Last year I attended the H4D2 (Humanitarian for Disaster 2.o) organised by (and at) Aston University and Geeks Without Bounds. One of the outputs that I worked on was the HXL Extractor. Basically take data out of GeoSPARQL, a geospatial semantic database and fire it into a GIS program. One of the team members had already been experimenting with and semantic databases and triplestores (this was most definitely a good thing, allowing us to move quickly) so our ‘mission’ was to create a middle layer to connect to a triplestore, then using the WFS-T standard to fire the extracted data into a GIS program of your choice. Interestingly the ‘project lead’ was communicating with us from Geneva via Skype, this and the prior work bellies the need for clear and concise problem statements prior to the hack. Because some of the team had been able to think about what they had to do we’d been able to work more effectively, even while learning technologies on the fly.
Going to the International Conference for Crisis Mapping Hackathon in Washington a few months later, HXL was still going strong and I got to meet the instigator of the project CJ Hendrix face to face. He’d amassed a team which went on to rightly take first prize at ICCM, now its being used by by UNOCHA with papers forthcoming. The project is growing, as evidenced by the amount of work going on in the team repository. Understandably our small team in Birmingham just did a little bit, but every little bit, helps.
Now H4D2 is coming around again on April 12th – 14th. This will then be followed up by SMERST (Social Media and Semantic Technologies in Emergency Response) a more academic focused conference on April 15th – 16th. Most importantly, you didn’t need to code to contribute, all are welcome from designers, videographers, bloggers, journalists and you! Registration for the H4D2 is open and is again at Aston University in Birmingham. Register here: http://h4d2.eu/registration. It’s going to rock.
Kate Chapman and I initiated the first community feedback session, timed for the Asia timezones. However, we had participants from across the timezones.
Wanted: Cartography in OSGEO in consensus for a workshop, potentially using D3.js and CartoDB
Wanted: “The best way of deploying MBTiles”
Wanted: Food security and running a data driven election campaign
Issues with equipment and bandwidth this meant a true conversation was, IMO, hard to get started in a forum. We switched to text soon after it was started. However, the feedback was valuable to further scope what the community-at-large would like to see at FOSS4G in 2013.
After the Sanitation Hackathon one of the key lessons learnt was that the coders had scant knowledge of source code repositories. Learning how to checkout, commit and merge are skills that weren’t covered in detail during my own time at university, but were very valuable once hitting the world. In Dar code was shared through USB pens, version control was through separate folders, if at all. Kinu and TanzICT (two great technology incubators) invited me to stick on a developer hat and do a code repository Mobile Monday workshop – MoMo is about fostering cooperation and innovation between developers globally.
Github in my opinion is the best repository on the internet because of the awesome tools, cost for open source projects (free!) and using Git as the entry point. Also the documentation, is thorough with step by step guides taking you from being a novice to a git ninja.
The workshop was divided into two sections with a break in the middle. In the first section a straw poll was conducted to get an idea of the operating systems in the room. It was about 2/3 Windows to 1/3 Linux. This was followed by an introduction to source code management and a conceptual overview of the process of committing and pulling code. Everyone started to download the appropriate software to their computer and install the .NET framework! Break time.
Coming back after learning some new things about the attendees (like ice cream and favourite drinks) we started to go through the git lifecycle. We followed the help.github.com notes to setup and created a repository called “Kinutest” to get social and collaborate. After starting with the basics of committing and pulling, collaboratively code started to get generated. Issues were encountered with merging branches. This kicked off a discussion on merging using Nvie’s model for development. After 3 hours of frantic work and many learning experiences we ended up with some collaborately written README.md files and two PHP files!
Obviously this is only the start of the process. Going really deep into Git is something that can’t be covered in 3-4 hour session, it’s always a constantly evolving and learning process. The crowd were excellent, however at times they would just use their exuberance and charge on ahead. This in itself isn’t a bad thing, however can be challenging on trying to keep the entire group together on a task. But hopefully provides an introduction into code repositories. Did someone mention unit testing…?
Written and submitted from KINU Innovation Space, Dar Es Salaam (-6.77802,39.26721)
The format for the judging was adjusted slightly from the traditional ‘present to everyone’ approach. We set up in away from the main hackspace, where presentation groups presented to the judging panel composed of luminaries from the technology and sanitation sectors. In no particular order;
Jon Gore is the managing director of E-Fulusi a boutique mobile and software development company working in Dar Es Salaam.
The sun set, the heat rose, the hacking continued. Teams stayed until 0200 blazing trails into their respective code bases. Here is a short summary of the state of play;
Open Defecation Reporting refined their problem statement, going indepth for pretty much all of the first day. Now they’ve started developing a USSD reporting application. They’ve worked through issues of how to geolocate a USSD signal and how to derive coarse location by village. In their design they’ve looked at how to go from a open defecation area to an open defecation free area.
Electronic Performance and Monitoring had a look at various platforms from Ushahidi to Taarifa and a few other monitoring platforms. They were put in touch with the various software communities development teams and started to test the applicability of the platforms in solving the presented problem.
iWash and Behavioural Messaging refined their problem statement, starting with a Sample Behavior Messaging Content. From here the group looked at various SMS providers, building a platform for the dissemination of this information using a rules based approach. Here an issue needs to be resolved; money for paying for APIs. One of the issues was that they used their free credit for trying the API and now need a credit card to continue using the service.
Written and posted from the Sanitation Hackathon, COSTECH, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (-6.77457, 39.24125)