Lonely Planet / GovHack Hack Day

Over the weekend I attended the Lonely Planet / Govhack Melbourne event (tweet tag: #melhack) at Lonely Planet headquarters in Footscray

I was lucky enough to be invited to join a team of Victorian Government people – Amanda, Conan, and Simon – who had a great idea using some Department of Sustainability and Environment Sustainability Victoria (Thanks Elissa!) data around potential economic and environmental solar hot water savings.

The Department releases a weekly dataset containing information on how much sun shined in a local government area in a week, and how much you would have saved off your hot water bill if you were using solar hot water. They wanted to mash this up with Yellow Pages and Australian Bureau of Statistics to incite people to go and get solar hot water installed. And so mySolarSaver (firmly in beta) was born!

The team in action on Sunday (minus one member). Photo from Matt Cashmore Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattcashmore/

Team in action on Sunday (minus one member). Photo from Matt Cashmore's Flickr

I made up some very simple wireframes, then got on to creating a visual design, then coding it up (HTML/CSS). With various commitments, we were able to spend about 10 hours on the project all up, and a rough first draft was ready for presentation at 2pm on Sunday.

It was fantastic to see all the different applications that individuals, teams and Lonely Planet staff had come up with in such a short time. The stand-out project for me (a special category was created to award them a prize!) was Pinggo by Isaac Su and Nick Ling. Pinggo goes beyond the physical nature of the Lonely Planet data to create a more emotive guide to places, based on feelings, temperature and colour.

The overall winner (winning the entire back catalogue of Lonely Planet publications!) was a team that created DayTrippin’, an application that uses the Lonely Planet API to generate a random itinerary in one direction within a certain number of kilometres from a place. This seemed to pique the interest of the Lonely Planet staff…so we may one day see this incorporated into the Lonely Planet site.

Here is Amanda presenting our application: mySolarSaver:

As the last team member standing, I gladly accepted the GovHack award on behalf of the team from Dr Nicholas Gruen who heads up the Gov 2.0 Taskforce.

(I can’t remember everyone’s team name and application, but as people put up their applications on the web, I will endeavour to collect the links here.)

A full list of teams and winners is located on the event wiki. Photos from the event can be found on Flickr. All the final presentations are available on Youtube.

Big thanks to Matthew Cashmore from Lonely Planet who organised the event and supplied me with emergency chocolate rations!

P.S. All this hacking has inspired me to go and back fix an old, long-neglected hack project of my own, Page to Screen – a mashup of maps, data, photos, etc. to do with period dramas and their filming locations (obscure, I know…). Comments welcome.

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