was good because we could choose the talks that interested us most, but bad because most of the time I wanted to see both! Continue reading →
Golf: normally, unless it’s of the ‘Crazy’ or ‘Adventure’ variety (is there a difference?), I will stay well away from it. That’s mainly because my arms don’t swing and it involves quite a lot of standing and waiting around outside. However, yesterday evening I played a game of Code Golf.
The game goes like this – there are 9 problems (or ‘holes’ if you will), and you need to write a method to solve each one. The problems are fairly simple (I was reminded of first year programming), but the aim was to solve the problems in the fewest number of characters possible. This meant if you stood any chance of winning, you would have to squash your code into something compact and unreadable.
I wrote about my hackathon experience on the Bath Hacked website, but I thought I’d copy it over to this blog too.
What did you make?
We created a website that aims to help people decide who to vote for in the next general election. It visualises the results of past elections and gives unbiased information about the candidates standing for the next election.
Which data sources/tools did you use?
Our main data source was the BANES website, which contained all the data for the past election results. We also looked at the websites of the candidates for next year’s election.
What were the challenges?
One of the main challenges was collecting the data. Chris spent many hours trawling through the many pages of the council website to collect the data and put it into a spreadsheet, which was then uploaded to the data store.
What would you do to improve your project further?
Currently we only have past election data for 2011 in the Bath Constituency. We would like to add data for North East Somerset and for other years to help users discover trends.
We were also intrigued with the problem of tactical voting. We’d like to create an opinion poll to collect information on how people would like to vote if they didn’t feel the need to vote tactically. Perhaps this will be able to influence people’s decisions.
Where can we find it?
VoteTub isn’t online right now, but we plan on continuing development of the website. This blog post will be updated and we’ll tweet a lot when we bring it live.
This weekend I took part in my first ever weekend-long ‘hackathon‘, where a bunch of developers group together to create solutions to make Bath better. The event took place at the Bath Guild. We were encouraged to take publicy available data about the city and turn it into a resource that members of the public could actually make sense of.
I formed a team with two other hackathon newbies, Christopher and Cliff. Christopher wasn’t a coder but had an idea for a project, Cliff had experience as a front-end developer, and I was a recent graduate with almost no experience building a thing from scratch.
Christopher’s idea was to build a website that would help people decide who to vote for in future elections. It would list the candidates with links to various forms of social media, and give unbiased policy information. It would also look into the past, providing results of previous local elections, and also the future. An idea was to try to tackle tactical voting. The site would ask visitors who they were going to vote for, then who they would ideally like to see in power. It would then show them the summary of what other people replied. We thought it would be interesting to see if this data would affect people’s decisions.
That’s Edwin, the CEO of feedly, saying my YouFeed site is “brilliant”. He wants to integrate the functionality of YouFeed into feedly mini (the Chrome extension). He said that he was considering making feedly mini open source, to allow developers like me to add our own functionality to make feedly better for everybody.
TL;DR: Easily subscribe to YouTube channels and playlists on Feedly by using YouFeed, a little Web app that I made.
I think I started coding this Web app around exam time of my final year at uni. I just wanted to make something simple that would be really useful to people, and what’s simpler than taking a string of text and returning a slightly bigger string of text?
That’s what YouFeed does.
Let’s say you’re using YouTube to subscribe to an artist’s channel. When that YouTuber uploads a new video, a link to that video appears on the YouTube homepage. But we might not want to watch that video right now – instead we might want to watch it next week. A week passes and you’ve forgotten about the video because it’s no longer on your YouTube homepage.
Instead, you might want to subscribe to that artist using Feedly.
The aim of the event was to encourage us to code properly through a variety of techniques. We weren’t expected to finish the set tasks, but the code produced during the tasks should be perfect. Emphasis was put on code quality rather than quantity – different than other hack events.