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…
- 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.
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.
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…
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!
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!