From the 1st to the 4th of April 2011, “Forward 25” hosted a Data Mashup event to look into new and innovative ways to visualise data from the UNFPA’s Upcoming State of the World Midwifery Report. “Forward 25” Careers is a social enterprise promoting creative action on future work and careers; focussing on young persons aged 9 to 25.
I had never attended a mashup event before so this seemed like a really good opportunity, right on my doorstep!
Experiencing the event…
The Data Mashup was a great success overall, but I cannot take much credit for that. Other commitments meant that I could only assist the team for the Sunday. Despite this, I found the event exhilarating, and a real insight into both the local talent and enthusiasm that exists for events such as these.
The event was very well organised by the team at Forward 25, and likely to be one of many. Before joining the team, my expectations were that I would be the odd one out and others would have had been there for the duration. This however wasn’t the case at all. There was a core team who had dedicated their time to the event, but many others had come for only a day or two.
I wasn’t expecting to get involved in the development so late in the event. The more dedicated developers at the event would already be battling against the clock to deliver functional apps for the following day – and likely would not appreciate needing to take time out to bring me up to speed. I would have preferred to add value by to the event as a tester benefitting from the fact that I had no prior knowledge of the developments. Unfortunately the development had not advanced to this stage yet. Completing an end to end app in just over 3 days was always going to be challenging.
In the end I thought I would attempt to setup a JSR-286 portlet development environment to offer an additional delivery approach for the midwifery data. Unfortunately this was a futile attempt because installing Liferay (preferred Portal server), Eclipse IDE, Liferay IDE plugin for Eclipse, and carry out the actual portlet development all in one afternoon was simply not possible. The attempt did however attract some interest from the fellow Java developers at the event who were new to portlet development; so I feel the effort was not wasted.
Can the event be improved?
As mentioned earlier, the event was organised very well by Forward 25, but as a first of its kind in Exeter, it would seem sensible to reflect on the experience with a view to hopefully making the next mashup event will be even better!
So here are some of my observations / suggestions:
- It would be useful if some preliminary information about the dataset feeding into the mashup was made available before the event. Maybe as a separate presentation & registration event. This would also provide an opportunity to identify which technical skills can be called upon before the actual event starts.
- There should be an emphasis on documenting the high level design of the app(s) at the end of the design phase. This document could be considered an induction document for developers who arrive later in the event.
- As this is a data mashup, it would be useful if the raw data is readily available via APIs or easily accessible databases; rather than the identification & setup of suitable services taking part during the event and deducting from the time available for the development of the apps.
If you’re interested in reading more about this mashup event, check out the following links:
- Forward 25’s official website
- “App Development for Upcoming State of the World’s Midwifery Report” – A report by Demotix