Hull Digital are another good reason why you should live in Hull. They’ve been going for a while now and I’ve gone along to a number of their Meetups. I always leave with plenty to think about, and tonight’s meeting was no exception to this.
There were a couple of speakers tonight. First up was Marc Towler who was speaking about Open Source. Marc made some very good points about Open Source development, including one which I think is particularly relevant to students. Taking part in an Open Source project is a great way to get development experience. It exposes you to production quality code, and lets you work with other developers, some of whom will be the best in their field. It lets you build your expertise and get yourself noticed. It is a wonderful way to break the “can’t get a job with no experience – can’t get experience without a job” cycle. And with a wealth of projects out there it is very likely that you will find one in an area you find interesting.
The second speaker was Adam Jennison who works at Hull City Council. These people are in the big league when it comes to data processing, with more systems than they can count and a huge number of users, all with different needs. Adam was talking about Open Data and how the council is building APIs that will allow developers to get hold of council data and use it. By the use of appropriately designed interfaces based on RESTful principles, anyone can take the information and do things with it.
For me the strongest message from the talk was that Adam doesn’t see himself as in the business of predicting exactly how the data will be used, or how it can be combined with other data to produce new kinds of applications. He spoke about one or two ideas that he had, and how the open data could be used within the council itself, but it seems to me that there are all kinds of fascinating options to explore. Benjamin Welby, who also works for the council, has written some interesting background here.
From a teaching point of view the possibilities for great projects and practical work look really interesting.