Sunday, 22 June 2014

@localgovMakers hack day and other big adventures

So I have spent a few days in the UKs second city(thanks +Sarah Lay info on that! ) for my first hack day and unconference (#UKGovCamp).  I set out on my journey with no previous knowledge of a hack day or unconference so i didn't know what to expect but given the names on the attendance sheet then I did know that there was going to be some very serious brain power, probably followed by some reflective time..

We were presented with 3 challenges by +Phil Rumens  which were set out as the following
  • Challenge One: A local public services search engine
  • Challenge Two: Create a place to highlight standards, schemas and pages
  • Challenge Three: Build a good user journey for first time users

I joined the team on the first challenge looking at how we could create a local search engine using a few feeds, some xml sources from a couple of SOLR results and some other data.  The idea formulated from a conversation on Twitter and at the time we thought it would be a good challenge in terms of something that would combine multiple search results into one single resource.  Simply put we broke the task group in two, one half looking at code/tech the other half looking at customer needs.  Essentially as we looked more at the customer needs we came to the conclusion that actually all we were doing was creating another instance of Google. The thing we did discover however was that there are multiple places that information can be scraped and gleaned from including Google Places, meetup, local directories, Facebook etc.  Conclusion to the challenge was that great ideas can come from conversations but setting out the needs can often show that the requirement is'nt what we thought or in this case actually needed! but there is a need to perhaps help Google to get better data from our websites but making sure that they are all tagged correctly and even using the Google API to push data into the places perhaps?

All three challenges were presented at the end of the day and I will post the details of the other blogs when they not doubt appear.

What did i take from my hack day?

Capture and discover, process and prototype! do not concentrate on the tech before you do the first part.  The customer need must define an outcome, then the tech can resolve the process to deliver the expected, efficient service.  Thanks to the team of clever bods who i worked with. Gave me some insight into what I can do when I get back to work but also how I can cascade what I have learnt to others.  Fascinating and inspiring. Thanks to the people that arranged it all.

Unconference blog post to follow