Amy Guy

Raw Blog

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Young Rewired State in Edinburgh #yrs2013

Young Rewired State is a week-long hack event for under 19s.  There are centres all over the UK, and the week finishes with a giant sleepover in the Custard Factory in Birmingham, presentations and prizes.

I was helping out with running the Edinburgh centre this year, between the 5th and 11th of August.  We had 15 young people taking part, and a few parents popping in and out as well.  Not to mention several fantastic mentors.

Every day we gathered in one of the University of Edinburgh Informatics computer labs.  On the first day we did some brainstorming, introduced the young people to Open Data, and they sorted themselves into teams.

We had a diverse range of projects by the end of the week.

The Weatherproof app was written in Scala with a Web frontend, and as well as telling you the weather forecast, gives you practical advice on what to wear and what to take with you.

Stuff Index was a Python Web app that lets people photograph and upload stuff they've left out on the street that they want to get rid of, so anyone browsing the site can opt to take it away if they fancy it.  Helping to keep stuff out of landfill, and without the dreaded social interactions that come with Freegle.

Tag is a game by a one-man team, with a Python game server and a JavaScript front end that lets you chase your friends around the real world, and automatically tags them when you're in range.

PokeGame is a real-world Pokemon simulator that lets you roam IRL and capture virtual Pokemon.

Great stuff!

On Friday we crammed into a coach along with the participants from Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow, and set off on a seven hour road trip to Birmingham for the finale.

The Edinburgh teams didn't win anything, but the presentations were fantastic and everyone had an amazing time.  The young people made new friends, learnt tons of new stuff, and hopefully remain enthused about coding.

Next year we're going to do more to walk through the creation process of some example apps to get them started off, and maybe do a better job of introducing Open Data and the possibilities it holds.

We're also thinking about starting a regular under 19s code club in Edinburgh - weekly or bi-weekly - so stay tuned for more info about that.  (And if you want to help or participate, get in touch!)

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Weeks in Review: Thesis proposal

29th July - 4th August

Discussed my ideas and work so far with Dave Robertson, my second supervisor, in two meetings this week.

Here's a summary of some of my thoughts.

5th - 11th August

I worked on my thesis proposal.  But it was also Young Rewired State week!

12th - 18th August

Finally (belatedly) handed in my thesis proposal.  (My review is scheduled for the 22nd August).

Friday, August 02, 2013

Vague thoughts about content creators and the Semantic Web

I had two meetings with Dave Robertson, my second supervisor, about what on earth I'm doing, and here is a vague summary of my thoughts afterwards.

I came to the realisation between meetings that I need to scrap the term Amateur Creative Digital Content, because amateur doesn't really apply by its true definition and creative is too subjective anyway.

Focus on content creators, not content (so previous point doesn't matter so much anyway; maybe just need to look at existing ways people are describing types of users to make it clear who I'm concentrating on).

In terms of emphasis of the thesis, I need to make a choice between taking a cognitive science/sociology perspective and a tecchie/engineering perspective (I choose tech because that's where I'm most comfortable, but the sociology side of things is still important).

(Therefore) I need to think concretely now about technology architecture.

Not to get too hung up on the Semantic Web; the technologies are a vehicle for testing theories, rather than an end in itself (though I still think facilitating a big linked data set of this sort of data is useful in the long run for research and practical applications, I didn't labour that point).

Social machines, and how Dave's process modelling language fits in, which I think I get in theory but not practice (I'd probably have to look at a working application and code to understand really). Some of the principles may be useful further down the line, but probably not the language itself or anything.

Technology-wise, I'm not thinking about anything novel or new, but more new ways for how various Web and SW technologies are combined and applied to this domain. (?)

So maybe the novelty is in marking up various things about content creators and using this to infer information about the processes they're involved in (or want to be involved in) in order to then facilitate these processes, without (necessarily) ever explicitly representing these processes (because from the content creators' perspective, they're certainly not thinking in terms of formal representations of processes, and in many cases won't know what they're trying to make until it's done, for example).

How to represent the inferences made might be novel and exciting, but I don't know.

Hmm, I still don't think I've figured out how to evaluate .. anything. Beyond comparing activities of users with magical-new-system vs without magical-new-system. And maybe, going back to the this-big-dataset-is-useful idea, by finding questions we can now ask about these kinds of communities that we couldn't before because they were so fragmented.