traveller with a tale

emma persky

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Mashed ‘08

June 24th, 2008 · 1 Comment · Events

Mashed was an interesting one for me. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, not having been to a traditional hack day before. I was also about 8 hours late, having been at BarCampBelfast during the day, flying straight to Alexandra Place, well, not as close as Ewan Spence’s (t) SocialFlightSimulator made it, but pretty close!

I was interested in the crowd make up, which was quite different from my experience of previous London based events. Almost everyone there was based in the UK, compared to the more European mix found at our BarCamps. It was also quite a change to know so many people, when I’m often found at events where I know so few people. Refreshing change.

I was sorely disappointed with the lack of other female hackers. Or more specifically ones entering the competition. It didn’t occur to me until quite a way through the presentations, so I can’t be sure, but from memory there was only 1 other female entry presenter out of over 50 projects.

As for the hacks themselves, most seem to revolve around some kind of web mashup, which, to be frank, I’m getting kind of bored of. To me, a hack day should be about developing something that is a little bit different, a little bit out there, more than simply a composition of existing technologies in a non-novel way, something whose solution is not immediately apparent to someone in the industry (that sounds vaguely like the patent rules…). There were some really cool hardware hacks (the package which find’s it’s own way springs to mind), and some great bits of novel software, but a massive over abundance of web based mashups. What was more interesting is that the prizes were all awarded to these sorts of projects. Do our industry leaders no longer value the ability to do something outside of reading a few web api’s and hooking them up?

I think we might need a different space for really cool technology hacking. Anyone want to help me start a hack camp where you’re forbidden from using web APIs?

That aside, there was quite a commercial feeling to the event, sponsors were mentioned every 5 seconds, there was huge amounts of money being spent, and the staff didn’t appear to be attendees (something I think is critical for a great event). I’m not criticising the BBC for running it this way, that’s their thing, but again, I would love to see more community events in London (and yes, I know I should organise something, I promise I will eventually).

I loved the rock band playing over werewolf, and interesting change, prompted by my wanted to go home to sleep and not wanting a long game ahead of me. This turned out really well, because on returning the next day I was suddenly inspired and my Johnny Lee Eat Your Heart Out Hack came together - a VR Display from Head Tracking Using a Webcam and no Silly Glasses. People seemed to think that this was my entire degree project, and not a hack from a few hours work.

I was inspired by the people who came to talk to me afterwards about my hack, and pleased to see people genuinely interested in really cool technology. You guys have prompted me to do more work!

The mix of hacking and socialising was complicated. I felt compelled to work on my hack, but at the same time didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to hang out with friends, especially those from out of town who I don’t have a chance to see that often. Maybe it would have been easier has I been there all day, but hey, I had a great time in Belfast!

All in all, an interesting experience, was supplied with lots and lots of schwag and I’m looking forward to the next hack day, rumoured to be Yahoo’s hackday event in early September.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 simone brummelhuis // Jul 29, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    I saw your post about the competition you have entered, but so few other women. This is something we aim to improve through Would you want to write for us to report on the events?
    Contact us.

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