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Yesterday, I dragged myself out of bed (it was a Saturday!) to go to my first ever ‘hackathon‘. Thankfully it was a lot less geeky than it sounds – just a cosy little get together of people interested in Open Science, to work on things in a shared public space.

Nick Stenning, Stefan Wehrmeyer, Jenny Molloy, Caspar Addyman and I all beavering away on our laptops at the Barbican Centre, later joined by surprise guest Todd Vision (Dryad & UNC) in the afternoon. We also had online participation from afar communicating with us via Etherpad & IRC, including Rufus Pollock giving me a few pointers on PDF image extraction tools and James Casbon working on notebook.js.

You can see a record of all the things we worked on here on the official Etherpad for the event.

I have to say, I didn’t make all that much progress on my tasks for the day for a variety of n00by errors. The tools I wanted to use were rather large to download, particularly the Eclipse IDE which took a fair while to get over the public WiFi we were using. I was also using a small netbook. This is handy for my regular train journeys between Bath & London but not so useful when you need simultaneous windows open e.g. IRC + PDF manual + terminal + browser. The 24″ desktop screens I usually do work on have probably led me astray into such less efficient multi-window habits! Although by using a translucent dropdown terminal (Tilda) I saved on some window switching, but not enough to make things easy…

So for next time I’ve learn’t:

1.) Bring a comfortably sized laptop. Unless you really know what you’re doing on the command-line, you’re gonna need screen real estate

2.) Download all the large files you’ll need before you go

3.) Consider bringing your own food, drink & snacks! I think I must have spent over £10 just on lunch there, and the canteen only had over-priced tuna sandwiches :/

All in all though, the session was great. There’s no substitute to meeting people IRL. There was time for excellent therapeutic #PhDchat with Jenny, tactical discussions on how to encourage more palaeontologists into publicly archiving research publication data with Todd, and meeting other people in the Open Science community I’d never met before. As we discussed at the hackday – it’s not something we would do every weekend, but as a special event every now and again – it’s well worth going to!

Perhaps I might see YOU at the next one? All are welcome