Hack Day Plans

This weekend is Yahoo!’s Hack Day. And as in the last two years, I’m going to be there. Although (also like the last too years) I’m far to old and soft to consider staying up and hacking through the night. I’ll be leaving at a reasonable time on Saturday evening to get home to a comfortable bed. This will be easier than in previous years as this year’s venue is near the tube network (Alexandra Palace is a lovely venue – but a real bugger to get to).

So the question is, what to hack on. Actually I already have some ideas. And (unsurprisingly for those of you who are regular readers) it’ll be based around the local community stuff that I’ve been writing about (and talking to Lloyd about) recently.

Here’s the current plan.

Building local planets is all very well, but it can be hard work to get a good one going. As I’ve mentioned before, you need good local knowledge to pick up interesting feeds about a location. This certainly doesn’t scale to building local community sites for the whole of the UK (well, not without a lot of help). But I think you can get a lot of the way there – close enough to be useful – with an automated process. Last month I mentioned some feeds that I was using as a basis for all of my local planets. I think that’s an idea that is worth exploring further. There are other feeds that can be added to that list. Things like MySociety‘s FixMyStreet and GroupsNearYou. There are also things like TheyWorkForYou‘s feeds of when your MP has spaid something in Parliament.

One problem with this approach is that localities aren’t named consistantly. For some of these feed you need a placename (a Google news search for news mentioning “Balham”) and for others you need a postcode (which MP represents SW12). I’ve been looking at Yahoo!’s GeoPlanet API and it looks like it will get me some way towards solving this problem (as a bonus, there’s already a Perl module for it).

All of which leads me to my plan. A service that builds automated web sites providing local information for communities in the UK. I’m imagining that you put in a post code (or, perhaps, a placename) and it goes away and builds a useful and interesting web site for you.

I have no idea how close I’ll get in 24 hours of hacking, but it will be an interesting experiment. If you’re going to be Hack Day and this sounds interesting to you, then please get in touch.

One comment

  1. hmmm, we could perhaps mash up our two projects… although i’ll be working on mobile stuff, and am expecting it to be mostly javascript (with some perl on the server side, but that’s the light work – hopefully y! has some decent js libraries for geoplanet (which i plan on using as well).as le’on says, see you there!

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