Hacks & Hackers Unite

This weekend Kicker Studio was invited to participate as expert advisors at the first Hacks/Hackers Unite! weekend workshop at KQED, where 80 journalists and hackers got together to design and build news applications for the iPad.  I attended the event, giving a short kick-off presentation on user experience  considerations when designing applications for an iPad.  My talk was aimed at framing the challenge of storytelling on a tablet from a design perspective, and was well matched by talks about  APIs, open social tools and new revenue models for online journalism.

(See Video of the talk)

After the “mini-expert talks” (I got a kick out of that — I’d never really thought of myself as a mini-expert!), the real fun began. The hacks and hackers divided in to 12 teams, and together had less than 30 hours to gather around an idea, find content, figure out what the experience should be, and design and build a working application.The team sizes varied from massive, at 30, to a couple pairs and a solo hacker. Some took to the streets for reporting, while others leaned on the internet to fitting content for their apps. Each team’s mission and skill set was slightly different, which made for a wide variety of applications from tools for filmmaker marketing, to text-to-audio bookmarks to recipe apps and quiz games.

By Sunday evening, each team had at least the start of working application, and five minutes to present their work to a panel of industry judges. The judges awarded two prizes to the top applications:

“Citizen Kid News” is a news application for kids, that incorporated gaming principals into the experience to encourage kids to read, learn more about the reporting process, and eventually contribute their own articles.

The second application, “Who’s Reppin Me,” feeds users location based stories about their local representatives and allows them to tweet their approval and disapproval of their actions. It’s live now at: http://whosreppin.me/

What I found most interesting about the process was seeing people so connected to creating content think about designing platforms for consuming it. Many of the applications, not surprisingly, focused more on how a content producer might use their applications than what the end user would experience. Very few projects had specific target users in mind, and as few thought about the mindset of the user while using their app. The two projects that won were among the best examples of attention to context and motivation, which in turn made their solutions more targeted and compelling.

For a first attempt at a dev camp like this one, Hack/Hackers Unite did a great job at KQED. I was glad to be a part of the weekend, and super impressed by the collaboration and enthusiasm of the participants. The next event is scheduled for June 2nd in NYC. If you’re in the area, check it out!

A list of all the projects completed during the weekend and archived video of the demos are available online.