Attendees at the San Francisco branch of the FindCollabs hackathon were, in some ways, representative of the larger culture of the Bay Area tech world. We came from all over. We varied from students at coding bootcamps to programmers with decades of experience. We were hobbyists and directors of cutting edge startups and individual contributors at stalwarts of the industry. And we came with vague ideas, concrete plans, and unpledged skillsets ready to be pointed at a Github repo and told to have at.
That variety was surprising and refreshing to Krzysztof, who expected everyone to show up with their own projects, unready to work on other ideas. He said that’s been his previous experience. But the focus on openness and creativity at the FindCollabs event, plus the fact that it was not limited to in-person code contribution over a very limited time, seemed to bring in people ready to help others. I was surprised, too, to meet Marianna from Detroit; I moved from the Midwest to the Bay Area half my life ago, but I am still struck with joy when I meet others who did the same.
One programmer in particular exemplified that joy and offered hope, though. She introduced herself to Jeff and explained that when she moved to the United States and decided to learn programming, her regimen included the Software Engineering Daily podcast. She didn’t yet know English, so she learned it from his voice. Her project is Zeitgeist; a browser extension that would present simple poll questions when opening a new browser tab. Admittedly, it wouldn’t be very scientific, but it would provide a little spark and awareness of the world beyond the computer screen.
Those moments of serendipity and organic discovery are essential to Noble, an attendee for whom presence in the real world around us seemed a nearly sacred aspect of life that he fears we are losing in the race to digitization. When we discussed where to go for dinner after the event, everyone reached for their phones to search; but Noble advocated for walking up the street and seeing what looked good. Not that he’s a luddite; he’s excited by good data presentation such as visualizations) and wants to find ways of using our senses and their natural data-processing strengths to the best effect. Wouldn’t it be great to be presented the data in a way that allowed us to be present in it?
Discoverability is, of course, a perennial topic in the modern computing experience. The FindCollabs main project list is ordered by recency of updates, which means every time you go, you might see the newest project. There are filters, of course, by both project category and open roles, as well as project search tool. It’s also, unsurprisingly, a common topic of the projects.
Ombi wants to improve the process of discovering places you’ll love by remotely checking out the “vibe” via candid video walkthroughs. You can use the style search to find a coffeeshop with an industrial aesthetic, or a friendly, communal feel. Other projects include music calendars and ad-hoc casual meet-up organization, as well as social networks specifically for university students, academic collaboration, and of course, geek subculture pursuits like hardware hacking. Exploration and discovery. The world is so large and so full of interesting things that there’s no way to see it all. Sometimes the secret is to just open your eyes and take in what you see. Sometimes it would be helpful to have these magic boxes help us find what we don’t even know we’re looking for.
If you want to bring your ideas, plans, or unpledged skills to bear on creative endeavors of various stripes, the FindCollabs hackathon runs until midnight Pacific time on April 14th. It’s not limited to software; any creative, collaborative project is welcome to enter. Details are available at https://findcollabs.com/hackathon.