Afternoon “Columbus” heat, Young Rewired State 2013

For the afternoon’s heat, I’ve picked Columbus in the “level 2” venue. Here’s the rundown of the presentations, updated as they come (some details to be corrected later!):

Crime Ships – “The Best Thing Ever”
Joe, Billy, Jamie
This is a desktop and mobile game, where you are trying to stop crime, a bit like minesweeper. Except the board is a map of the UK – this uses live data to determine whether there are crimes where you click or not.

Challenges they faced included implementing a gaussian random distribution. Fair enough. JavaScript game; live data from

– Q: can you choose where the map is centred?
– A: at the moment, it is always centred on London; we concentrated on the back-end
– Q: what did you learn?
– A: all learnt HTML, CSS & JavaScript

Maths Academy
Alex, …

Inspired by a dramatic fall in Maths grades at GCSE. It provides a series of tests to help with maths. The actual data used the exam boards is what they use to set quizzes.

Used various tech. Demo starts with a funky animation. Login done with Mozilla Persona. Each test has three sections: definition, explanation and a quiz (multiple choice).

– Q: what format was the data in?
– A: there is an API for getting hold of the maths questions data
– Q: ideas to take it further?
– A: we’d like to do something for younger children.

Harry, James (plus Reuben and 2 more)

Problem: politics is boring, but it shouldn’t be. Problem: politics is not accessible – a bill could be 140 pages and is full of legal jargon. They recognise there are some sources of simplified information. So what if there was a way to get feeds of political legislation that matters to you?

This app is like a Google Reader for bills that matter for you. They gave a demo. This is a web app that is optimised for mobiles and desktops. You pick bills by category or by the particular bill. You can search for your MP to find out how they voted.

When you load a bill, you get a diagram of progress through parliament, and the public opinion of the vill. There is a map showing how the public have noted on this bill.

Data sources: Bing images API; Public whip API (MP data and voting history).

Future: personalisation; email updates.

– Q: what back-end would you use to build further improvements?
– A: not sure, a standard back-end
– Q: what are your skills and what have you learnt?
– A: learnt JavaScript since last year’s YRS; design, back-end

Jay, Ryan (for Google Play store link)

An Android app to get more people to find birds in their local area.

Demoed the app through the overhead camera. Shows going through species of birds. Shows logging locations of bird spottings, and uses a map to display sightings.

Date: BBC Nature API / BBC Ornithology API (for bird data); Google Maps API. Data is stored in a MySQL/MongoDB database.

This was actually a really sweet niche app, with lovely design. And the two youngsters on stage had an intimidating amount of coding and design experience between them.

– Q: why choose birds?
– A: could have been anything to do with nature, but we thought this was simple; we could extend it to anything in the BBC Nature API
– Q: what experience did you have before this week?
– A: 1-2 years experience doing Java; fair bit of PHP; HTML/CSS & design
– Q: did you hit any major brick walls?
– A: we lost two team members; we had to convert XML for use in the app; we got round both these though
– Q: why Android?
– A: we had the most experience with that (although we know Objective-C)

Swap My Book

A system to help people swap books with each other. In the demo, you can add your books and images of them. You can search for other books by name, author, location and category. When you find a book you want, you can submit a swap request. You can login and look at book swap requests, and accept or reject them.

Uses the Open Library to show you where you can get books you can’t find on Book Swap.

– Q: are you aware of any similar services?
– A: ReadIt and SwapIt – we plan to compete with them
– Q: what makes this better than using a local library
– A: this is a full-on trade, there’s no time limit on how long you have the books
– Q: what tech have you used?
– Q: what APIs did you use?
– A: Google Books API for searching by ISBN code; Open Library

The Nut Allergy Database
Simran, Leon, Eden, Kfir, Sheraya (last two not here)

This three-person team is really young! They are literally hidden behind the lecturns.

They’ve collected a set of different products from different APIs and gone through them to say whether they contain nuts (or traces). They’ve done this to help people with nut allergies see if products have nuts in them.

Bonus: they created a printable pin that says, “I have a nut allergy” for use in schools.

They didn’t have much coding experience so have come a long way over the YRS week. They wanted to do a mobile app but didn’t have the time.

They showed a demo – a website where you can search by category and look at lists of products.

– Q: how did you get the ingredients data?
– A: we used supermarket ingredients sources and a some Google data
– Q: who did what?
– A: we split the work up between coding, powerpoint, project management
– Q: do you have any plans to make the mobile app?
– A: we could work on that next year

Shouting Marble Racer

A driving game where you can’t control the marble unless the audience is cheering.

And a couple of Unity-based demos: a physics-based piling up of blocks and a block explosion.

– Q: did you work on this alone?
– A: yes!
– Q: which game would you take forward?
– A: the marble racer, since it’s the main game
– Q: have you considered voice control for tidying your desktop
– A: *laughs and cheers from the audience*
– Q: who is the audience for the games? marble racer would work well at a conference
– Q: have you thought about porting your game to your phone?
– A: I have thought about that

Pins of Kindness
Nick, George

More young presenters hidden behind lecterns…

The point of this is that when people do some kind things, you can leave pins on a map to celebrate that.

Some technical challenges held up the progress, and they only had two days to build the app. The demo is all about a live stream of tweets for their hashtag #pinsofkindness, built using nodeJS and

– Q: what tech did you learn?
– A: nodejs / / Twitter Bootstrap – the tech all went into making a live stream of tweets
– Q: what experience did you have?
– A: Objective-C / bit of Java & C++ / Visual Basic / HTML, CSS, JavaScript / MySQL / PHP

Cyberduck, Elstree

A video presentation! And a Q&A over Skype.

Takes all your social networks and puts them all into one place, to reduce the number of tabs you need to have open.

Nice looking website. Login with Facebook or Twitter. Dashboard shows your news feeds from different social networks.

– Q: what’s the tech behind the app?
– A: a lot of HTML, CSS
– Q: what’s been the biggest challenges?
– A: getting Facebook, Twitter APIs sorted
– Q: did you work from a centre?
– A: I worked at home
– Q: do you think you would have made more progress from a centre, with mentors and peers?
– A: yes

Show me the funding
Matt, Imogen, Aneeqa, Callum
Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Centre

An app that allows you to search for a topic within Science, Tech & Engineering, and then search for projects in the UK (from the UK Research Council API).

The back-end: Python interacts with the UK Research Council API; API for post-codes.

This is aimed at: students looking for post-graduate training; researchers in search of funding. Why are we doing this? We wanted to provide an overall view of the data presented by the UK Research Council API. The girls are the hardcore programmers in this team.

For the future: want to show connections between the institutions; want to statistically analyse some of the data to show trends.

– Q: how did you come up with this idea and discover the data-sets?
– A: we had a presenter who is involved with this data; no-one really knows about it, so let’s do something together
– Q: how did you work together as a team?
– A: really well. Some of us have worked together before.
– Q: what’s your experience before YRS?
– A: a bit of Python / a bit of Python / design experience
– Q: you have plans for the future?
– A: would really like to carry on; at the Rutherford centre, we gave a practice talk and someone from the centre was keen to talk if they were carrying on

Statistically Accurate Death Simulator
Eleanor, Kati, …

Launch 1000 people across the world and watch them die statistically accurately. Designed to amuse and educate about development across the world. Targeted at children and adults. We hope to create a better world, never mind code a better country!

Demo of HTML version of simulator. The people turn red on a world map when they die. At the end, there is a table of the causes of death.

Next demo: 3D version in Unity. People are represented as small flames. With Unity you can export to lots of different platforms e.g. Android and inside a web browser.

You can add cures for diseases and see the effect on the deaths.

– Q: where did you get the idea from?
– A: me & my sister shouldn’t be left alone to bounce ideas off each other…
– Q: who would be the most likely to use this?
– A: very morbid; people coming into schools and audiences of adults, trying to raise awareness, as the visualisation is effective. Fund-raisers could use this.
– Q: would you be abel to add search engine for causes of death?
– A: yes, that’s a plan for the future
– Q: what’s the underlying tech and how did you incorporate data into the app
– A: the World Health Organisation stats are published in an Excel file, which was processed into an XML file (and from there into a JS array)
The Visual Dictionary
Harry, Loic
Rutherford Appleton Lab

The problem – multilingual dictionaries not giving good translations, because of context fail. The solution is to use images as a mnemonic.

The app works by having communities tag images and helping people verify that the translation they have found is what they mean.

Data: flickr API for tags, Yandex Translate API to verify language of tags. They also kickstarted the tags by crowdsourcing some tags through the site.


– Q: experience before YRS?
– Q: the concept is very unique, what brought this to mind?
– A: this was inspired by the challenges of using dictionaries. This is beginning of a much larger effort to better catalogue translations
– Q: what challenges?
– A: keeping data as UTF-8 all the way to the browser

Where can I find?
Al, Max
Rutherford Appleton lab

A website aimed at wildlife enthusiasts, allowing you to identify the best places to find different wildlife.

Takes a species name and postcode and plots places to find this species on a Google map.

Data: UK postcodes API to convert postcodes to lat/lon. Location finding data is based on people submitting sightings to the website.

Tech: Python backend taking to MySQL database; HTML/CSS front-end.

Future: use Twitter to log data; create our own API for use by other parties; add images, video, comments; gamification to encourage people to upload sightings.

Learnt at YRS: didn’t know much web programming at all, now we’ve been able to put this together.

– Q: what challenges did you face?
– A: integrating the front-end to the back-end; getting postcodes data
– Q: have you thought of any other areas you can apply this tech to reach a wider audience?
– A: not entirely; but the plan to create the API would open up the opportunity

Binary Britain

Using data to create maps for games based on Britain.

Demo of a driving game, driving around Birmingham. They generate fields and farms based on stats. Enemies are based on crime statistics; rain clouds are generated based on weather data.

Tech: Java for gathering stats and organising; node.js for acting as a web server and sending data to client. WebGL canvas (using a heavily-hacked version of pixel.js).

Data: Google geolocation API;

– Q: what was the single most important thing you learned?
– A: making sure you understand the library you are using before diving into it; not to write things in JavaScript
– Q: how is this made for?
– A: this is a showcase of what you can do generating maps from data; so this is meant as inspiration for games
– Q: are there better ways to represent the data so people playing the game can relate to what they are seeing?
– A: we could do a lot more stuff with the player experience; it’s pretty static now due to time limitations; we could add more APIs such as local police

Evil MPs
Ben, Adam

We didn’t know how MPs vote; we wanted to find out which ones we’d like or not.

Someone comes onto the website, picks a bill, gives their opinion about bills, and then the app finds the angel & devil MP, where they agree or disagree most with you. And there is a robot…

So, what does the robot do? It pelts the screen with nerf guns when it sees MPs that disagree with you.

Future: facial recognition instead of QR codes for recognising MPs (part of the problem is the lack of photos of people running our country!).

Tech: PHP, JavaScript, C, Python

– Q: what APIs have you used?
– A: API
– Q: what’s the hardware?
– A: a Python module controls an arduino mega which is connected to a relay connected to the nerf gun battery – this is on github and probably the best thing to come out of this
– Q: did you have any challenges?
– A: the facial recognition was a big challenge; and the documentation on the QR code recognition library was very bad, so we had to dive into the code
Nasir, ??? (3 others)
Cyberduck, Elstree

An app to help startup shops find space and crowdsource funding to get started and revitalise high streets. You can browse properties, and see rent and crime data. From a property, you create a crowdsourcing project, where the money gets sent straight to the council if successful.

Works like Kickstarter with the money only being taken if a target is hit.

Data: PayPal’s Intent To Pay API; Exeter Council open data about properties; crime data; ordnance data for lat/lon data from postcodes.

Tech: Python, PHP, JavaScript, HTML/CSS

I think this is darn interesting, particularly the part about sending money straight to the council to protect people supporting the project.

– Q: how did you identify this problem? It seems very significant.
– A: you read it in the news and get taught about the decline of high streets in GCSE geography. We think crowdfunding where the donors are protected is a good way to sort the problem.
– Q: did you plan to make use of an existing crowd funding site?
– A: no, PayPal’s intent to pay API gives you enough to do this, and is free for charities (we are likely to register as a charity).
– Q: how did you approach learning the languages
– A: some of us had previous experience in programming languages; mentors helped a lot; still hard


MP Internet Test
Henry, Ben, (1 more)
Neon Tribe
A test for MPs since they are recently making laws about the use of the Internet! Includes trick questions to test MPs attitude to data protection e.g. “what’s you mother’s maiden name?”, answer is *nothing*.

At the end of the quiz, you can get a printable certificate saying whether you passed or failed.

(Cool CSS3 page transition, like a flip book.)

– Q: what tech?
– A: HTML/CSS, JavaScript
– Q: have you given this test to other people to establish a baseline?
– A: we haven’t tested any MPs yet, they’ve been unreachable… we’ve considered putting it on an actual website so people can spread it around

St. Cuthbert’s

You choose a Wikipedia article and it turns it into an Haiku.

– Q: what’s your best Haiku:
– A: Marilyn Monroe: “During this time Monroe had minor roles in 4 films low-budget drama”
– Q: what tech?
– A: used Ruby and JavaScript to process data
– Q: where’s the name from?
– A: it’s randomly generated

Project Green
Liam, Kieran (and 1 more)
St. Cuthbert’s

A website that tells you the most economic and the greenest ways to travel between A and B. Takes cost of petrol into account when calculating most economic forms of travel.

Turns out MegaBus is a very green way to travel.

Data: Google Maps API

Tech: Bootstrap 3; HTML; PHP

School Advisor
Nathan, James, Thomas
St. Cuthbert’s

A web app to display relevant schools for a particular course, and shows ratings for schools. Results are shown on a Google Map, and the markers are coloured according to how good the schools are.

Data: Department of Education (hidden away in CSV files); Google Maps API; Ordnance Survey Postcodes

Tech: MySQL; Python for extracting data from CSV.

Future: include OFSTED data to show more rounded picture of school; search for different course types; use the HTML5 geolocation API; allow submission via SMS using Twillio API

– Q: any barrier you came across?
– A: placing the markers on the Google map was a big difficulty, just resolved last night
– Q: what’s the source of the list of courses?
– A: from the DoE website

Guerrilla Learning
Lucy (fab hat), Fred, Georgia (1 more)
St. Cuthbert’s

This is to help you find other people who have the same interests as you do. You can earn Mozilla Open Badges on the site by learning. This all comes from being at YRS and learning from our peers.

Data: Open Street Map

Tech: Drupal / Mozilla Persona

– Q: what did you all do?
– A: we worked as a team most of the time, but had some specific jobs
– Q: what prior experience?
– A: GCSE computing, so Python, Visual Basic, CSS; Scratch, Raspberry Pi, Gimp, HTML; very little prior experience, learnt most of what I used during the Festival or the week before
– Q: did you need to write PHP or did you use Drupal modules?
– A: Drupal already had the interfaces we used

The Great Appini
Luke, George, Stephen, Shariq
St. Cuthbert’s

The Great Appini is to help you find apps you want to use, since the Featured Apps lists in app stores are often not what you want.

The app asks you questions about what you use and like, and then recommends you other apps that suit your tastes.

Data: Firefox Marketplace API to get recommendations for apps

Tech: HTML/CSS; PHP; Twitter Bootstrap

Future: integrate anonymous data collection to improve results; improve appearance of website

– Q: how do you use the Firefox Marketplace API to give recommendations?
– A: we use genres and information from apps and put that in our database
– Q: did you learn anything about the open source community?
– A: it makes website production a lot easier
– Q: did you learn a lot?
– A: yes, got a lot out of the experience – we didn’t know anything before the Festival, have learnt a lot, am going to come back again next year


Live blogging “Heavenly” heat at Young Rewired State 2013

I’m in the oxygen-starved theatre of Birmingham’s custard factory for the 10am heat of this year’s Young Rewired State.

Up first in the 10am Heavenly heat, one of our very own Shoreditch Works teams, “Changeable”. Malachy, Fela, Ben & Joshua.

British Weather is famously changeable, so they have made a holiday planner that deals with this: it helps you to plan your holiday and adapt what you are doing to the weather.

They showed a slick (I’m biased!) demonstration of a map-based and drag ‘n’ drop application that recommends you activities based on the weather – if it’s sunny, outdoor activities get recommended more frequently; if it’s rainy, you get museums.

Data sources: Weather Underground, National Trust data, beaches data, Google Maps – loads of sources!

They’re looking at adding user ratings as next steps.

– what’s the most difficult aspect of getting the website up and running?
– A: getting all the data APIs sorted and formatted, filtering it etc.


Things to Do
Ryan, Simon, Laurie, Dan

Helps to solve the problem of boredom. “I want to ‘watch a movie'”. Takes in to account the weather. Works over mobile – if you send “I want to” plus a search term to 01233 801221.

– Q: where are the activities coming from?
– A: it looks across what’s near to you and adjusting for factors like the weather &* time. They’d like to build in Facebook recommendations in the future
– Q: how does it determine what’s nearby?
– A: it makes use of geolocation and compares it to the locations of the activities in the database


ChowSafe – “don’t make me ill, just give me the bill”
Rhys, Patrick, Phoebe & Jack
Knoewle West Media Centre

An app to locate local restaurants by food type and show hygiene ratings. Written as an Android app using the Android SDK.

Showed a series screenshots that looked very legit. Apparently, they had some problems getting it to work outside New Zealand! And there was a Nexus simulator with a basic demo.

Showed an impressively long list of bits of technology they had learned that mentioned what challenges they’d experienced.


Money vs. People
Harry, Rhys, Edward

Puts stock prices into context. Compares popularity of products and sees the impact on companies’ stocks. Nice interface kept simple on purpose, making use of graphs of stock prices and clear presentation of tweets. The graphs show comparisons of tweeting volume as popularity against stock price.

Queries Amazon to find out who is the seller of a product you search for; then they get the stock values from a Yahoo! API; and there are a few other APIs behind the scenes.

– Q: did you have any problems getting all the APIs to talk to each other?
– A: quite a few… took a lot of time
– Q: who do you think is going to use this?
– A: small companies, analysing products; people looking into small investments; anybody who wants to see what’s influencing stocks

Personalise my Politics
Jack, Tom, Ryan
Freerange, Carlisle

Personalising politics for young people. A simple interface that presents information about your local MP, their tweets and main issues & latest news relevant to the MP. There is a neat Twillio integration where you can call a phone number and vote on an issue, with an online poll showing the results.

Issues affecting them: young people are disinterested in politics. Target audience: under 18’s – they are their own target audience!

Data from a variety of sources: Twitter API, MP data from various sources e.g. They Work For You. Learnt a lot of new technology e.g. PHP, JavaScript, CSS, HTML.

– Q: what do you think politicians would think of this site?
– A: they should like it as it gets more people involved in politics
– Q: how are you going to get people using it in the first place?
– A: the Twitter & Facebook integration helps as it will spread the word through their timelines
– Q: how to make it more attractive for under 18’s?
– A: not something we’ve thought about, that’s something for further development. But we’ve kept it really simple – all you have to do is enter your postcode
– Q: can you explain more about the phone call integration?
– A: firstly, you can call up a number and MPs can record a message you hear; also, there is a SMS poll so you can vote on issues


Gerrard, Patrick, Adam, Jamie, Chris (plus 3 more that didn’t present)

“The world – rated”. A web app that shows the best & worst across the country for education ratings, land values, download speeds, average earnings.

Used user stories (!) and personas – Eric the penguin!

They showed correlation graphs to show links between e.g. house prices and education ratings. The data is UK only at the moment, but they plan to expand to the USA & Europe. Their data come from and Data was sorted by a combination of by-hand and Python script.

– Q: how do you calculate correlation?
– A: used an Excel table and scatter graphs
– Q: how was it working in such a big group (eight people)?
– A: every day, we allocated tasks and had teams responsible for front-end and back-end
– Q: what does Eric do?
– A: Eric is our mascot penguin, he inspires us!

Jake, Mia, Katie, Georgio, Alex

The mayor of Bristol wants to plant 1000+ trees, but this team thinks there should be some democracy in where they go. They have created an app where you can put trees on a Google Map and people can vote to like or dislike the location of trees.

They are using social media to promote the application. They have 63 likes on Facebook already!

Further development would allow them to create a mobile app and a “report a tree” button to indicate when trees are in appropriate places. And they’d want a maximum number of trees per person.

They presented problems and how they got around them. These included a conflict over the use of Comic Sans…

I actually think this is a bit of a genius idea.

– Q: why does the mayor want to plant 1000+ trees?
– A: in his election promises, he said he wanted to plant a tree for every school child…
– Q: any use of open data?
– A: they were looking at putting in air quality data so you could include that in your decision about where to put your trees

University of Surrey

Web app to create scrolling explanations that can be viewed in a web browser. You start with a search term and it goes and gathers information about your term. You can then customise the output if you like.

The app is running on a Raspberry Pi server.

– Q: why have this as opposed to WikiPedia?
– A: it’s easy to edit – no wiki markup; plus it’s local to me, running off my Raspberry Pi server

Steve, Toni (and Ben, Harvey, Callum, Femi, Tom not presenting)
Opened to the GhostBusters theme, got the audience onside!
Knowle West Media Centre

An app that takes weather data (Met Office) and displays an appropriate background and plays a playlist you’ve chosen for this weather.

They learnt Eclipse, the Android development tool, as well as the Android media player classes. They created an Android UI that scales to different devices. They learnt a lot about working in a team, and that coding is hard but, more importantly, coding is fun!

– Q: was it hard to pick roles for the team? How did you do that?
– A: yes, it was hard. We split people up into data, graphics, and UI teams.
– Q: how did you get the playlist together?
– A: the app creates folders in your music, which you drop songs into; it randomly selects songs from those folders depending on the weather type?
– Q: what mood is the GhostBusters tune?
– A: we’re not really sure…

Joe, Finnbar, Liam & captain Solomon (who is 7)
Shoreditch Works

Helps you get from A to B more safely. You type your start and end point in and it gives you directions. It’s mobile optimised.

Uses Police Data to work out how much crime there is at a waypoint; waypoints provided by Google Directions. It gives you a metric for how safe a route is and compares it to other routes. It helps you to make a decision about whether to take a shortcut based on whether it is safe or not.

You can choose different transport mode e.g. biking. It tailors the “safety” assessment depending on your transport mode – if you’re in a car, you’re not likely to get mugged on the street.

Very confident pitch and smooth demo.

– Q: I’d like to be 100% safe – what is ok as a variation from 100% to get a green light?
– A: it’s up to the user – London is dangerous!
– Q: did you consider adding data about accidents?
– A: yes. And we considered looking at police tweets or TfL tweets to adjust recommendations

Chris, Harry, Peter, Tim, Hal
Knowle West Media Centre

An app to help people who are new to an area get what you need: Transport, food, the way home. Gives bus times and train times, suggests places to eat, taxi numbers. Works throughout the UK. The app looks great! Very modern design, very responsive.

Very nice presentation with great photos and transitions. Showed a video demo embedded in the presentation.

The data behind the app is not so simple. There are five main sources: NAPTAN for bus stop locations and Traveline via for bus times; train station locations from NAPTAN and live data from; taxi data collected manually from they supplemented; geolocation was a nightmare! They ended up creating their own because of hitting rate limits on Google and Bing(!); food standards data came from food standards agency hygienic and rating agency. This combines to 2.3 million lines of data. But they keep the app performant so responds to a query in under 1 second.

Where to go next? Moving from a PhoneGap app to native apps so the app would be quicker and offer more integration options.

Overall, I thought: great looking app, impressive data, and great presentation. Very good. Shame they didn’t talk about the design, as that was vey professional.

– Q: what else could you put on there?
– A: thinking cash machine data etc. but wanting to add more data once people are using it
– Q: what’s the back-end?
– A: quite an interesting one… started thinking MySQL was the way forward, but it was really slow in their previous experience. So using Parse ( which is a JavaScript-accessible database, really good as doing “get me nearest” queries (geolocation is a field type).

University of Surrey

A way to set up donation campaigns tied to local places.

Tech-wise: a single-page web app, using Leaflet.js + .draw, Cloudmade (for OpenStreetMap data), PHP+MySQL, HTML5 Geolocation, data scraped from

Heist Planner
Rami, Ben, Alexi, …

Locates the nearest banks to you and lets you target a bank for your next heist, giving you map directions to the bank. Includes a handy notes feature for storing heist-related notes.

If they’d had the time, they would have liked to use police data to choose areas with the least policeman. And show bank stocks so you can target the wealthiest banks.

– Q: you could include your data in the police data API!
– A: we take no responsibility for use of this app
– Q: have you thought about adding local shops for useful kit like hammers and shotguns
– A: …or a place to hire a van
– Q: you could put a community on this to help people find other bank-robbers
– Q: you could include live flight departures for e.g. getaway planning

Joss, Jay, Mat, John

There is a problem with finding local information that’s not boring. And information tends to be on desktop apps. They have created a way to do “digital geocaching” (or “whispers”), allowing people to leave open data that is only accessible when you get to within a certain radius.

Data used: Wikipedia, Flickr, Apple & Google’s maps. They made an iOS iPad app and a PHP back-end.

For the future: multi-platform; whispers to fade with time; more content.

– Q: could you add whispers for companies to add incentives to visit?
– A: we did think about how to commercialise this, and using company data along with the open data could be a way to fund further development
– Q: how to motivate people to whisper?
– A: add in a ramification element, similar to FourSquare – the more you whisper, the more points you get and the more you unlock.

Deborah, Omar
Shoreditch Works

An app for athletes that helps you know if someone overtakes you in the rankings. Data scraped from the Power of 10 website, which keeps track of athletes’ performance. The Power of 10 website doesn’t have an API, so this app is about making it easy to use the data and enhance it so you can e.g. compare people head-to-head.

Took 3 or 4 days to write a scraper. Didn’t know JavaScript at the time, so this was hard.

Used a framework called Ratchet to make a mobile-optimised web app. Used Twilio to send a text message to alert people when they are overtaken in the rankings.

– Q: what tech for the back-end?
– A: a scraper, a database, front-end
– Q: could you build something similar for non-professionals?
– A: the data is for everyone, it’s not just professionals

— Wrap-up —
The finalists will be announced tomorrow morning – there will be 30 finalists from the 6 heats happening today. Fingers crossed…

Little jQuery plugin to combine YouTube uploads and favorites feeds

I recently found that I wanted to grab a feed of a YouTube account’s uploads and favorites. Unfortunately, the YouTube API doesn’t offer this by itself, so I’ve made a little jQuery function to do it for you.

Use like this:


Download from GitHub here:

My first idea for this was to use Yahoo! Pipes to combine the two feeds, which would have been better (better cacheing, etc.), but as I’ve found is often the case, the service was too slow, flakey and cumbersome for me. I ended up with something working only to find that all the module previews stopped working. Oh well.

Young Rewired State finals

After some serious queueing, Emma is doing her bit on stage, thanking sponsors and staff, as we wait to hear who has made it through to the finals.

I’ll try to keep a record of the presentations as they go, wifi permitting…


Emma announcing the winners! Five in each prize stream… Was trying to cover write them all down and got lost when both our teams got through! Yeah!

Introducing the judges: Lily Cole, Conrad Wolfram, Aral Balkan, Jonathan Luff, Thomas Grassey.

All the hacks have been uploaded to the YRS site – browse for them here.

Each team had 3 minutes to present with another 3 minutes for Q&A.

I wish I’d Thought of That stream

Clever Wherever – geolocates you and tells you if they are near a crime or accident hotspot, to help them avoid these hazards. To make it attractive to teenagers, they also tell you about fun points of interest near you. A six-person team, including two well-spoken little girls who delivered a pitch with more confidence than many adults I’ve seen.

Digital Ticket – – a prototype for a train ticket carried on your mobile. Also carries live information about your journey, your aggregate travel data and finds people you know who are also in the station. It is a great idea that shows there is much more to the idea of digital ticketing than just QR codes.

Humap – – I saw this group earlier on. It is a great concept, making satnav directions understandable by including obvious landmarks, such as a churches or a Tesco.

TwitTone – two-person team – turns tweets into sounds, so you can listen to Twitter.

Alertify – two-person team – a notification service for upcoming books by your favourite authors, such as Katie Price. Uses Twilio and the Amazon API. Is thinking the idea could be used with any type of new release you want to know about.

Best Examples of Code stream

New Neighbourhoods – iPhone app to show you broadband speed, crime and schools information for your local area. They also made a web app, an Android app and a SMS interface. Blimey.

Postcode Wars – six-person team – take two postcodes and they battle it out. Compares house prices, crime, etc. across several categories. The app looks really nice. Mobile-optimised too.

A Nice Day Out – helps you find beaches to go to, and lots of photos and information about them, such as whether the water is swimable. They made use of the DEFRA API, but found it tricky, as you could only query by a square of latitude and longitude coordinates, and they wanted to query by a radius around the person. This involved a lot of complicated-looking maths. 🙂

Streets of London – Shoreditch Works team! – team of 5 – strategy game where you govern a London borough, adjust policy to raise money and make people happy, then try to win election campaigns to take over other boroughs. Very funny presentation that got a great response as they taxed the residents of Hackney into oblivion.

Marauder Map – – Max and Lisa (and Ed in absentia) – app based on the mapp of the same name from Harry Potter. Signing in with the voice recognition API received a big round of applause. Loads of people signed in and were plotted on a map, and the map moves around as all the marauders wind their way to their destination. Great presentation. By the way, Max is 12 and Lisa is 11.

Code A Better Country stream

Closed Circuit TwitterVision – displays CCTV images tweeted by the Cheshire police of people they are looking for. Scrapes the pages the police put up and displays the images in a better interface.

Bike Safe – one-person team – to make cycling around the UK safer by showing you all the cycling accidents on a map. You put in a starting point and destination, and it will tell you how many crashes are on the route. You can adjust your route by dragging on the map, and the accident count is updated. He found that the data he wanted from the police needed to be altered because the accident IDs were longer than Google would allow him to use. This seems like good feedback for the police API.

World Wide Health – an educational site about the risks of smoking and alcohol consumption. Had a BASIC app embedded in the page to show you the stats for countries. There was a survey to fill in that affected the country stats. They showed a deeply funny video about smoking and a bottle-smashing Flash game. Oh, and an anti-smoking Flash game. Very prolific, very diverse, disconcertingly young.

Why Waste A Vote? – Shoreditch Works team! – a website to inform young people about the basics of politics and get them engaged with their local MP and voting on bills. Picked up on the idea of getting to youngsters before they can vote for real. Great response on Twitter and lots of interested questions from the judges.

City Safe – a game to test your knowledge of how to be safe when you are out of the house. Prevention by education. A three-person team. They mocked the game up in Scratch, which was very funny given the 8-bit style graphics. They also had a road safety mini-game made in Blender.

Best In Show stream

This stream had 6 minutes to present.

TruMPs – – three people, Ross, Miles and Brandon – solving the problem of not knowing how MPs compare: Top Trumps using MPs. Some very lovely card-flipping animations using CSS3. They had to scrape some of their data, but part of it came from TheyWorkForYou. They had play-tested this with the MP for Carlisle. Also… Brandon, the 8-yr old third member of the team, built an Android version using Google App Builder, which is now in the Google Play store (Chums for Android). There was a cool little video to illustrate Brandon’s progress through the week. The judges loved this and played around at the end on Brandon’s iPad.

Bookify – five-person team called HyperText – a mobile site that helps you track your reading, gives you recommendations based on what you read, and shows you whether you can get it at your local library. Funky interface based on the idea of books stacked on top of each other. They wanted to recreate the discovery experience that you have in libraries.

Way To Go – – fixes the problem of badly designed products intended for disabled people by crowdsourcing what they themselves think about them. A mobile web app, which had a high-contrast mode for people who are colour-blind. They had some plans for the future which all sounded really useful, and I think this app is a brilliant idea that would help a lot of people. It shows the benefit of choosing to fix a problem that you are intimately familiar with.

Manchester Image Archive – this was great the first time round (Jack was presenting in Space 2 earlier) and it is still great. This opens up the whole idea of using crowdsourcing to add meta data to historical archives. This app lets you match up Google StreetViews with photos of Manchester drawn from the Manchester Archives. Jack then imagined an augmented reality app where you hold your phone up to a building and see what it looked like in the past.

SmartMove – a visualisation tool for comparing qualities of areas, such as primary schools or crime, and then finding a house to move into in that area. What makes this different is that you can rank the qualities to reflect your own take on social compromises. A very slick iPad app, written in Objective-C. They have released an API that the third member of their team used to create a web app.

Young Rewired State showdown

There’s nothing like a bit of last-minute chaos to calm a presenter’s nerves. And what with the flooding, the inevitable wifi complications and the delay in starting, I am surprised to see that our teams of 15, 16 and 17 year-olds are taking this all in their stride. It’s day six, the main event, of Young Rewired State 2012. We brought two teams from Shoreditch Works in London to Birmingham’s Custard Factory yesterday afternoon. Since then, there has been pizza, coca cola, coding, practicing presentations, planning, polishing and maybe a little bit of sleep. Fingers crossed, lights out, here we go…


Manchester’s MadLab are up first. The presentations are meant to be 3 minutes with 3 minutes Q&A. Apparently, Tina the compere is going to be a dragon about timing.

Who’s scraping medals? – a newly written scraper for country-by-country display of Olympic medals. Also, a Kinect hack to scan your body proportions and compare you to Olympic athletes! Strong message to Microsoft to improve their Kinect API.

Youtilities – – a local search engine for commonly-needed public utilities like toilets and payphones. Visitors can add their own suggestions.

Social Games – visualisation tool for IRC, with sentiment analysis. Also, a version of MineSweeper using Twitter followers as nodes and mines. Next, Olly talking about anti-social Twitter – a sort of Sensible Software zombie-killing game where the zombies are your Twitter followers. Much hilarity.


News Recommender – Joseph presenting – helps you see news that matches your interests. Grabs a bunch of RSS feeds, then you rate the items, and the system works out what you are into. Nifty tag cloud viz of the words you are interested in. That’s nice, good to see your behaviour analysed and reflected. Maggie Philbin asked why do it when other apps do it – “I thought I could do it better”. Impressive for a 1-man team. Also outputs an API of your recommendations.

Manchester Image Archive – Jack loves history. Wanted to do a “before and after” of the Manchester Image Archives, but found the old images lacked location info. So he wrote a program to extract street names from the photos. Uses Google Street View to find a view matching the old photo. Has a social rating system for the quality of the location matches. The output of lots of people using this could be an archive of 80k old photos with perfect location metadata. Very impressive app with obvious and powerful consequences, as well as an interesting new model for crowdsourcing improvements to archives.

LobbyMatic – – getting young people involved in politics – lets you write to your MPs about bills and search for bills you are interested in. Two person team, 18 year-olds.

Danger Chorus – 3 people team – to raise awareness of endangered species by creating a sonic representation of how much peril the species are in, and providing information about the animals. Data from the ZSL London Zoo, WikiMedia, Google Maps. Whacky. Audio is definitely an under-used medium for communicating information. The audio was done in JavaScript, which is pretty cool.

TV Reminder – solving the problem of missing shows on TV you didn’t realise were on. Scrapes the Sky listings and sends you a SMS to alert you. Helps you find shows by aggregating all channels into a single list. A simple idea to solve an annoying problem. Strikes me that Sky and its competitors would please a lot of people by adding SMS alerts!

Wood Street Mission – Amy, 13, presenting – iPad app to raise awareness of child poverty in Manchester by letting you compare your own area’s child poverty stats with Manchester’s and encouraging you to donate if your area is better. If you want to donate items rather than money, there is a form to fill in to tell the Wood Street Mission about it. This was made as a mobile app because the charity already has a website. Apparently, the charity are hard to get in touch with to book a slot for dropping of donations, so this has genuine utility. Pretty smart for a 13-yr old!


Bump-o-matic – 5 person team – starts with pretty cinematic intro and demo video. It’s an Android app to detect potholes in a road when you are cycling and posts the location of the pothole to the web. In the Google Play store already. That was a frickin cool presentation. But does the app actually work?? Reality check: the 3-minute video took 5 hours to make and was most awesome. Video editing industry – watch out.

Project Space – I missed most of this as I was helping set up for our presentations, but a group of about 5 seven to ten year-olds took to the stage and got a hugely warm reception. Including this.

Shoreditch Works

(I am totally biased towards this centre, so apologies for any unfair coverage. Well, not really, they were both awesome and had very polished presentations.)

Streets of London – a strategy game set in a fictionalised London where politics has gone crazy and the only sane borough is yours, and you are the governor. You can change taxation and spending policy to raise money and/or happiness and then try to take over other boroughs with election campaigns.

Why Waste A Vote? – engaging young people with politics by providing basic information about politics and connecting them with their local MP. Shows bills in Parliament and lets you vote them up and down, as well as plenty of opportunities to tweet and share your opinions.

YRS Norwich

Rewired Olympics – – a digital Olympics card game

Humap – Solving the problem of satnav’s giving you directions humans can’t understand because we don’t know all the road numbers or names. They tried to add landmarks into the directions to make them more understandable. Very cool idea. Data from CultureGrid and other point of interest data from satnav’s, and Google Places.


Kivu – – an app to find where your friends are and find points of interest around you. They had thought through the privacy problems of taking people’s location data. Their approach is to only store it for 30 minutes or until you log out. They had Kivu t-shirts!

University of Edinburgh

Fringe Dodger – two-person team – helps you avoid Edinburgh Fringe Festival crowds by showing you a heatmap based on the capacity of venues and the start and end times of the festival shows. They found the Fringe API hard to work with because they needed to supply a proof of concept before they would be granted access to the data. Which is a bit chicken and egg.

Song Magic – two-person team – a Spotify app plus a barcode scanner to let you scan CDs while you’re out and have them appear in your Spotify inbox. Genius.

Innovation Martlesham

Outrunners – a cops ‘n’ robbers game using crime data to set the difficulty. Written on top of Unity, an engine for 3D video games. Team of three ten(ish) year-olds.

Restaurant Locator – one young chap presenting, three in the group – helps you find restaurants with available tables. Used an animated demo. He showed wireframe designs for the website and a basic site. Great idea though.


Crime Viewer UK – – two guys – mobile web app to show you crime statistics near your location. They talked about their process – they used Kanban-style development using cards.


That’s your lot! More coming after lunch, when it’s the finals. Circa 1 hour from now.

The experience of Codecademy

Codecademy badgeCodecademy has been getting some great reactions from my friends who don’t code that much, but have been meaning to get into it (which is everyone, right?). I had a little look when it first went up, and remembered thinking that the method was really clever, but I didn’t spend time going through any exercises.

After my friend Nick Webb said he was impressed by how much content had been added since launch, and that he’d spent 5 hours on a Sunday night eating it all up, I thought it was about time I had another look. Immediately, I realised that the site is a great example of an interactive web app, where the design of the experience has been responsible for the great reactions people are having.

I couldn’t help but note down a few things as I was thrashing my way through the introductory course…

Great bits of experience design:

  • playful intro to the editor from the word go (and the immediate cursor focus on the console), resulting in your first badge, which hooks you in
  • letting you get started without creating an account (my name is “New User”!)
  • …and then making me register once you’re into the swing of things and want to keep going
  • building up when you’re stuck through hints and then forums seems like a good idea
  • the warnings in the editor is helpful (if a bit keen to tell me I’ve written invalid syntax when really I’m just typing)
  • it’s clever that it can test you on syntax even if that bit of the code is not executed in the console – so the exercises themselves can get pretty “non-trivial”
  • you can move to sections you haven’t completed (a la Angry Birds), which is cool since you are trying to build up a body of understanding, and earning points gives you a reason to want to hit 100% complete
  • the challenges are like exams; the decision to show the % complete on the Courses menu prods you to want to complete them

Not so great bits of the experience:

  • calling me a “User”
  • switching back to “Section” from “Scratch Pad” leaves the console at the top, not the bottom where you were; moving to next exercise doesn’t keep console at bottom either, which just means you have to move the scrollbar down
  • completing last exercise in a section doesn’t give you a link in the console to take you to the next section, which is inconsistent; nor does getting to the end of a course doesn’t present you with any direction of where to go to continue
  • it would be really helpful if they captured infinite loops e.g. while(true) …
Experience bugs:
  • you can type in the console whilst it is loading
  • the console loading bar can hit full without it completing (looks like failing to handle an error in jsrepl.js)
  • CTRL+Enter doesn’t work (on mac at least), despite claiming to be a keyboard shortcut

Not sure about these bits of experience:

  • is auto-save of versions good or superfluous? I’m not sure why I’d use that

A few thoughts on the quality of education:

  • some of the answers to puzzles are loose e.g. “Saturday” being accepted instead of “Sunday”, but that seems a good thing
  • some of the looseness is on the logic e.g. accepting “less than or equal to” when you’ve been asked for just “less than” – that is probably not such a good idea
  • you can also cheat, e.g. if asked to do “i–” twice and you just say “i=0”, it works; this also seems bad and unnecessary given that the editor seems capable of marking your syntax
  • the explanation of “var” as something you have to accept to declare variables seems a bit pointless without any understanding of scope, which is when it starts to be useful
  • some concepts e.g. “&&” introduced without the same level of explanation as others (but I guess a bit of a challenge is no bad thing)

The Chromebook & me

Google Chromebook - Samsung series 5I just went to have a look at the Chromebook in the “Chrome Zone” at Tottenham Court Road’s PC World / Curry’s. I’ve resisted buying a tablet for more than a year, despite my gadgety inclinations, because of the general lack of keyboard, 3G and access to the software I use to do my job. Of course, since the original iPad, these limitations are being chipped away at by the increasing variety of netbooks, tablets and, now the hybrid Chromebook (padtop anyone?).

To handle, the Chromebook (the UK gets the Samsung Series 5) is chunky, lightweight and quite a bit slimmer than my 11″ MacBook. To browse upon, things move along smoothly (until you hit 1080p HD video or Angry Birds) and the little keyboard changes, such as a search key that opens a new tab, are kinda fun. Sadly, the whole thing feels experimental, since several of the Chrome extensions I tried don’t work properly, nor do some websites. As examples, the LoveFilm website wouldn’t stream films; the Chrome store let me install IETab, but then it wouldn’t run (no IE, right? For a moment, I thought they had conjured some magic).

I do try to keep all my documents, code, email and the rest on the web, so I figured I’d be in a good place to adopt a web-only computer as a lightweight, portable all-purpose machine. And I would be willing to give the Chromebook a go. But not for £400. And here’s the big problem – £400 buys you a lot of laptop these days. I figured I’d pick up a Chromebook for a couple of weeks and try it out – if it bombed, I could always return it. However, true to form, PC World’s legendary customer service team were unable to give me a straight answer about their returns policy. So I’m still on the fence.

Incidentally, since the Chromebook has 3G built-in, this makes it, in a connectivity sense, awesome. It actually has a SIM slot, so you can stick in whatever SIM you like. This is a part of the future Apple are most definitely not making a big noise about. I don’t think a hardware manufacturer is going to overcome all the necessary hurdles to make a machine that can roam on 3G, and roam affordably. However, mobile operators and specialist firms (WorldSIM, abroadband) probably can, so letting people put their own SIM in your device makes a lot of sense.

Twitter’s new image upload feature & your rights

Images in TweetsYesterday, Twitter launched its own image uploading service, which competes directly with TwitPic, yFrog and the like. Whilst this is all very interesting for those guys, one of the important things to know about before making use of this service is what rights you have to any images you upload. Remember the fuss when TwitPic changed their terms of service so that they effectively own your content.

Fortunately, from the point of view of amateur photographers and professionals all over, Twitter looks like it is maintaining its existing copyright policy, whereby the submitter maintains copyright over any content.

The full terms page is here, but here are the salient parts, with comment:

“You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).”

You keep your rights over your content, but as far as the use of it on Twitter goes, you don’t have a say.

So far, so straightforward. The next part I am quoting in full:

“You agree that this license includes the right for Twitter to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter for the syndication, broadcast, distribution or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use.

“Tip – Twitter has an evolving set of rules for how ecosystem partners can interact with your content. These rules exist to enable an open ecosystem with your rights in mind. But what’s yours is yours – you own your Content (and your photos are part of that Content).

“Such additional uses by Twitter, or other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter, may be made with no compensation paid to you with respect to the Content that you submit, post, transmit or otherwise make available through the Services.”

This is one place to signal caution – whilst you do retain the rights over any imagery, Twitter are allowed to make use of it to their advantage, and you’re not entitled to claim a slice of any pie.


Spider cartoon

1000 days of Airbnb or “how to get press”

Obama O's and Cap'n McCain's cereal, by AirbnbI just watched a video from November last, of an Airbnb founder, Brian Chesky, talking about the first 1000 days of his company. It’s one of those times when I’d had the browser tab open for about two weeks before getting to it, but I’m glad I did.

In case you don’t know Airbnb, Brian describes the company as “a community marketplace for space” – essentially it’s a way for people to rent out apartments, bedrooms, castles, private islands…

One of the most interesting things from the video was the description of Airbnb’s strategy for getting press coverage during the 2008 Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Denver. Brian and friends spotted an opportunity, since there were an expected 80k visitors and only 28k hotel rooms. The challenge was how to get CNN to cover them.

Their story pans out something like this:

  • local Denver bloggers were writing about the problems of fitting all the convention attendees into the city’s hotels
  • Airbnb went to Google News and typed in “DNC Housing Crisis” to find the bloggers
  • Airbnb wrote to all the bloggers saying there was a new way for people to list their bedrooms for rent – Airbnb
  • Denver bloggers started to write about Airbnb
  • Airbnb contacted the Denver local news to say what they were doing
  • local news Googled Airbnb and saw that people were writing about them and did a story about them
  • regional news (Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News) saw that local news were writing about Airbnb and did a story about them
  • CNN were following keywords about the DNC and saw that everyone was writing about Airbnb and did a story about them
  • BOOM

Incidentally, Airbnb almost became a cereal company, launching “Obama O’s” and “Cap’n McCain’s” when they were stuck for traffic and cash.