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February 17, 2010 / cohodo

Talis Hackday 1.0

A couple of weeks ago we held our first hackday. Basically, this involved taking over one of the larger rooms at Talis HQ for the day, filling it with hackers and pizza then baking for several hours. Hackdays tend to be aimed squarely at developers, but taking a leaf from events like Hacks & Hackers we wanted to be a bit more inclusive, so we tried to make it interesting and accessible to non-techies. For a week or so before the day, everyone who had an idea, pet project, or itch to scratch was encouraged to post it up on a whiteboard and ‘pitch’ it to other people, who might be interested in finding out more or even pitching in to help out. There were only 2 rules – that no idea was dismissed out of hand and that no-one was allowed to hack on stuff from their day job (because that’s what we do, like, every other day).
Talis is an organisation full of hackers, so there was no shortage of ideas or participants. In fact, the number of hacks posted on the board far exceeded our hacking capacity for a single day.

The day was a great success and we’re already planning future events with lots of ideas on how to tweak the format. We’d love to open these up for wider participation, and hope to be doing this in the next few months, so watch this space. There were some really cool projects being worked on, so see if anything tickles your fancy and let us know what you think.

Recording Environmental Data as RDF
Über-cool mashup of Arduino and RDF, Rob built a device to take temperature readings at regular intervals, represent the data in RDF and post it to a Platform Store. Its now sat on his windowsill, keeping us informed of the ambient temperature in Rob’s general vicinity

A twitter-enabled plugin for PVRs (primarily MythTV, but hopefully with support for other distros in the pipeline). Triggered when you record a TV show, this queries various datasources, integrates the data and publishes it for the world to see. Perfect for advertising your love of Carry On films or afternoon soap opera.

Store Activity Visualisation
Julian built a cool visualisation of activity on a Platform Store using the built-in OAI-PMH service which graphs updates made to both the Metabox and Contentbox over a specified period. The IRC logs for #talis are persisted in a Store, so we’re going to use this tool to graph activity on the channel.

Using PIG and Amazon Elastic MapReduce to Analyze Webserver Logs
We have a lot of logs, and as you can imagine, they contain lots of truly invaluable data. Some members of our Platform engineering team wanted to explore this a bit more deeply, and so spent the day hacking up Pig Latin scripts to do this. Since they managed to chomp so many logfiles, we let them get away with breaking hackday rule #2.

Android Life Tracker
Talis CSO Justin hacked up an android app to record events as RDF direct from mobile devices. Surprisingly, he’s chosen to store the trail of these events in a Platform Store for post-hoc analysis & data mining 🙂

Sparql 1.1 HTTP Update Protocol Implementation
Paolo spent the day working on a reference implementation of the current draft of the Sparql Working Group’s RESTful update protocol using Jena and Jersey/JAX-RS. Paolo plans to open source and contribute this back to the Jena project once he’s done.

Data Integration for Business Intelligence
John spent the day working on modelling data extracted from library loans services. Using RDF to integrate data from disparate sources like this is just the sort of job we built our Platform for.

Like a school sports day, there were no prizes awarded on the day. But if there had been, the gold medal would have undoubtedly gone to Ian Corns for his LittleBigPlanet hack – Sackboy Explains the Semantic Web.

There’s just no way you can top an platform-based romp through the bowels of CERN where the eponymous hero meets TimBL to explore the origins of the document and data web.

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