Hacking the government

A couple of weeks back i attended the Rewired State “Hack the government day” after seeing a post on Twitter. It seemed a little brazen at first glance; advertising for people to help hack the government on a mainstream media channel, but on closer inspection it turned out to be a touch more legal than first impressions would suggest.

The idea was like any other hack day out there in which a group of developers/designers/wonks get together and try and create something in a short space of time. In this case its using government data that is currently available openly.  The point they were making is that goverment is bad at doing this kind of thing and hopefully a small number of developers can produce something good in a day to prove that the larger number of developers with a bit more time could do better if there was more data made publicly available.

This topic seems to be very current at the moment especially in the US with their Transparency Camp and Tim O’Reilly pushing more on the idea of working on stuff that matters.

This all relates closely to my previous post on  the TFL journey planner and how if the data was opened up it would allow for a better set of tools to be created; which i ended discussing with someone at an OpenMusicMedia meetup who then turned out to be one of the organisers,James Darling , of Rewired State – looking back it all seems strangely coincidental.

The day itself was at the Guardian’s new offices just behind Kings Cross which are brand spanking new and rather swanky; good to see companies being frugal during the times of limited cash flow!

Inside the Guardian Offices by Ben Dodson

Inside the Guardian Offices by Ben Dodson

I started some work on a scraper for the TFL website so i could mashup joureny data with some other useful data. However the day itself was less than productive for me due to my laptop over heating after a few hours and refusing to play nicely for the rest of the day. Many of the others there were able to produce some good working examples. This was impressive in the given amount of time and there has been some talk of investment from both DirectGov Innovate and also 4IP.

UPDATE – The work i started on a TFL based system is still a work in progress and i’ll post details here as and when i have something worth showing off.