Skunkworks and Hackdays

November 17, 2012 by gfoss   Comments (0)


The Skunkworks is a showcase for the products and open source platforms used in the hackday process. This year the showcase  featured a range of open source SME's (See KIrsty's blog entry for more details.):

  • LIferay: the popular open source java-based portal system - they also fo an office product which acts more as a social network
  • Scraperwiki: The ingenious website scraper product - essential for any useof open data at hackdays
  • Tactix4: provide of hosted N3 solutions and products , lie their bedside monitoring tool: Wardware
  • Brissit: a Leicester Universoty project which hosts an open source research data management service in the cloud using applications like CiviCRM, I2b2, caTissue and Onyx.
  • Openeyes: a Moorfields NHS Trust open source EHR product to serve opthamology and optometrists.
  • WorldVista: A Compaign for the adoption of the open Source EMR product in use in the US Veterans Affairs governmetn agency and also in Jordan and other developing countries
  • Hao2: provide therapy, training and meeting services using the OpenSim open source £D virtual world social networking product

The best place to see and try before you buy these products is at one of the health or health science hackdays, organised up and down the country and usually sponsored by government, research organisations or developer groups themselves. There are a variety of organisers : Guildfoss, Rewired State, Openhealthcare to name but a few. Hack organisers are all paid by their sponsors to deliver the level of organisation required.

You can ether participate as a sponsor, a developer,  a user,  a consultant or simply as an observer. But to get the most out of a hackday it really is recommended to roll your sleeves up and get involved.

When you have been to a hackday, you realise where the software industry has been going wrong over the past 2 decades: focussing on engineering and science aspects of software, rather than its value as a form of art expression. That might sound totally leftfield, but the art model of production and sale is much better suited to software than is the current software procurement processes.

I do not say this lightly: I have 30 years of experience in the software industry and have seen it from all sides: developing, managing, selling, consulting, buying and using. There is clearly a role for science and engineering! But this should not extend to to the process of procuring software: that way lies IT disaster projects.

This is the presentation I delivered at the Skunkworks.  I will continue to elaborate on the "Software is Art" message over the coming months in an effort to change the procurment culture that is killing the software industry in the UK.