Monday, June 2, 2014

Random Hacks of Kindness Boston 2014

The fine folks of the Boston brigade of Code for America have done it again... a fantastic weekend full of hacking, delicious food, and awesome projects!

This was also part of the kickoff of the National Day of Civic Hacking competition, but back to Boston, you can find tons of information in the event's hackpad.

Here though, I'm going to write a little about the project I was involved in, Union Capital Boston. The main idea is to create a system of rewards, similar to the typical restaurant or coffee shop loyalty cards, but in which people accumulate points through good deeds in their communities. This is targeted to individuals and families within lower income brackets, so that they can exchange points for things that can help them make ends meet, such as groceries or travel passes.

On the tech side, the main app is being built on meteor. To be honest, I didn't have a lot of time to form an opinion about how meteor works, but the one thing that took me by surprise is that being a node framework, it has its own package manager, and things are a bit confusing (sometimes you load packages from meteor, sometimes from atmosphere, and there's some support for npm??? dunno, I'm confused!).

I spent most of the Saturday trying to push the meteor app into a Cordova app. After many hours fighting with a few different solutions I found on the net, it turned out that the wifi we were using wouldn't allow two devices to talk to each other; so most of my time was spent trying to fix the unfixable. On Saturday night I arrived home, compiled the app without changing a thing, and it all worked. On Sunday back at GreenTown Labs, it wouldn't work again. In any case, you can check out the app in my github repo at UCapp. The readme file also documents all the research I went through on Saturday, and some failed attempts. You can find the main UC Boston app at Duncan's repo, and a lot more information in our project's hackpad.

It was great to meet new people and see some old friends that I hadn't seen in a while. Looking forward to the next meetup (and hackathon) already!

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