I took a trip down to London yesterday to go to Rewired Culture, part of the series of Rewired State events. Basically these are gatherings of assorted hackers and geeks who get provided with access to government data, beer and pizza and left to see what they come up with.
The premise is that most government bodies don’t know what to do with their data, either because they don’t have the technical expertise or because they don’t care, or because they don’t see doing interesting things with their data as being part of their remit. Hackers by their very nature DO know what to do with it, so by letting them loose with the data means that interesting things tend to happen.
Rewired Culture was about data originating from the culture, media and sport sectors and took place at the Guardian. There were about 25 hackers - ranging in age from 15 to me - who took over an office in the Grauniad building (sorry about adjusting your chair, whoever’s desk it was I sat at) and spent the day coding. From what I could see it was a pretty mixed bunch - although Macs were in the ascendence, there was a web focus to it, and the tools were generally open source.
There were various outcomes of the day - my favourite being Rupert Redington’s Awesometer. This is an antidote to the Asborometer, which to me sums up everything that’s wrong and negative about the reuse of goverment data. The Asborometer focusses on everything that’s negative - how many ASBOs are there in your area, and exactly how afraid should you be? Needless to say, it was inevitably picked up and praised by Gordon Brown as he “launched” the government’s latest “put-it-all-online” efforts last week.
The Awesometer is completely different. It picks up your location, scrapes a whole series of data sources to see what positive things are going in your area, gives you a score which includes +1 for you being there, and then tells you to relax and get on with things.
If it could further ram home the point that violent crime is very rare - and its prevalence is something that’s continually hyped-up by those with a vested interest in accentuating negativity for the furtherance of their own agendas - it would be perfect.
The whole event was only for the day, which isn’t a great deal of time to actually make something by my standards. However I did manage to come up with something that works as a cobbled-together prototype, more about which is over here.