Joejag - Just Another Geek

Social Innovation Camp: Glasgow 2009

Jun 26, 2009

Last weekend I attended an event called Social Innovation Camp. The premise of the event is to take 6 worthy projects from the local community then get a load of developers, designers and and marketers together to quickly create the project over the weekend.

I was quite worried that I wasn't good enough to take part in the weekend so to get my confidence up I read the whole of the Pragmatic Programmers Agile Rails book and did a few quick web apps. At the same time I got a copy of RubyMine installed and learnt all the shortcuts. It really is a fantastic bit of kit.

Kevin McDonagh had previously told me about sicamp, but unfortunately he could not make it due to his unyielding love of dance music (he was at Sonar in Barcelona). I had a quick look over the back of the envelope ideas and decided that I would be best served helping out with the "Changing Places" idea. This idea was to make a user maintainable Google Map of all the accessible toilets in the UK. This was a very similar domain to the Glasgow Green Map which I had previously worked on and the idea owner, Rosie McIntosh from ENABLE Scotland, was very passionate about the project.

The weekend kicked off on Friday night where there was a meet and greet session. As I live in Glasgow I agreed to let 2 strangers stay over who were also going to sicamp. This night was a networking extravaganza! I met a guy who had been on Dragon's Den and actually got funding as well as many other developers who I haven't seen at any other events I go to.

Saturday kicked off early with enormous croissants and juice. I setup in our allotted room at Glasgow Caledonian University and read over what we needed to do. A few other people turned up who also were also excited about the idea: @rohan_london and Claire Medcalf from the School of Everything). At first we decided to do all public toilets as well as disabled and accessible ones. We then found the rather excellently named site which already did this. Given this revelation we decided it would be best to focus on accessible toilets and what tourist attractions are nearby. This means we needed name to sum up our site. was born.

I was slightly disheartened at first as I was the only developer on the project. Some of the other projects had over 6 developers. Luckily a Sangeet Gyawali joined us as a designer to polish up the functionality I'd made (i.e. make it so someone other than me could bear to use it!).

We eventually got booted out of the University at 8pm that night and headed along to the CCA on Sauchie Hall street. I'm not sure if the CCA knew what hit them, as suddenly 40 geeks with laptops took up all their floor space. Most folk stayed around for another 3 hours then headed back to prepare for the big presentation day.

Sunday at 2pm was the deadline for getting our sites live and having a presentation available to demo to the rest of the teams and interested members of the public. Rosie and I spoke during our presentation which was met with a great reaction from the delegates. During our Q&A someone pointed out that TomTom's have a developer API and we could push our data through to them.

The presentations showed that each team had spent a huge amount of effort over the weekend and their enthusiasm made me want to help out on all of the projects after the weekend.

The event was judged by a panel from a diverse range of disciplines such as the National Lottery fund, Local arts as well as a respected freelance programmer. We were lucky enough to be given second place for our efforts which means the project will receive additional help over the next 6 months. I intend to continue working on the website and hopefully get a team interested in Glasgow.

I have to thank the sicamp team for putting on a great event that has left me with a smile on my face every day while remembering this weekend.