Random Hacks of Kindness New York City


On December 4 and 5, in over twenty locations around the world,  Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, NASA and The World Bank hosted the third Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK), an  initiative to bring together volunteer software developers and experts in disaster risk management for a weekend-long “hackathon” to create software solutions to aid humanitarian organizations address some of their most pressing challenges, to help those in need around the world.

Ralph Morelli and Trishan de Lanerolle, drove down to attend the New York City RHoK event, hosted at Parsons the New School for Design. The event was kicked off with a reception hosted by the United Nation’s Global Pulse Initiative, with the UN Secretary General Banki Moon in attendance.  Below is a video extract of the  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s keynote speech during the RHoK NYC reception.  He highlighted the convergence of two complementary movements: participatory development and open source technologies. “Both movements have a common denominator,” he stated, and “because people have a sense of ownership, what is created is more sustainable and effective. It empowers people at the grassroots to build solutions to their own problems.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the RHoK Reception co-hosted Global Pulse

The following morning, the hackathon was kicked off with participants given overviews of a set of problem definitions, created by NGO’s, governments and experts in the field. Teams of volunteer technologist  coalesced around these problem definitions and spent the remainder of the weekend working on building  solutions, either from the ground up or using existing technologies. All the solutions from design concepts, source code to fully functional applications are released to the broader community, under a suitable OSS license. The complete list of projects worked on during RHoK New York and other global sites can be found on the RHoK Wiki.   At the close of the hackerthon, teams present the technologies they developed and the best “Hacks” of the weekend were judged and selected at the various locations.

Ralph and I met with the Sahana project team,  and I got an opportunity to work with them on Saturday.  It was great to see  the team in action working on a new module manager and database optimization for the Sahana Agasti  Mayon development branch. The Sahana RHoK contingent in NYC was lead by Chad Heuschober, from CUNY , who has a a great blog post on the groups accomplishments over the weekend at “It’s Only RHoK’n Roll, But I Like It” and for complete coverage of Sahana’s global present at RHoK check out Mark Prutsalis’s post on Sahana Situation Room.

We were able to get our hands dirty contributing to the Incident Commander project, lead by John Reilly, from Google,  to build an Android application that allows firefighters and other emergency response personnel to track incident responders and their needs in real time. Over the course of the weekend, we had built a functional android application, that used SMS messages to send and receive data, from alerts to location coordinates between  mobile devices and an app engine based web server. We were able to reuse some code snippets developed by Chris Fei,  for Sahana and POSIT. Chris, an HFOSS Alumni now, joined us in person on Sunday, he and I attended the first RHoK event back in November 2009 in Mountain View California.

Incident Commander Android Application Interface

Incident Commander Android Application Interface

  Incident commander team

Incident commander team (Shayne Adamski, Aidan Feldman,Trishan de Lanerolle,John Reilly (Team leader), Kane Albarron, Ralph Morelli, PJ Herring and Jason Lindesmith (absent from photo)

Incident Commander went on to jointly win “First Place” with TaskMeUp, developed by Nicolas di Tada, et al.  We were awarded a Windows 7 Mobile phone and $100 cash prize for our efforts. The irony of receiving a windows phone for a developing an android application was not lost on the judges and audience. The team unanimously voted to give the phone to our lead programmer PJ Herring, and the cash prize to charity.

Overall it was a great experience, from  working with an award winning team of individuals to spending the weekend with like minded technologists, brought together with the mission of bettering humanity. We have come away reinvigorated and look forward to building on the work started during RHoK 2.0 and following up with the connections made during the event. We are also interested in hosting  a RHoK event in Hartford.

, , , ,

  1. No comments yet.
(will not be published)