Hacking apart the environment – the write up

The event has been going all weekend, people are so tired they, wolfed down the pizza and fizzy drinks in 10 minutes after serving and they should be looking sugar-rush nervous.


But there’s a jolly tone in the air, and even with the judges stalking between the teams checking out everyone’s new creative ideas. The probing, “I’m sorry, it does what again?” intersperse a brave developer’s sleepy pitch.

The environment hack weekend is a great idea. The up-beat tone is testament to the progress people have made on behalf of themselves and the environment agency.

What is it?
Here is a good value solution for government agencies looking to start digital projects ‘right’. There is an opportunity for crowd wisdom, creative flair, silly ideas and it won’t break the bank!

There are limits to these events, its use is better for discovering a new brief, not finishing a product. It’s for ideas and concepts not working on an old product. It’s best used as a pre-cursor for new products and available budget spend. Also, the haphazard team that had the creative idea may not be the best to make it a reality.

However, more government projects and agencies should try this model (ill be creating a template in another post) attempting to find the great ideas with all their data, using the skilled public at a small scale to look for and probe for successful services in the digital revolution.

The presentations
I saw all the presentations luckily, at the expense of nearly missing the train, here’s my favourites.


River watch, identifying the points on a canal where the biggest drop is, which identifies good places for a hydroelectric station.

Air pollution, a map app that links asthma prescriptions data to air pollution data, letting you see high and low affected spots of those two data sets.

Many penguins might die, a silly and very shareable city environment quality app which tells you how many penguins might die if you dumped them in your city. Their predicted death toll is based on water, air and food quality. Lower penguin death count indicates better living quality… Obviously!

I can see satellites, a calm app thats clearly from someone who’s done time as at the pmstudio. The app quietly reports how many satellites it can see above at any point.

What is a hack/ games hack / software hack?

It’s a fun event where software coders, developers, designers and people with an interest in making digital things all come to spend time together and make something. Usually they’re timed events and people will work through the night for their hobby.

That something they make coiuld be anything like a game, a new app, a piece of software or even a website. It won’t be a finished product, but its fun exercising your creative skills for good or a just for a release from work.

Usually the hack events are given a theme, for example the game hack could be “Ninja”, or the environment hack is to use their new data.

The weekends, day or week are usually quite intense and people a well fed with pizza, chocolate and tea.

Approaching technology after the 1950s

As a 1st world nearly triple A economy, I think we should be asking for more from our technology so we’re less bogged down with technology that would have been fine from the 1950s.

No more big nets for fishing the seas blindly, Use technology to tweak them [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21500701]

Fishing Net

No more lorries that are just boxes being dragged along the road, tweak the shape [http://corporate.marksandspencer.com/investors/press_releases/12092007_mscutscarbonwithteardroptrailers]

Teardrop lorry
Teardrop lorry

George Ferguson, Bristol’s Mayor believes in approaching the Severn barrage problem “incrementally”

"..find the right technology to generate #sustainable #energy in the #Severn" Must develop more incremental solutions http://ow.ly/ictiJ
George Ferguson on Severn Barrier

Less recycling, we should be straight up re-using more products, how many sandwich boxes are thrown away every day from a Meal Deal

Re-use tips
Re-use tips

No more houses built with insulation as a last thought, [http://www.homesmartinsulation.co.uk/]

Insulation of house
Insulation of house

BLah blah blah, be incremental, but technology tweaks can save a lot of problems.