And a Good Hack Was Had By All

The first WorldCat Hackathon was held last week at the Science, Industry, and Business Library of New York Public Library, an RLG Partner institution. We had more than thirty attendees, with over 60% from RLG Partner institutions. Judging from the feedback we received from attendees both in person and on the evaluation forms, I think it was a rousing success. It’s hard to get a true feel for the event if you weren’t there, but both pictures and a video are available to try to give you a flavor for it. Even so, there’s nothing I can do for you about the incredible food you missed (thanks, Alice!).

We began the day with introductions¬† and brief reviews of various Grid Services we offer. We also handed out a list of other library-related APIs that I maintain. We solicited ideas on how participants wanted to break up into groups, “voted” on where we wanted to go, and sent the groups off to various rooms based on the participant count. We debriefed toward the end of the first day, and facilitated group dinners with sign-up sheets.

Based on feedback we’d received on the first day, we offered an ad hoc “Web Services 101” course on the second day for those who wanted a more gentle introduction to SOAP, REST, SRU, and related topics. At the end of the day we also offered a review of the Common Query Language (CQL) part of SRU. My research colleague Ralph LeVan (also known as “Mr. SRU”) did an excellent job of both informal courses, and was ably assisted by my San Mateo office colleague Bruce Washburn.

A major part of the success of the event beyond the learning that happened was actual running code, which Eric Morgan of the University of Notre Dame does a pretty good job of covering in his blog post on the Hackathon. People did some really interesting things, and I think we’re just beginning to see some of the innovative things coders will find to do with some of these services.

We couldn’t have done it without our partner hosts, NYPL Labs led by Josh Greenberg, and my colleague Alice Sneary who handled the logistics with incredible skill and aplomb, including finding a top-notch t-shirt designer that created a crowd pleaser t-shirt for the event (and no, you cannot have mine!).

Given that this event seemed to meet our goals for getting OCLC Grid Services out there in the hands of developers, in a way that can speed adoption and use, as well as getting their feedback on the services and what they’d like to see from us in the future, it seems clear we will do this again. We’re considering doing it in Europe in the Spring, and already have an RLG Partner institution lined up ready to host.

Meanwhile, to keep up to date with this and other happenings, check out the Developer’s Network, and be sure to sign up for the mailing list where we will be sure to let you know about events at ALA Midwinter as well as the next Hackathon.

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