Open Culture 2011 – Hacking Arts and Culture

This is a panel session. Phill Purdy starts by summarising what a Hack Day is – getting people together for a day, computer programmers, solve problems, think about creative ways of using the collection. Now three presenters talking about different hack days:

Linda Ellis from Wolverhampton Arts + Heritage

Completely new experience. Hack day came out of a much bigger project – about getting Black Country collections online – but the result was a website with an API…

Data is fed into culture grid – so actually 2 APIs available (although on day, everyone chose to use the Black Country website API)

Why a hack day?

  • To meet local developers
  • To find out developers view on our data and our project – and form relationships
  • Generate new ideas
  • To start to create new uses of our data – get out of the curatorial mindset

Main thing – it had to be fun – asking people to give up their time (a Saturday) to this. First of all got all participants to make badges – engaged them! Brought along objects for them to look at, and also provided small value Amazon vouchers for best hack (voted for by participants)

For the hackers – it was hard work! Started at 10, went through to 4(?) when it came to a natural conclusion – got as far as they could in a day.

5 hacks created on the day:

  • Go Fish – type in a keyword ? 9 random images, user challegned to create a story round the images
  • Pairs gam – 20 images, user has to find the pairs
  • Around here – mobile app displays images based on users location and location data – but Linda notes location data not given high priority when describing the collection
  • Connections – 16 images user has to find connections
  • Black Country fashion – user selects items of clothing from pictures in the collection to put together complete outfit

Would like to see Black Country fashion app developed further – e.g. enable posting to facebook once you have chosen your outfit.

Lessons learnt:

  • Crucial elements
    • Good wifi
    • Venue
    • Lunch
  • Keep it informal
  • Doesn’t have to be a whole w/e
  • Great for generating ideas – engaged museum staff who were amazed at what the developers could achieve in a short amount of time
  • Technical support
  • It’s fun!!!

Would like to take a couple of the hacks forward – but lack of resources is a real issue – not just finding money for more development (sometimes developers will do for free) – but once the hack completed need resource to host etc.
Day cost £500 – not much, but still £500 they didn’t have in the budget

Follow @wagwebteam

Rachel Coldicutt – showing video CultureHack day – see Culture orgs provided data – could be a spreadsheet, could be an API. Rachel mentions that the breadth of organisations and individuals involved:

  • 69 developers
  • 8 speakers
  • 12 cultural orgs
  • 1 software company
  • 3 media orgs
  • 2 funding bodies
  • 80 ppl who attended talks

Very casual environment – but lots of work done
Hackday inspired by observation – other people were ‘doing this better’ than arts organisations (e.g. “Showing not telling” – don’t write a business case, make a proof of concept; work like a creative business not a paper-bound bureaucracy; Iterate something quickly to get it right.

Hackday concentrated expertise and effort – 2,484 hours of developer time! Talent attracts talent; opportunity to make new relationships with people who are interested.

Sum up as “Inspiration”; “Creativity”; “Excitement”

The ‘open data’ debate – start to talk about ways in which we could collaboratively get to a point where open data is a more recognised concept in the sector – we may find that the cultural heritage is missing from the internet because we worry about it too much.

Working on Culture Hack Wales (October 2011?) and Culture Hack North

Looking at other kinds of hacking:

  • Ideas Hacks (you don’t have to be a coder/programmer to hack ideas)
  • Hardware Hacks
  • Games Hacks

Follow @rachelcoldicutt
John Coburn – Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums

Culture Grid Hackday – testing the water with the Culture Grid API. Wanted to investigate the public value in the Culture grid. Also about forming relationships

60 signed up – 40 attended; 28 coders – 12 ‘non-coders’
Resulted in 5 working prototypes and 2 concepts developed over 8 hours – and funding was awarded to 2 projects to take further

  • Data visualisations
  • Object paletter generator
  • Map search tools
  • Mapping virtual world to physical world
  • Simple QR Code generator for exhibitions – was awarded some funding
  • Distribute content to Facebook networks

Hackday started new conversations (most ideas weren’t developed). 2 usable (inexpensive) ideas – good will shown to cultural orgs publishing data. New relationships – ongoing support and guidance.
Things to think about:

  • Difficult to balance ideas/time/people
  • On the day collaborations between coders and non-coders didn’t flourish as they had hoped… not enough time perhaps
  • Wonder if competition compromises collaboration – the potential funding aspect
  • Keep it social! People attend because it is a social thing

Take a look at Broadening Hack Days
Comment from a blogger after the even “If the data isn’t in a format that someone can easily access then it’s going to lie fallow, underused”

Hunt down and embrace your local ‘open data geeks’! – in this case it was @alistair_uk

Hackdays should not be about prescribed outcomes … although themes can help ensure relevance – ‘dinosaur hack’; ‘history hack’.

Now challenge to build on the new relationships – considering smaller events on a more regular basis (e.g. monthly basis)

Follow @j0hncoburn

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