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Hacks and hackers in Liverpool

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After hearing that Scraperwiki had organised a hack day in Liverpool, in my new-found freedom as a freelancer, I thought I’d pop down and give it a go. I’ve not really done a hack day either, so it was exciting to be throwing myself into the deepend a little. This was a little different from other hack days as the attendees were a mix of journalists and hackers, a nice idea given the growing use of data and visualisations in news stories.

A life of crime

The day was quite intense and I was pretty exhausted at the end of the day. I was on a team looking at crime as a subject area. Despite some good initial ideas about looking at crime and the geography of the city, extracting the kind of data necessary to map crime figures to specific parts of the city proved extremely difficult. Eventually we had to abandon that angle and went for a simpler approach of mapping stories around the city. Once the slight air of dispair had dissappeared, we had a lot of fun and producing a protoype for a project showing the ‘Life and Crimes* of ‘Pancake’ Taylor’ a notorious figure from Liverpool’s underworld.

Life and Crimes

The screenshot here demonstrates the idea; essentially we wanted to collate the news stories about this character and plot them on the map, showing them appearing in the order that they happened. By pressing the ‘play’ button, users could see the stories appear in the order that they happened. The lines on the slider would indicate where in the time frame the different stories happened in relation to each other. By moving the slider to that point, the user could jump to that point and show the stories. Simple, but it was nice to produce something that attempted to tell a more personal story, as most of the other projects focused on more intensive data analysis and information.

A good day despite the fact I didn’t win. I’m not bitter about that at all.

Overall, it was a great day day and despite setbacks I’m still really pleased with what we came up with, as well as being really impressed with the ideas presented by the other teams. The atmosphere in general was pretty friendly and it was a pleasure to spend the day with a diverse mix of people who all had something interesting to contribute. A big thanks to everyone at Scraperwiki for helping put on the event and making it a real success. I’m told there will be a Manchester event too, which I can definitely recommend, and indeed should be attending (and winning this time, goddammit).

*Alleged crimes that is.

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