The prize for best web app at the Building apps for local communities hackathon went to Team Bieber for their Clouds over London app, using esd-toolkit’s Application Profile Interface (API). The app, described here, indicates the potential suitability of different areas for people moving into a city.
The app uses the API which sits under LG Inform and esd-toolkit’s emerging new suite of small area profiling tools. It feeds requested metric summaries in super-fast time for web developers to present in their own web pages and applications.
At the hackathon a variety of public data and associated tools were presented to a bunch of enthusiastic programmers to see what they could produce over the weekend of 27/28 April 2013. Tools included:
Prototype apps were developed by six team, two of whom used the esd API.
The esd API is really easy to use. It presents lots of data in a standard way
Michel Bartz, whose day job is with Local Giving
Are hackathons any good?
I started as a bit of sceptic because there are so many hackathons around. There were four last weekend including ones run by large corporates keen to seduce developers to their toolsets. Hackers combine a breadth of programming and web design skills, but a typically represent quite a narrow demographic.
However, the amazingly open and friendly atmosphere fostered at this event, organised by Hackathon Central’s Milton Wallace, has rather converted me to hackathons as a way of opening my eyes to the wider potential of tools and how to can get extra value from data. We can spend too long surrounded just by people too similar to ourselves.
There’s a fair chance that one of the apps started this weekend could reach maturity as a well used and valuable public resource. If just one in a hundred such apps from hackathons takes off, such events are probably cost effective compared with other techniques for kick starting research and development.
One main driver of open public data is that much digital service provision can be taken up outside the public sector at no cost to the public purse. Hackathons provide a test bed for that proposition and come up with ideas unlikely to emerge from council committees.