Young Rewired State - 2011

Last week at Osmosoft we hosted the Westminster arm of Young Rewired State, a week long mulit-site event for 14-17 year olds to build amazing things with open Government data. It was an awesome, though throughly exhausting week!

This is 3rd year of Young Rewired State and 2011's event was the biggest yet with 14 centres, 100 coders and over 40 hacks being produced.

At Osmosoft we hosted seven YRSers; Kush Depala, Alex Hill, Joshusa Allwood, Isabell Long, Joe O'Dell, Daniel Saul and Priyesh Patel. Throughout this blog I'll collectively refer to them as coders – as that is what they are, everything else sounds a bit too patronising!

At the start of the week there were varying level of abilities in the room ranging from those having only done a little bit of coding through to others being pretty proficient in a number of programming languages. We were also joined by two mentors, James Marwood, a business consultant and Robert Young, a back end programmer and expert data wrangler!

We started the week with a group session where we discussed our motivations behind attending the event and what we wanted to get from it, this discussion included everyone. Reasons for attending ranged from previous attendance at a Young Rewired State event through to wanting to get more involved in coding. A common comment however was that opportunities to get involved with and learn about coding whilst at school were few and far between – without exception everyone was self-taught and it was through events such as this one that they got to learn.

Day one idea boardAfter finding out why everyone was here we moved onto what everyone wanted to get from the week, ideas they had for potential hacks and problem areas which needed addressing. At first the discussion here was a little quiet, but not surprising given that there were a lot of new faces and the environment of a hot, air condition-less Telephone Exchange somewhat different to usual surroundings! But it didn't take long to get ideas going and we discussed the merits of each, the feasibility of coding something up in a week and other data sets, tools and open source projects that could be used to help. At the end of the session we had a number of ideas for potential hacks and the coders broke into pairs to discuss further, gather data and get to work on building something.

Throughout the week the involvement of the Osmosoft folk and mentors was fairly low touch, we gave some pointers as to different ways of tackling problems, ensured that focus was being given across all the required areas, but the code was written entirely by the YRS coders. Where there were gaps in knowledge we were able to get them started but very quickly they took full control of the reins – for example Kush had never done any CSS before, I spent 5mins showing a couple of things and when I came back 30mins later he'd styled a page including some pretty funky looking Webfonts!

Jon Robson of Osmosoft w/ Joe O'Dell

Judging by the quality of all the presentations from Friday across all the centres I'm not sure that this is needed, but I thought I'd highlight a few of the things which worked especially well for us and are worth considering next year:

  • Spending enough time planning as a group – encouraging discussion with everyone led to a number of initial ideas being adapted into potentially stronger ideas following inputs from everyone and not just those who wanted to build it. Don't be tempted to break away from the group too early as holding off getting into the code for just a little bit will pay dividends
  • Pairing up coders – there is a lot of be said about pair programming and it was certainly beneficial during the YRS week. By pairing up ideas were constantly bounced off of each other and it definitely helped to keep momentum going over the short but intense period of time.
  • Having ICR on screen – this year we made good use of the IRC channel where we had it set up on a large screen in the centre of the room. Not only was it a quick and fruitful place to ask questions it was also reassuring to see what others centres were working on (plus a reminder to stop for lunch when there was talk of pizza and donuts)!
  • Regular stand ups and show & tells – each day we ran and recorded a daily stand up at 12noon and a daily show & tell at 4pm. There were no excuses, everyone had to participate. The noon stand up was, as you'd expect, a quick 30 seconds per person on what they're currently working on, their next steps and any potential road blockers. The 4pm show & tells were slightly longer and were geared towards preparing everyone for being able to relay and demo what its was they were working on in 2 minutes (as per the rules for the end of week presentations).
  • Supply of food and drinks – sounds like an obvious one but having a good supply of food and drinks available is a tremendous help. Last year everyone had to go outside the building if they wanted to get soft drinks or snacks, this led to a lot of stopping and starting but having them on hands in the room kept things flowing nicely ...although next year I'll remember to get Coke Zero rather than diet!
  • Having lunch together – everyday we made a point of stopping and having lunch together. It was directly after the noon stand-up so followed on nicely for those who wanted extend discussions about their hacks, but more often than not it was an opportunity to talk about something other than YRS. It was great for getting to know everyone and a healthy break away from the screen! 

YRS coder: Josh, Kush and Alex

By the end of the week the YRS coders based at Omsosoft had produced five working hacks;

On the final day of the week all the YRS coders from across all the centres got together at Microsoft's London office for an afternoon of presentations. There were some incredible hacks produced and its probably safe to say that everyone left in awe of what had been done in just a week. The YRSers from Osmosoft did a great job in showcasing there efforts and with slightly shaky hands (I think I was more nervous than they were) I recorded their presentation:

It was a fantastic week and I'll definitely be taking part again next year, although that seems so far away – hopefully there be an opportunity to do something similar in between?


Field Day 2011 line up

This is more so that I have it to hand, but perhaps useful for others - the stage times for Field Day 2011. I've put a little mark against those I'm interested in seeing play and hopefully add some Soundcloud links in there later. Theres a bit of overlap but then at a festival that's always the way. It should be a fun day!

Eat Your Own Ears Main Stage

Time Artist Wanna see
21.40 Wild Beasts *
21.00 Baio (Vampire Weekend) DJ
20.10 The Coral
19.40 Jen Long DJ
18.55 Warpaint *
18.30 Huw Stephens DJ
17.45 John Cale *
17.15 Huw Stephens DJ
16.30 Electrelane *
16.05 Jen Long DJ
15.25 Villagers
15.00 Justin Spear DJ
14.20 Sun Ra Arkestra
13.55 Justin Spear DJ
13.25 Junip *
13.00 Chimes
12.30 Willy Mason

Bugged Out! Stage

Time Artist Wanna see
21.45 Carl Craig presents 69
20.30 Michael Mayer
19.15 Kieran Hebden B2B James Holden
18.00 Erol Alkan
17.00 Benga & Youngman
16.00 L-Vis 1990
15.00 James Blake DJ
14.00 Roska
13.00 Pearson Sound
12.00 Matt Walsh

Laneway Festival Stage in association

Time Artist Wanna see
20.50 The Horrors *
20.20 Baio (Vampire Weekend) DJ
19.30 James Blake
18.40 Baio (Vampire Weekend) DJ
18.00 Jamie Woon *
17.30 Jon Hopkins DJ
16.50 Twin Shadow
16.30 Jon Hopkins DJ
15.50 Mount Kimbie *
15.30 Laneway Festival DJ
14.50 Matthew Dear Live Band
14.20 Laneway Festival DJ
13.50 Connan Mockasin
12.50 2.54
12.00 The History of Apple Pie

Village Mentality Stage

Time Artist Wanna see
21.35 Gruff Rhys *
20.25 Anna Calvi *
19.15 The Sea and Cake
18.00 Omar Souleyman
16.55 Konono No.1
15.50 About Group
15.25 Jon Hillcock DJ
14.45 Ariel Pinks Haunted Graffiti *
14.20 Jon Hillcock DJ
13.50 Mark Kozelek *
12.55 Toy
12.00 Faust

Bloggers Delight/Lanzarote Stage

Time Artist Wanna see
20.00 SBTRKT
19.00 Jamie XX *
18.00 Actress *
17.30 Casper C DJ
16.50 Zola Jesus *
16.25 Nik Nik Nik DJ
15.45 Oneohtrix Point Never
15.15 Skull Juice DJ
14.45 Darkstar
14.25 Casper C DJ
13.50 Ducktails
13.25 Skull Juice DJ
12.45 Anika *
12.00 Lanzarote DJ

Shacklewell Arms/Lock Tavern Stage

Time Artist Wanna see
22.20 Glasser *
21.55 Chad Valley
21.20 Factory Floor *
21.00 Dollop DJ’s
20.30 Born Ruffians *
20.10 Dollop DJs
19.40 Tribes
19.20 Sexbeat DJ
18.50 Trophy Wife
18.30 Sexbeat DJ
18.00 Clock Opera
17.40 Leather Boy DJ
17.10 Martin Creed
16.50 Leather Boy DJ
16.20 Givers
15.55 Feeding Time DJ
15.25 Cloud Control *
15.00 Feeding Time DJ
14.35 CocknBullKid
14.15 No Pain in Pop DJ
13.50 Spector
13.30 Beach Creep DJ
13.05 Creep
12.45 No Pain In Pop DJ
12.20 S.C.U.M
12.00 God Dont Like It DJ

Do You Come Here Often? Stage

Time Artist Wanna see
21.00 Veronica Falls
20.40 Star Slinger DJ
20.10 The Bookhouse Boys
19.50 Star Slinger DJ
19.20 Spectrals
19.00 No Bones DJ
18.30 Still Corners
18.10 No Bones DJ
17.40 Visions of Trees
17.20 Jig T DJ
16.50 Echo Lake
15.00 Boom Boom Cabaret
13.40 Dance Party 4000
13.20 Greenwich Tea Party
13.00 Club.The.Mammoth VS Grimes DJ
12.40 Alitrec
12.20 Kicker Conspiracy DJ
12.00 John McIvor

A little bit of Brixton was lost this morning.

Image courtesy of Rocker_44This morning squatters of Clifton Mansions were evicted after a 15 year occupancy of building. Lambeth Council who own the building plan to turn it into luxury flats, which for me seems to go very much against the original purpose and essence of the flats.

Located on Coldharbour Lane the 22 flats were built in 1896 to house the workers of Brixton Theatre (now the Ritzy cinema) and over the years have maintained a strong cultural link with the community - former residents have included members of The Pouges, The Cult, and notably 2004 Turner Prize winner, Jeremy Deller.

In recent years the building has suffered a decline in maintenance but lost none of the character which made it special or the sense of community from those who inhabited it, many of whom were musicians and artists contributing to the local area.

In 2007 the Clifton Mansions Initiative (CMI) put together a regeneration proposal at the heart of which the vision was to provide 22 affordable live/work units for use by the Creative and Cultural Industries. It would also provide retail units to help generate income for the workspaces and a centre for outreach programmes focused on tacking Brixton's social problems.

As recently as a few months ago I heard rumours that Lambeth Council may be interesting in resuscitating ideas from the CMI - sadly this seems not to be the case.

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