Rewired State: Justice and Home Affairs Hack day

On Thursday, 11th March 2010, ten Rewired State developers (including two of our young rewired staters) hacked Home Office and Ministry of Justice (MoJ) data for a few increasingly panicked hours (panicked because of time restraints 10am until 4pm).

The lovely people at Osmosoft hosted the day and we presented the 9 final apps in the Home Office to Home Office Chief Information Officer: Annette Vernon, the Cabinet Office Director of Digital Egagement: Andrew Stott, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Nigel Shadbolt, and roughly 80 Home Office and MoJ policy, statisticians, ecomms and Press Officers.

Here are the hacks:

Better Crime Maps Richard Pope created the application he has always wanted to, whereby he took away the fear created by crime maps that made people aware of crime in their area, but perhaps could not afford to move away from – by creating a ‘not the crime map, crime map’ – here is the true detail of crime in your area, and here are the contact details of people who can help affect where the police focus their efforts… ’nuff said

Crime Stats facebook quiz A real life facebook quiz of only six questions that enables you to guess about the crime stats in your area based on your conception vs the reality – not only is this an unobtrusive way of you finding out the real stats, but it is also a great way of offering the Home Office a feel for how people are feeling about crime in their local area. Valuable to both department and society

Police complaints data A new visualisation of police complaints data that shows a different view other than text for police complaints in an area, per type of complaint, rank and so on. The only thing borking this is that there is no data that gives the number of police in each ward – so it could look skewed if there are high complaints in an area with few police etc etc. However, after the hack day, the CIO for the Home Office is determined to get that data made available for the application to work properly  – WIN

BBC this was really exciting for me. Ben Griffiths (who always comes through with the most insightful hack at any event we run) started work on an application that works a bit like sidewiki – whereby any BBC news article (and of course this could be syndicated out) is marked up to link to the relevant data set that informs the story it is telling. I have been following Ben Hammersley’s work on how the publishing industry needs to change the way they are creating content, thereby data, online. Ben Griffith’s hack plays beautifully into this, news industry take note.

Safer journeys this is a simple principle hack from one of the Osmosoft guys, Simon McManus, who created an idea for a hack that gives information on crime in an area per underground station. useful as it is time lead, however, not so good as it is per area not station – we need to get the station crime data – a set that is not yet created, but hopefully we can get it made.

How’s my Town was one of the creations of Josh (Young Rewired Stater) that called up all information on an area and gives it a percentage rating  – as he says ‘for the ultimate snob value’. Currently it seems to be a bit broken but he assures me it will be working again soon!

Two other apps: Met Complaints (an iphone app) and Helicoptr (lovely vis of where the police helicopters are and have been over set periods of time – by Stephen – the other Young Rewired Stater there) have not yet been loaded but will be.

Paul Clarke took some great photos (which I have liberally reused in this post):

Photos of the hacking here:
Photos of the presentations here:

There was no wifi or reception in the conference room so no tweeting, but actually the point was to enthuse and inspire the Home Office and MoJ officials, not everyone else. And it worked – we will see what happens next but everyone was very buzzy afterwards. The Q&A was challenging at points, but the usual subjects were well-debated: you don’t understand the data, how will people know what we mean, loss of control etc as well as the shiny, bouncy, happy people wanting more and wanting to race back to their office to tell their colleagues.

Then we all went to the pub.

Next up: National Hack the Government Day if you are a dev sign up, sign up, if you want to come and watch – sign up

Nesta and Sir Tim Berners Lee

I was going to wait for the webcast to be set live to post about the session this afternoon, but I will do another tomorrow.

Feeling really rather lucky for scoring a ticket I made my way to Nesta this afternoon and was lucky enough to be in the second row from the front, with Euan Semple on my left (mourning his iphone’s passing in a rain storm) and Lloyd Davis to my right (in rather a naughty mood).

The occasion was to celebrate the launch of  Sir Tim Berners Lee‘s latest wheeze: the Web Science Research Initiative (which I believe means less maths more science). However, TBL was the draw and all we wanted was 1. to be in His presence and 2. to listen and – if brave enough – ask him stuff.

When the webcast is live I will link to it, and I really will this time, I promise – so you can share in the joy. But I thought that in the mean time I would note what is resonating with me right now, you might find this interesting.

  1. What is supremely brilliant is that TBL is still so excited by the web and its potential. I expected him to be more jaded, to patter out a presentation and take questions but be, frankly, bored by what he has created. He isn’t! He is clearly still passionate about this, that does not do it justice, he buzzes when you mention ‘semantic web’ in an almost childlike, quivering ‘me, me, please sir’ way – he wants to talk about this and watch his baby evolve. I love that, it inspired me again.
  2. People repeatedly referred to the world wide web as a ‘thing’ ‘it’. TBL tried to explain that we need to stop thinking of it as a thing, it is a linking mechanism. People are following links, that is what creates the world wide web, (um think that might be the web thing).
  3. The www removes geography, the world it created means that everything is one/two/a few clicks away – this redefines the way we associate and communicate
  4. The famous story of how He was able to create the www: his boss at the time did not say ‘no’ to what he was trying to do; led to him mentioning championing the champion, supporting those who are doing stuff a little bit differently in our organisations, and giving them enough room to explore.
  5. He suggested looking at challenges on the macro and micro level. See what we could do as a person, as a member of a community, county, city, country, world wide – and devote some time to exploring that
  6. There was also the ever pertinent cry to keep data free – the whole point of what he created was to destroy the boundaries, never was the ‘free our data’ cry so apt as when it comes from the mouth of TBL… reiterated by the number of stickers on his laptop carrying the same lament

I will share the link tomorrow, or you can search for Tim Berners Lee Nesta 8th July and you will find it – along with his presentation.

My own photos are here – bit rubbish but I was being naughty and using my phone, so trying to be surreptitious. (Sorry Jonathan).

PS There were two other panellists, people I would love to have spoken to: Andy Duncan from Channel 4 and Charlie Leadbeater. An odd decision to share the stage… I am not sure why that happened.