Youtube about #Manchester Hackathon, musings about technology and climate activism #mcrhack

Here’s a video I made about yesterday’s “Hackathon,” organised by Open Data Manchester.

[UPDATE: Sigh, I failed to mute a video clip, so have drowned out a bit of Dave Carter… So it goes. Fixed it!]

It was a great day, inspiring and bewildering (for us non-techies) in equal parts. During the presentations the master of ceremonies skilfully kept everyone to a very strict two minutes (as Marc Roberts, uber-cartoonist,  pointed out – coders and techies have a respect for numbers and precision that humanities graduates lack).

The variety of projects was impressive. If anything was missing it was a sense of social movement-ness. The various projects I heard explained were all about how individuals can park more easily, or find a toilet (not to be laughed at if you’re elderly or have bladder problems – there’s only one public loo in the city now) or choose a school. There wasn’t much sense of how people can come together to solve collective problems.

I want to emphasise that this is NOT the fault of the organisers, or those who attended. It’s the fault of the “environmental movement” (and the editors of MCFly are more culpable than others). Why aren’t “we” thinking – practically – about how open data and the new technologies of social media could be used to cajole the local state into being nimble, inform individuals and groups about what others with similar concerns are doing.?Where were the representatives from the Green Party, Friends of the Earth, the “Stakeholder” “Steering” “Group”? Why didn’t MCFly try to cobble together a tech team around one of the following apps (1)

  • an app that pulls details of upcoming scrutiny committee meetings, exec meetings and the blogs of the Executive Members (well, there’s only one – the Leader’s Blog), allowing you to select key words (waste, recycling, biodiversity, climate, transport) so you know what is coming up. Could be linked to your postcode so you are alerted to whether any of your councillors sit on the relevant committees, and the minutes of those meetings turned into structured data so you could see what (if anything) they have said or done on the issues you care about.
  • An app for your smart phone using geolocation (html5 blah blah) so that you were alerted to when you were near a business that had signed up to the Climate Change Action Plan but not made its own action plan (just fyi – 200 or so organisations have signed up to this masterwork, but only 1% – namely the Council and Northwards Housing – have got their own implementation plan). Then app could then link to their email/flickr account and you could take a photo of yourself walking away from their business. Or something.
  • An app that let you know when you were close to someone else who also cared passionately about climate change, sending an automated “want to meet for a (fair trade) coffee in a local (i.e. pays taxes) coffee shop?” Could be tied to an inventory of what campaigning skills/time you had, and allow people to swap skills and knowledge. In any case, it would help get lots of little conversations going, and combat the sense of isolation that many campaigners and would-be-activists say they feel.

(1) Okay, because I hadn’t thought of any of these apps before yesterday. But you get my point…

Marc Hudson

About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
This entry was posted in Climate Change Action Plan, Event reports, inspire, Manchester City Council, youtubes and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Youtube about #Manchester Hackathon, musings about technology and climate activism #mcrhack

  1. code1up says:

    Thanks for posting the video and the interesting app ideas – keep ’em coming!

  2. Thanks! It was a really really good day.

  3. Thanks Marc

    I can agree with your sentiments around the lack of social issues addressed. However, the context to this is that this was the first hackday held in this manner, with a great turnout/response. For many of the developers present it would have been the first time working with open datasets. Hence within the limits of a day getting such data onto a map you can query is an achievement in itself!

    I’d add that for data publishers these events are very useful in terms of understanding how best to make data available, including the preferred methods of access developers require. It’s an iterative process…

    Some of what you describe in terms of potential apps and uses does exist elsewhere. Take a look at OpenlyLocal for example: – but I appreciate the point around taking this further.

    It was an enjoyable day – I see it more as a start of something than a finished end product… maybe the next step is to facilitate more focused events with particular topics and stakeholders…?

  4. To qualify – there *were* social issues being addressed through the hacks, just that the time and technical limits of the day meant people have to get on with some complex tasks quite quickly!

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