Bristol Open Data Challenge

On Saturday, I took part in my first hack day, organised by Connecting Bristol and Urban Things, after hearing about it at the May Geek Girls Bristol Meetup and inviting myself along with 2 developers at work who were already signed up.

The objective for the day was to ‘work with The Bristol API to innovate a creative solution that aims to reduce pollution by tackling a key transportation issue’, and below is an account of my day…

10:30 – I’ve had coffee, created a GitHub account, and heard a lot of things I don’t understand. Currently, the list to look up is – SDK, objective-C, enums (my college teacher mentioned these the other day), Swift, Swagger. I’m sure this list will grow as the day progresses…

10:39 – Ahh, Software Development Kits.

10:54 – We are arguing about ideas and the transport related problems Bristol faces… I’m attempting to dig deep into my memory to recall issues covered in my transport planning MSc.

11:25 – Lists of the issues we’ve considered so far…

  • Congestion
  • Air quality (map route for runners/cyclists)
  • Bus journey time reliability
  • Bus lane blockages
  • Weather affecting transport choices
  • Overcrowded buses
  • Road safety for vulnerable road users
  • Security for cycle parking
  • Lack of parking facilities.

12:41 – Idea 1, route mapper for ‘least polluted’ cycle/walk/run route. Scrapped because not enough real time NO2 data in the central areas.

12:55 – Idea 2, an app to find the safest bicycle parking in Bristol centre. Scrapped after looking at a disheartening heat map of bike thefts between 2010-2014, and uncertainty over data of all cycle parking facilities available.

Cycle theft heat map
Cycle theft heat map

13:00 – LUNCH! An excellent spread of cheese and pickle wraps, hummous and raw veg, and a brownie that’s making Tom make weird Meg Ryan noises.

14:02 – We seem to have agreed on an idea.

14:16 – The working title is Stride and Ride (credit Sam Meek-Welsh Davies who did some remote marketing support!), and it’s an app to tell you the furthest distance you can travel on a First Bus 3-stop hop ticket, which costs £1, on your route from A-B. The idea is to encourage people who don’t currently consider walking to increase their active travel by using the bus for only part of a journey, initially for the furthest stretch. We have already identified many ways to expand this (use £1 bus for the steepest part, or the least interesting) but we are trying hard to stick to the minimum viable product.

They’d had A LOT of coffee and sugar by this point

14:42 – Tom and Russ are writing some code, probably. I’ve been drinking tea and working on the organisation side of things but might get pair programming in a bit. Currently they seem to be alternating between cheering and swearing…

15:39 – I’ve been busting out my ‘drawing the internet’ skills and sketching wireframes for the iOS app. However I have been informed that my plans for a user to enter their postcode may be too ambitious and for MVP, we’ll be using longitude/latitude.

16:21 – Judging starts in 38 minutes. Currently we have little to show.

16:40 – 19 minutes to go. There is no front end to speak of but the data is coming through and the console app window is showing something. I think my wireframe sketches were a little premature…

17:15 – Panic mode. Neither Tom nor Russ’s laptop has a VGA or DVI port so presenting our…ahem…app on the projector is going to be a problem.

17:17 – My old creaky 7 year old laptop has been recruited due to its 15-pin D-subminiature VGA connector.

17:25 – Getting the code up has frozen Visual Studio. My laptop is getting warmer by the second.

17:28 – It’s up! And just in time…

Stride n Ride

17:32 – Demo done. It wasn’t pretty but we got through it.

17:42 – There is now beer.

18:00 – We only bloody won!

I’m not sure I agreed to the team name…

An excellent day was had by all, and I’m excited about being the product owner for the app (Tom and Russ haven’t exactly agreed to this but I know how to give confusing and contradictory requirements (‘Make it POP!’) so I’ve got this…).

Thanks to the organisers and the Watershed for hosting – I’m looking forward to the next one!


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