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April 3, 2014

Hackathon love

Last weekend I was a judge at the Toronto Startup Weekend – Library Edition and was reminded again not ony how much I love hackathons, but how unexpected they are.

Toronto Startup Weekend for Libraries

The Toronto event wasn’t strictly speaking a hackathon. A hundred people met, many pitched ideas, and then people formed teams. They had to come up with a business idea and pitch it to five judges, explaining their idea, perhaps including a demo, showing their research (including user surveys if appropriate), and making the case for it as a sustainable business enterprise. (Non-profits welcome.) It was a fantastic event.

But to keep things simple, consider a classic hackathon: developers get together for a day or a weekend and are challenged to write working code, usually constrained to a particular genre (e.g., games) or using an open data set (e.g., the DPLA hackathon or the Open Syllabus Project hackathon). And the amazing thing is that they do it.

Just think about all that had to happen to make a hackathon possible and not a cruel joke.

We need browsers and HTTP and the ability to request data through them.

We need well-documented, standard ways of requesting that data.

We need open sources of data.

We need Open Source software to let us build on work done by others.

We need frameworks that let us do easy things incredibly easily.

We need libraries so we can do complex things incredibly easily, such as visualizing data.

We need an Internet to connect programs to data, software to users, and everyone to everyone.

We need an ethos that encourages sharing, experimenting, and prototyping — finding what’s right in a project not all that’s gone wrong or has been left unfinished.

I love hackathons.

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May 15, 2013

<no_sarcasm>Lucky me</no_sarcasm>

I had a lovely time at the University of Toronto Faculty of Information yesterday afternoon. About twenty of us talked for two hours about library innovation. It reminded me: how much I like hanging out with librarians; how eager people are to invent, collaborate, and play; how lucky I am to work in an open space for innovation (the Harvard Library Innovation Lab) with such a talented, creative group; how much I love Toronto.

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December 6, 2008

Twittering for food

#hohoto is shaping up to be a good-works good-time for all. It’s using the digital media we love so well to organize (in a bottom up way with scare quotes around it) a real world charitable event and party that will also push back out into the digital world. All the money goes to the Food Bank.

You have to love the way in which Twitter, which seems like the most evanescent means of communication since the polite nod, is enabling our deepest need to connect. From Twitter to community to social responsibility. +1 all around.

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Latter that morning: From Michael O’Connor Clarke, one of the “organizers,” via email:

Quick update: we’re now at $8,000 raised in just a tad over 72 hours. 300 tickets sold, and some great sponsorships.

This thing is rocking. The venue have agreed to waive all costs. Everything – rental fees, staff costs, they’re even giving us the booze at cost (so we can mark it up a tiny bit and direct all the proceeds to the Food Bank). Eventbrite have agreed to eat their usual fee for the registration page. The outpouring of love around this thing is just outstanding.