I had the good fortune of being present this weekend (26/3/11) at the ‘show and tell’ of the Rewired State ran ‘Hack the government’ day #nhtg11.
Before I say more it might be worth making clear what a hack day is.
It is not something naughty or dangerous like trying to damage or deface a website; or breaking into a secure network.
No, the hack days I have been to over the last couple of years have been totally legit. Generally an organisation such as DCMS (Mark O’Neil) or UKOnline (Helen Milner) have provided access to existing data to a group of freelance developers.
The developers often have a day (usually at the weekend) to have a go at finding new uses for the data or mixing it (mashing) with other sources to create new tools or applications.
At the end of the day there is a ‘show and tell’ of what they have managed to produced.
Steph Gray (Helpful Technology) has already summarised the Rewired State event to which I can add a few personal observations.
Apart from the obvious credit due to the organisers and the developers don’t forget the colleagues from government and other organisations who gave up their Saturday evening to see the results. For example Julia Chandler from Dfid @juliac2, Ingrid Khoehler from LG Improvement and Development group @ingridk, or Sarah Baskerville @baskers from Dft.
So why do developers give up their time to do this?
Well there is an element of fun and challenge though of course it would be nice if they can develop a nice business opportunity as some – see Emma Mulqueeny on this issue; or create an application that is widely used: the Govspark application on government sites was created at a Young Rewired State event by Issy Long.
Ok so why did I and others go to the show and tell? Are we just bonkers? No not really. These are great events that leave me in awe of the cleverness of developers; their inventiveness; knowledge of emerging technologies etc. They are also often very funny, fast paced and mind boggling.
The potential and ideas opened up by such events are truly eye-opening.
So if you hear about a hack event and are not sure about going or have been thinking about offering to host one – perhaps you might now be interested. It will certainly make you look at your digital content in a new way and surely that is a good thing?