AALL Hackathon a big success

by Jennifer Wondracek

The second annual AALL hackathon was held on July 18th in Philadelphia. RIPS-SIS co-sponsored this amazingly productive day with GD-SIS and CS-SIS.

What is a hackathon? It’s where you get someone who knows about information, like a law librarian, together with someone who knows about technology, like a hacker, to build new information resources. Since law librarians have a special relationship with law and government information, we were particularly focused on federal, state, and local government documents. We invited Hallie Pritchett (the current chair of the Depository Library Council), Mary Alice Baish (Superintendent of Documents for GPO),  and Chris Siwa (Director of IT for AALL) to judge the Hackathon and award the $250 prize donated by GD-SIS.

We had 29 participants divided into 6 teams. The group had 7 hours to form teams, come up with ideas, and actually build the projects. This means that the projects were not always finished, but the amount of progress made in such a small amount of time was remarkable! One team (Team 4) dropped out after 5 hours when they realized that Google had preempted their idea, and another team (Team 6) could not be filmed because two of the team members were only 17 years old. They had a great idea though: to build a system where you could text or email a question which would be run through a list of government resources. The list of search results would then be sent back to you. They nearly finished the project even though we couldn’t capture their success on film!

We filmed the four other teams presenting their projects to the group. Here are the presentations (10 minutes and under). Disclaimer: filmed on an iPod. 

Team 1: 9th Circuit report generator

Team 2: courTweets—working to organize and track tweets from the courts

Team 3: Chrome extension that shows changes for federal code sections and chapters referenced in Google Scholar court opinions

The winner! Team 5: P.Law.T—Parsing Table 3 of the Statutes at Large to see which laws are the most important

It was a fun day, and some great projects came out of it.  We hope to continue holding hackathons, perhaps even extending the event to Friday night so that the teams can at least meet and start brainstorming the evening before, giving them more time to build the project on Saturday.

If you want to see pictures and tweets from the hackathon, search Twitter for the hashtag #AALLhack.

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