Sunday, 3 July 2011

First we take Beijing, then we take Berlin

Last week, the Citizen Cyberscience Centre ran its third "hackfest" this year, in collaboration with the Open Knowledge Foundation, as a run-up to this year's Open Knowledge Conference in Berlin. Entitled the Open Science and Social Science Workshop, it involved about 20 participants - some scientists, some programmers and some enthusiastic citizens. (The CCC also organized an Open Science Panel at the conference, which was surprisingly well attended, given that it was in parallel with free software guru Richard Stallman.)

Like previous hackfests in Beijing and Taipei in March, and in Rio de Janeiro in May, the objective was to spend time creating demos and prototypes that could act as catalysts for future citizen cyberscience projects.

The topics tackled in Berlin ran from how to get volunteer computing programmes to run on Android mobile phones to how to digitize tables of economics data currently being scanned by the Brazilian government (an example is posted here), a project that requires volunteer help as optical character recognition programmes cannot figure out the structure of a table.

Even though this hackfest only lasted a day - previous one have stretched over two - some inspiring demos were created. Rufus Pollock, co-founder of the Open Knowledge Foundation, proving to be one of the most ardent coders. And the participants kept hacking until they were thrown out by the venue manager. Now that's dedication!

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