Friday, 2 December 2011

A hackfestive season

The Citizen Cyberscience Centre co-organized two hackfests in November, rounding off a year that has seen us run or co-organize hackfests on five continents, in places as diverse as Beijing, Rio de Janeiro and Berlin.

The November hackfests were in New York and Cape Town (pictured here, courtesy Daniel Lombraña González).

In New York, the ecoHackNYC event was organized by Javier de la Torre and his colleagues at the company Vizzuality, and hosted in the funky surroundings of New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Programme, where artists put technology to weird and wonderful use. Groups hacked on everything from tracking the mega-carbon-footprint of the mega-rich when they fly their private jets, to tracking where toilet waste actually goes after New Yorkers flush.

With colleagues from Brazil, we worked on testing Bossa, an open-source platform for volunteer thinking, which we want to use for a deforestation monitoring project called ForestWatchers (which was just selected for a grant from the Open Society Foundations).

In Cape Town (actually, nearby Muizenberg), an Africa@home Data/Science Hackfest was hosted by the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences. We'd run a workshop on volunteer computing at AIMS back in 2007, which in many ways was a trigger for the creation of the Citizen Cyberscience Centre, so it was nice to come back again, and Jan Groenewald was as ever a fantastically effective and flexible host.

Africa@home was co-organized with a bunch of Fellows from the Shuttleworth Foundation: Kathi Fletcher of Connexions, Mark Horner of Siyavula, Philipp Schmidt of P2PU and last but not least, Rufus Pollock of the Open Knowledge Foundation.

Volunteer thinking was very much the flavour of the event, with projects on digitizing 19th century notebooks of Bushmen history, spotting potential breeding grounds for malaria in images taken by field workers and analyzing radio astronomy data in search of signals from solar flares. Rufus raised the stakes by launching pyBossa, together with Daniel Lombraña González of the CCC: it's a python-based version of the open-source Bossa platform that should make it much easier to build volunteer thinking projects.

Next year, the hackfestivities continue: London, Taipei and Bangalore are on the this space!