Guest Post: Groups Solve Problems During Hack-a-Thon Weekend in London

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 | 3:19 PM

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Posted by Dominic Campbell, Founder of FutureGov

[From time to time we invite guests to blog about initiatives of interest, and are very pleased to haveDominic Campbell, founder of FutureGov join us here. – Ed.]

Note: This is an edited version of a post that first appeared on Simpl's blog

On Friday and Saturday 17-18 June, a diverse bunch of energetic people came together in London for Interactivism Accessibility Hack Weekend (the first of its kind).

Some of those present - the student developers, Google developers and social innovators - were regular attendees at hack weekends, but it was those who had never even heard of a hack weekend - the members of the Gransnet website - that turned Interactivism into a hack weekend to remember.

Kicking things off, Andrew Eland (Google) and Dominic Campbell (FutureGov / Simpl) outlined the challenge that lay ahead of the teams, working together and using their creative, design and coding skills to turn their ideas into working prototypes by the end of the two days.

Before the hacking commences, two inspirational speakers to stepped up to the mic. Mike Bradley shared his experience of all things accessible through his current job as Senior Lecturer in Product Design and Engineering at Middlesex University and previous job as Accessibility Engineer at Ford. In short, listen to what people need and do that. Simple right?

Then came the star of the show, Peter Oakley, otherwise known by his renowned YouTube name: "Geriatric 1927". Peter spoke about his inspiration for joining YouTube, his love of all things web related, encouraged others to just give it a go as "you can't break it" and then demoed his YouTube skills.

And then it was time to get down to business. The people behind the ideas pitched to the room to get people motivated and moving into teams to start to get those ideas developed. Most of the teams gelled really quickly and stereotypes were quickly dispelled. Gransnet members later commented how impressed they were that the student developers really took time to listen to their ideas and everyone remarked on what good fun and great value the Gransnetters were.

Despite some healthy competitiveness, designers, developers and Gransnet members were bartered between teams, helping with sought after skills like logo design, understanding a complicated piece of coding or posing for a photograph or two to jazz up their final presentations.

So those final projects presented to the judging panel:

1. Our Town: a location based site with user generated content about local volunteering opportunities and ideas for projects

2. Go for Local: a portal for people to locate the services that are around them, including the user reviews of the services, such as a pharmacy (a combination of Older People's Local Portal, and Carebay)

3. Gene Pool: an easy to use and fun genealogy game (a bit like Foursquare Family History)

4. Timetag: using the web to show patients if their hospital appointment is going to be delayed because of an overrunning clinic

5. TV Mate: an easy to use remote control made from a computer tablet that can be personalised with photographs and sounds

6. EZPZ: a simplified web browser that removes all the clutter and makes internet browsing clear and straightforward for the inexperienced user

7. Echoing: helping people in care homes connect and add value to the outside world by recording memories specific to local places that can be accessed by people visiting those locations

8. Spotted: an app for sharing likes and dislikes related to accessibility through photographs and individual profiles, for example a photograph of something that impedes good accessibility (a combination of Accessify Places and On the Go)

9. Milly and Jake: an interactive story that can be read by grandparents and grandchildren regardless of their location, for example by using Skype.

10. Face to Face: simplified video calling, using a telephone number as identification instead of a username (a combination of Face to Face and Stupidly Easy Video Chat for Elders)

11. I Was Here: A way of collecting and sharing memories about times, places and historical events (this team was formed from Memories and Retrospective Life Streaming for Elders)

After tough deliberation, the expert panel of judges awarded EZPZ as the Interactivism - Accessibility Hack Weekend winners. The students from this team received a sought after Google Interactivism Award. Our Gransnetters were also invited to form their own judging panel and voted for Spotted as their favourite idea.

All the photographs from the weekend are available on the Interactivism Flickr group.

And special thank you goes to Gransnet members and everyone who came along and worked so hard - we hope you all enjoyed it as much as we did.