Christian Heilmann

Hackday aftermath

Friday, June 22nd, 2007 at 6:04 pm

Oh yeah, the Open Hackday London is over and it was a blast. I will spare you the bad puns about the lightning strikes (bad enough that I did the graphics for Simon Willison’s shenanigans on the topic) and instead say that I had a lot of fun and it was great to see all the hacks and meet people.

As part of the organizing companies I wasn’t allowed to come up with an own hack but I was happy to do my share by finding the right people to talk to each other, and helping one of the winning teams battle the tag-soup that is called BBC news (I never thought innerHTML on all FONT elements would be the only way to scrape a news item, but I was wrong).

Nate’s and my presentation on the YUI seemed to have gone down rather well, although I must say that I didn’t hear what I said, but instead what the speaker next to me had to say, which can be a bit distracting. I hope the audience got all and random probes later on validate that assumption.

The hack spirit was omnipresent, as my wiki on business reasons for web standards was promoted seamlessly from quick internal repository to official hack schedule during the presentations. This was a bit of a surprise, but it held up and people are using it now to put up details on their hacks and also help me battle the spam and abuse of the repository. Cheers for that lads.

I went through the whole list of hacks for internal presentations and I am still amazed at the quality of them. Not necessarily in terms of perfect presentation (I am wary of perfectly designed interfaces that are allegedly done in two days – although I saw one of them happening) but in terms of ideas. The ever so present “we put some data on a map – wahey mashup!” was not present at all but people came up with really interesting concepts and attacked old issues in new ways. Some highlights are pixeldiva’s Yahoo Buzz RSS to knitting pattern hack, a community steered blimp (I still think this one needs a camera and you should be able to control it with a mobile), the three stage rocket propelled by water pressure, mentos and pepsi light, a fully unit tested social network content aggregator by James Aylett, an AI eliza bot for myspace and and and…

It was also interesting to see how many different companies sent people there. were present, one of my favourite small new media companies, MTV sent some people and even the New York Times Research Department was there and won a Wii to take home (guys, the outlet won’t fit, just leave it with me!).

My proudest moment was seeing the organizers of the US Hack Day and senior people inside my company being not only pleasantly surprised by the amount of people showing up and the quality of the hack but being thoroughly speechless. We’ve surely put the UK on the map for events like these even if it isn’t a good idea to put up a tent on the lawn and I hope we can do a lot more of this throughout the UK in the nearer future.

The only differences I’d have liked to see:

  • Real coffee – instant coffe brings out the evil in people
  • Band on Saturday night – a lot more people would have seen them as most had to leave to catch trains home
  • Steadier wireless – but then again, maybe that made people hack more and surf/blog less

Time to wrap up and write some more internal stuff about this.

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