On the weekend, GovHack 2014 took place over a 48 hour period at The Cube QUT Gardens Point campus.
Unfortunately, I only made it through 2 of the days and was out sick for the final and last day. So, what did I learn over the course of the weekend ?
- It was fun.
Working on a project as a team is something I rarely get to do. I do all my coding on my own, it is only at work on manual labour jobs were I will get or give assistance.
The group of guys I was working with I knew only through random contacts when they were at UQ (where I work). I believe that due to their working on projects at university together and with deadlines, this in turn helped them to manage their time and work on the projects.
So, it's rare for me to conceptualise, write and release something in a weekend. I usually take weeks to craft and polish the apps I work on.
- Government data is malformed.
Hindsight is a great thing and it was only after the aftermath of GovHack, that I realised the data is, for lack of a better word, bad. Sure it might be available in RSS or CSV -- parsing these wasn't the issue; it was the additional data that was not required (requiring sifting through) or were extensions of RSS or were data dumped into one column, which then required additional parsing.
The experienced members of my team, 1 worked on the front end, 1 on the back end setup and another on massaging and "fixing" the data, so when he was done, the coders would have a nice clean flow of data to use.
This is where I should have concentrated my efforts early on, as once you start coding, you can't really go back or change direction in a hurry.
- Don't pick something that's too big.
Also don't be afraid to do what some others consider boring. On the Friday night, the brainstorming happens. Lots of ideas are thrown around, some good, some bad, some crazy but the best thing to do is have an idea that you can start to flesh out and be ready to start working on Saturday. This is what happened with the 3 other people I was working with, except we had come up with two ideas. It wasn't until the Saturday morning that I found out that the other 3 people were working on one of the ideas, which left nothing for me to do, except play around with the second idea.
If I had known this was going to be the case, I might have gone with one of the original ideas that was shot down for being "too boring". It might have been boring, but it was also achievable.
- Don't stay too late.
I think this was my downfall, as I didn't get home on the Friday/Saturday night til after midnight. Walking 2-3kms in less then 4C temperatures, wasn't the best move, since I was up early the next morning and back at it for a full day. If I could do it again, I would go home earlier on the Friday and get a good rest for the coming Saturday and Sunday.
I also wouldn't stay so late on Saturday night either. I think next time, I would have go home around 5/6pm, had dinner, worked on the rest of the project from home and then come in early Sunday to finish it off / do the presentation video.
Will I do it again next year ? It's very tempting ... I guess we'll just have to see.