Wednesday, November 28, 2012

dev4good holiday hack

On 24th November 2012, possibly the most productive single hack event started.... I may be biased

After a few years of organising hack events, I was beginning to get a bit annoyed by the fact that we can bring together some super smart people with amazing skills and ideas, but not get around to pushing these ideas out to market. Maybe we were doing something wrong, targeting the wrong charities?

To prove to myself that you could build an MVP project in a weekend I built a dev4good windows 8 app in around 30 hours, so I knew it would be possible as long as you kept it as a simple a product, it could be pushed to market. With knowledge I had some mental leverage (not the crazy kind) to show people what could be done.

This time around we decided to bypass the charities altogether, instead we invited developers designers, marketers, ideas people and anyone who was interested to join us at Google Campus for the weekend. In the end we had 40 people, a few familiar faces, a few crazy ideas and a load of passionate volunteers looking to make a difference.

Our holiday hack mantra for the weekend: MVP MVP MVP (keep your eye on the Minimum Viable Product) Along with things like "you are not at work, if it is wrong tell your team, they cant fire you", "hey crazy boy, no we are not adding that to the project", it will all come together shortly"
The only rules were each team must be made up of different skills, a team of developers would never get finished and a team of designers might look good but wouldn't get out of Photoshop, it was all about co-operation and finding the right people with the right skills when you needed them.

With an initial intro from Heidi (our co-organiser from The Giving lab), Amy (the dev4good design/UX guru), myself and Jas (API architect from the Giving lab) we started everyone off with ta simple question. Think up new ways for people to give to charity, you have 10 minutes....

20 minutes later (scope creep can start at anytime), the groups came together and pitched their initial ideas to the masses. This (for me anyway) is where the magic happens at these events and if it doesn't happen you might as well head for the hills, people just start working in teams. It reminds me of those 60s horror films with each idea (the blob) just moving about consuming people, spitting them out until it finds the right group of people to start hacking.

Throw in some coffee, pasta, work tables, beanbags, sweets and the whole place was alive with people sketching ideas, writing code (and in one case launching their project before 1pm on the first day .
At 4pm we had a quick meetup with everyone to see where they were or what they needed to get things done.

Other than Shevember ho were onto making their site work better and trying to arm twist people to donate through their site, the other teams were all at different points of their build. But the Shevember roject really highlighted the fact that keeping it simple makes sense and most importantly means you can push ideas out to the internet very quickly. Which I think spurred the other teams on, there is nothing like a constant reminder of 'hey my site is live, how is yours' to make any developer grit their teeth and weep a little.

Unfortunately I wasn't on site for the Sunday, but when I left on Saturday night I was stoked and very very proud of the work everyone had done. These people had given up their weekend to come along to a building with absolutely no idea what was going to happen or what they would achieve. And the fact that we were looking at 3 maybe four projects being ready to go live, I was a happy organiser.

All in all we had 5 or so products live by the end of the weekend, with a couple more close to going live and one in the iTunes store being authorised..... A massive achievement by anyone's standards and as far as I know (I could be wrong) the most 'to market' projects ever written during a hack weekend (imagine if we were allowed to stay overnight)

As for 2013, there are a lot of plans for new events, bigger events and even more products to market! If you have an idea that could help a charity or a community in general, send it to you never know we could build it in a weekend.

Massive thanks to everyone who came along to work with us, even bigger thanks to Heidi, Amy, Jas, Dom and all those who made it possible, see you all next time!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

My Learning worx, turning the corner in e-learning

A few months ago I joined forces with a team of people with an idea to try and change the way people teach and learn online.
Our goal is to ultimately change the world, nothing big there then.

At the moment there are a large number of sites around that allow people to take courses, mostly based on SCORM which is the industry standard for e-learning. If you have taken any courses at work for Office, Health & Safety etc it was proabably a SCORM based package.
The problem with SCORM is you need to buy software and know how to use it before you start.
Making a course is relatively easy, but you then need to host it somehow, or run it locally on your own PC, which could make it difficult for others to use.

What we want to achieve is to give the power of authoring to anyone with an internet connection, without the need for a training course on how to build a training course.
My learning worx allows anyone with a basic knowledge of the internet the ability to create a course,  promote it and then sell it (or give it away for free).

The better your course and the more sales you make, the more money you can make.

So if you have an itch to teach or want to learn the easy way, we would like you to check out the site and give us feedback - but most of all to try your hand at authoring some courses.

We will be looking for developers to help me build a Windows 8 (& phone) app for the platform in the near future, so keep an eye out if you are interested in e-learning.

We're giving prizes of Amazon Kindle Fires to the best courses published before Christmas.
Course authoring is really easy, all you need is an idea on what you want to teach people.

To read the blog and get more information go to: My Learning Worx Blog
Or signup and start making courses -