Ideal Hacker Party Communication and Location Architecture

April 14, 2008

I go to an event called Super Happy Dev House. It’s an event for hackers to share their technical interests in a free-form semi-party environment. So you basically get a lot of people interchanging between conversation and typing on laptops.

A friend recently pondered about how to form a system to gather all of the secondary/summary data about attendees to facilitate intellectual pollination. As it is, the current SHDH is haphazard (though extremely fun). There is a wiki page where some attendees put their project interests. Sometimes there aren’t name tags.

My ideal hacker party system is one where acquiring information about people and preparation for introduction is implemented by a communication and location support system. When an attendee arrives, they get a name tag, positioning system, and walkie-talkie. Let’s say they are interested in hacking robots and they currently program in Python. They write this down in the system through a webpage. Or they temporarily bind a notification service such as Twitter or Facebook Alerts to their locater. No matter what publishing channel they use, they now have a way of entering asynchronous information into the system.

The other guests can go to a webpage that shows where everyone in the house is. When they click on a person’s icon, they see everything the user has published while at the party. There will also be a feed of notices created in the last fifteen minutes, so you could for instance see all the things people have been talking about or want to talk about.

Here is my ideal use case. I come to SHDH wanting to talk about robots. I input this into the system. Someone sees this and quickly gravitates to me to show me their robot. They talk to me about what programming languages I know. I put on my position feed that I know Ruby and C# fairly well. A friend contacts me on my walkie-talkie to ask me if they would join a Ruby conversation they are having. This behavior goes on throughout the night.

The potential for such a system and the new types of behavior it could foster would be amazing. It’s like being part of a group mind. Not to mention there would be a group memory, as the logs of the party would be saved. They could later be scraped for data to characterize each event. And all this knowledge would shape the next event. It would be glorious. A party that became an organism.

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