[tdwg-tag] Thoughts on TDWG hackathon after NESCent Hackathon

Roger Hyam rogerhyam at mac.com
Tue Mar 24 15:34:15 CET 2009

Hi Everyone,

I had the pleasure of attending the NESCent Hackathon on Evolutionary  
Database Interoperability the week before last


and I said before hand that I would report back on my thoughts for  
holding similar hackathons within TDWG.

This is a very quick summary of those thoughts. My overriding  
impression was that the success of the event was based on the  
preparation that went in before hand.

    * Firstly the NESCent team did a really good job of organising the  
hackathon and dedicated considerable resources to it.
    * The hackathon was focussed on three technologies; CDAO, NeXML  
and PhyloWS.
    * There was a pre-meeting for the core team and there were two  
conference calls which most of the participants were involved in.
    * The wiki was used to work up some test cases and various  
documentation before the hackathon started.
    * There were mailing list discussions.

Personally I had a great time and learned a great deal. I had the  
impression that others had a similar experience. I think we pushed  
things forward a great deal and came up with some code that may be  

If we were to do a similar TDWG hackathon I think it would be a good  
idea to focus down on one or two technologies. Perhaps identify a  
single challenge that faces us - an obstacle that needs to be crossed.  
We would have to find resources to pay not only for getting everyone  
in the same room with the right level of IT support but also to pay  
for some one to administer the run up and wind down to the whole  
thing. These are critical. Without them I believe we'd be wasting our  

Getting the balance right between letting people follow their own  
ideas and pushing everyone in the same direction is also very  
important. The open question of "How do you integrate what you are  
working on at the moment with the subject of the hackathon?" might be  
a good place to start.

I think the TDWG developer community could really benefit from a  
similar hackathon provided it was well funded and run.

All the best,


  Roger Hyam - Project Officer WP4
  Pan European Species Infrastructure
  +44 75 90 60 80 16

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