iPhone hackathon 4 charity: Halifax edition

Jul 28th, 2009

I think it’s fair to say that Halifax’s first iPhone hackathon for charity was a big success. The idea was pretty simple: get a group of people (developers, marketers, artists) together over a weekend and try to produce as many iPhone apps as possible over the course of a weekend. Sell the apps on the app store (or otherwise monetize them), then donate the proceeds to charity.

I think we managed to get a group of about 15 together. After the weekend was over, we had three apps in various stages of completion. They are:

  • PostCard: Send post cards, with a local twist.
  • Meet me here: A streamlined way to tell your friends where you are.
  • Civic Snitch: Report on problems in your neighbourhood using your phone. A front end to the amazing fixmystreet.ca (this is the one I worked on).

As usual for a hackfest, the energy level was amazing. In addition to seeing the familiar faces of MindSea, Applied Logic, Hand Puppet and Say Hi There, it was fantastic to meet the new faces at North Knight and an amazing group of unaffiliated (yet crazy competent) developers. A weekend is a bit too short a time to do anything but a trivial iPhone application, but we got a good start on all of them. Rumor has it that the postcard application is quite close to completion. Another few hacking sessions and we should have some apps that are good for release.

It’s hard to do justice to the overwhelming feeling of WIN that came out of this. Since co-founding Navarra a year ago, I’ve been at a ton of conferences, hack weekends, and other networking events and this has by far been the one I’ve felt the best about. What made it so great?

  • First and foremost, the feeling that the work you’re doing will be used for good.
  • The opportunity to take part in something untested and different. In these difficult times, charities are looking for new ways to fill gaps in fundraising– can software developers help?
  • The Halifax Hub‘s open concept space which did so much to facilitate collaboration and communication (as it always does).
  • The amazing catered food from Local Source Organic (Splice Training also provided some tasty home-baked cookies).
  • The awesome high-quality t-shirts, featuring an amazing design by Nick Brunt (printing courtesy of Mindsea).
  • The free massages from Be Wellness.
  • DJ Rich.Ness spinning tunes for us to enjoy all of Saturday night

So what’s next? Well, that’s something we’re working out with a lawyer. The idea is to create some kind of legal structure that allows us to safely collect any app store proceeds and get them sent to charity, though we haven’t yet finalized on what that will look like. The hope is that we can create a model that can be reused in other cities (iHackMTL anyone?).

Likewise, the final decision on which local charities will be receiving the proceeds has not yet been made. Something like ten organizations submitted proposals before the hackfest. It’s great to see so much interest, but it’s obviously not possible to accomodate everyone this round. It’s fair to say that at least one app will be going directly to an organization which helps in some way to address poverty in the HRM. I think there’s a collective understanding among the participants at the hackfest that we’ve been quite blessed by circumstance and good fortune and that there’s a responsibility to help those who haven’t been so lucky.

As for the apps themselves, the plan is to put the source up on github ASAP under the MIT License. I’ll be sure to post an announcement when this happens (though this is of course only of interest to the hardcore geeks).

Thanks again to the participants and the sponsors (The Hub, Local Source Organic, Be Wellness, Splice Training, Say Hi There!, Mindsea, innovacorp, Nova Scotia Rural BroadBand and Development, <a href="http://thecoast.caThe Coast, and Humina Huminah) for the amazing weekend. Most especially, Dale Zak, the event organizer (and happy hacker) deserves huge kudos for the amazing idea and the perseverance to make it happen.