HackSoton 2017

by Jack Pritchard

Hey! Just so you know, this article is over 2 years old. Some of the information in it might be outdated, so take it with a grain of salt. I'm not saying it's not worth a read, but don't take everything in it as gospel. If you're curious about something, it never hurts to double-check with a more up-to-date source!

Recently I had attended my first experience of HackSoton. The hack day is open to the public and is aimed at those who are creators, developers, or anyone who wants to be inspired by how technology can help produce fun and innovative ideas. The idea of the event is fairly simple. You may attend the event as a group, individual, or an individual looking to team up with someone at the event to form a group. Once you have decided how you will be working, it is then time to think of a project you are interested in, is achievable to complete by the end of the day (5 pm) and something that you can apply your skills towards. The team that I was a pleasure of working as part of was called 'Team Whatever', we couldn't think of a good name at the time but the mystery seemed to captivate the attendees. Our project was based off an existing source of inspiration https://www.webpagefx.com/internet-real-time/, we liked the idea of showing users of a website interesting facts in real-time. To avoid literally copying a concept for our project, we altered what topic our facts and statistics covered, by focusing more on the video games industry. Our goals were simple -

  1. Display statistics that are interesting and relevant to the public in real-time
  2. Allow for administrators to add new facts and sources without coding knowledge
  3. Encourage collaboration to the project by allowing it to be open source

Myself and Ben joy, a work colleague and my partner for the day arrived at the event early to get ourselves set up and to take full advantage of the free coffee and bacon baps. Once I'd had my injection of coffee and Ben had finished cultivating mass, we entered the main hall to find ourselves a spot for the day. We found ourselves a table which like many of the other tables was full of adults, teenagers, and some older children. This was great to see as straight from the get go you could see that the event catered to anyone with a passion. Soon after getting settled we were then introduced to the event by some of the organizers. Everyone was given a warm welcome to the staff members and given a rough outline of how the day was going to be structured. To wrap off the introduction Adam Burt was about to give the attendees the go ahead to get started when Etch revealed it was his birthday and so as with all British birthdays, a cake was brought on stage, a badge was handed to Adam and the hall became awoke to the singing of Happy birthday from all attendees! Now that all the pleasantries were done and out of the way, it was time for me and Ben to begin coding. Prior to the event, we had discussed setting up our development environment but due to my inexperience of hack days, I had assumed that would be cheating and would spoil part of the last fun. Little did I know but not only did we not have a basic development environment setup, but Ben didn't have any of the dependencies that I take for granted installed as he was not a developer by day. So we began the tedious process of installing NodeJs, SASS, and git! After around 3 hours of getting a basic WordPress development environment setup on both of our machines. We then began to outline the basic functionality of the website and how we can allow for any administrator to add facts without a coding background. This involved setting up some advanced custom fields and custom post types. I focused on modifying the core WordPress functions to enable the custom post types, whilst Ben searched for the all-important facts that we would be using on the website. We came up with a simple calculation for any facts we found for the website. The following calculation is how we got from a statistic such as 782,000,000 games sold a year (not a real statistic, just an example number) Original Statistic / 365 / 24 / 60 / 60 = Increment per second As you can see the calculation is fairly simple, we divide the original statistic by the number of days in a year, then by the number of hours in a day, the number of minutes in an hour and finally the number of seconds in a minute. This would give us the integer value that we will add to the current value of the fact since landing on the website. Once we had a basic counter in place, it was then time for Ben and me to start coding the CSS for the website, in order to make it look pretty and easy to digest. Ben hadn't had any heavy experience in coding CSS before, however, this was the point of the day! To learn something new and something that you have an interest in. I introduced him to some of the basic concepts of CSS and helped him branch out on GitHub so that when he was done it could be code reviewed before being merged into our master project. I would be lying if I said it was a walk in the park getting the project complete in time for the show and tell, in fact, there were many moments where we were pestering the rest of the Moov2 team at the event. A massive shoutout again to Mobin and Dan for helping us reach the show and tell deadline in time! After many hours of coding, before you knew it, it was 5 pm! I'd sunk a few free beers at the event and Ben had taken full advantage of the free lunch and dinner. So with one of us a little tipsy, and the other slightly bald from ripping his hair out from trying to understand CSS, we were ready to showcase the work we had done that day. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to stay too long after the presentation due to the event running longer than expected. From what I saw there were some impressive projects completed by the end of the day, many of which were carried out by individuals half my age! HackSoton was a great day and I would like to thank Etch, Moov2 and all of the other sponsors of the event for helping make the day happen! I look forward to attending next year and if you want to check out the real-time statistics website that we have made, head over to https://www.realtimegames.today, it is an ongoing project so expect to see updates in the future! Photograph Credit to Phil Dye and HackSoton.