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Jon Atkinson

I'm a technologist, with a long and varied history in high-end technical delivery and infrastructure management. I'm particularly interested in managing software teams, rapid application development, and scalability challenges.

Leeds Hack 2

11th August 2011

Leedshack 2 was brilliant.

I'm going to write a more technical teardown on the Testled blog in the next few days, but I thought I'd just blurt out some nonsense while it was still fresh in my mind.

We built Barebones, which is a minimal wireframing tool from the iPad, written using Django, a bit of HTML5 and the Dollar gesture recognition library

Our intention in the weeks running up to the event was to try to 'just hack'; that is, to aim for something technically different and interesting, rather than building a product, which is what we did at the first Leedshack, and what Pete, Bryn and I did at the Opendata Hackcamp. Not that building products it a chore, but at times before now we've spent valuable time building the dull bits (like user registration, payment/subscription systems etc.) and when time is limited that hasn't served us well. We've always 'finished' our products at hackdays, but sometimes if felt like we had created work which we just didn't need to do.

As it turned out, we built the functionality of Barebones earlier than expected (in fact, we were functionally complete by around 2am), so we did end up polishing it into a final product, but this time it didn't feel like a rush, and I'm incredibly proud of what we achieved.

There seems to have been a gradual shift recently at hackdays towards larger teams and building more 'finished' systems. I'm pleased about this, not only for the competition we find in it, but because people are launching truly amazing sites like Please Pledge, which would look at home in the portfolio of any high-end agency. I'm always amazed at what a motivated team can get done in 24 hours, but this year I was particularly impressed. If you consider that our team has a combined day rate of about £2500 (and 24 hours is around four 'working days'), and weigh that against what we would charge for comparable work in a 'day job' setting, motivation is clearly the key difference, but it's still very satisfying to know that you're presenting something which just existed in someone's head 24 hours previously.

As usual, I didn't get around to speak to enough people, but the usual fantastic crowd was there (and Kian's shrieks as he shoehorned 4GB of data into an sqlite database was particularly funny), and if anything Leedshack has made me look forward to Barcamp Blackpool even more eagerly so I can have the opportunity to talk to everyone without the distraction of hacking.

Thanks, Dom and team for organising. You're all invaluable.