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GovHack Brisbane wrap up

Old Folks United, a multidisciplinary team of engineers and designers from Red Hat, Redfish and Klyp, were the biggest winners at GovHack prize night at QUT The Cube last Thursday, taking home the national Best of Digital Humanities award, as well as the Best of Brisbane award and Think Big Culture prize.

Their playful GovHack entry, BrisBert, guides the user through a history of Brisbane through the eyes of “Old Man Brisbane”, or Bert, as they dubbed this virtual persona. Prompted by a topic of the user’s fancy, Bert sets off on a ramble, explaining what he “remembers” of that particular topic, augmenting his often verbose descriptions with relevant articles and images from multiple open data sources including Trove, the Queensland Museum and Picture Queensland. BrisBert was unique among GovHack entries in at least two ways: first, it attempted to weave a narrative around the data served up from the various data repositories rather than visualising it with charts and graphs; second, it was the only GovHack project we came across that invented a fictitious character through which the user engages with the content. For these reasons, BrisBert was a deserved winner, we think, in the Digital Humanities category. It remains to be seen whether their original thinking inspires more teams to think a little more outside the box next year. We at TSJ hope so!

Old Folks United also produced one of the higher quality videos during the 48 hour competition.

Also faring well at GovHack Brisbane was team Bread Pudding, whose entry, Historify, won the national Data Journalism prize (split with the magnificent Australia in Review). Inspired by the Storify web application, Historify enables journalists, historians and other users to curate related stories from among the millions of archived news and magazine articles in Trove. Then the user can view these stories on a timeline or on a map to reveal temporal and geographical relationships. Here’s the Historify video.

Another notable Brisbane entry was One, but many, an entry from last year’s national Digital Humanities prize winner, Anna Gerber, and her team, Hack the Evening. The National Archives of Australia awarded their prize for the best discovery interface for the passenger arrivals dataset to Gerber and her team mates, Tam Mckenzie and Brendan Halliday.

A final mention goes to team Amethyst, comprising three fifteen year olds from John Paul College. These enterprising tenth graders won the Brisbane Spirit of GovHack award, worth $1000, for demonstrating the values associated with GovHack.

Across Australia, it seems to us that the bar was raised in terms of the quality of outcomes from a 48-hour hackathon such as GovHack. Many teams demonstrated that much can be achieved in a very short space of time. For example, Australia in Review and PlaceMe, both created by teams in Perth will presumably see continued use and further iterations. We wouldn’t put it beyond the realm of possibility that PlaceMe, in particular, might evolve into a commercial service in the real estate space.

We here at TSJ are looking forward to next year’s edition of GovHack!

To see all the entries from Brisbane and around the nation, head over to the GovHack Hackerspace.

Don’t forget to take a look back at our live coverage, and stay tuned for a wrap up of GovHack on the Gold Coast.

About Ricky Robinson

When he's not writing for The Tech Street Journal, Ricky's working at NICTA, Australia’s ICT Centre of Excellence, where he performs a mix of industry engagement, research and, of course, software engineering. Ricky holds a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Queensland and spent some time in Mountain View, California, at Sun Microsystems Research Labs. Ricky's the prime instigator of TSJ.