tamberg's Blog

2011-12-18 by tamberg

RHoK 2011

Two weekends ago, December 3rd and 4th, a Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) hackathon was held in many cities around the world. I joined the event in Zürich.

Random Hacks of Kindness is a global community of innovators building practical open technology to make the world a better place.

More specific,

RHoK’s model is to start from identifying, defining and refining problem definitions provided by subject matter experts and local stakeholders. This ensures that volunteer time is focused on solving real problems for real people.

I learned about RHoK through @loleg and was eager to participate. My plan was to implement a generic service required by a number of problem solutions, rather than contributing to a single solution. The event was held at Hub Zürich, a nice local co-working space. After explaining the RHoK philosophy, the organisators presented a small selection of problems picked from the RHoK problem list. Then, some of the participants presented their ongoing projects. Twimight, the Twitter client app with a peer-to-peer disaster mode (based on ETH Zürich's PodNet project) made a good impression. But contributing to an established project doesn't have the same appeal as starting from scratch so most participants joined forces to create something new.

I spent some time pitching the slightly off-topic "SMS Web API Android app" idea to various people and drinking lots of coffee. Luckily, @acraphae decided to give it a try and help me build the app. Taking into account that we never met before and that neither of us had much experience with Android development, the enusing two days of intense hacking went very smooth. Starting with a reference model we split up the work along the necessary Android APIs and started pushing code to a shared repository until we had a working demo, five minutes before the final presentation.

Oddly enough, those final presentations were judged and ranked by a jury, which in my opinion degrades the time and effort each of the participants invested. This was the only down-side of an otherwise perfectly organised, very gratifying weekend.