This weekend there was a 24h Hackathon which brought together people from many different countries: OxfordHack. It was a rather unexpected event: Saturday I went to the Maths Institute to revise, but every room was taken by people coding. Completely unaware of what was going on, I saw a welcome stall and asked them what it was all about. Turns out some companies funded this hackathon for 24h, and they had an interesting list of activities scheduled (namely Werewolves or, as I prefer to call it, Mafia). I asked them “Can I join?” and got a successful “Yes”, which was surprising given that in their website Applications were closed. As they were telling me to find a team, Manish, who was passing behind me, said he was looking for people to join his team, and so that was sorted. He already had a project in mind, and goes as follows:

The Netherlands (Manish is Dutch) will be having elections next March, and the candidates will be officially announced on the 17th Dec. As expected those who want to run for president already have started their campaigns and are well known, even before their official announcement for presidency. Turns out that the current most popular candidate, Mark Rutte, is very similar to Trump. Following the belief that a significant amount of the votes come from misinformation and not genuine willingness to support Mark Rutte, Manish is invested in raising awareness of the urgent topics that need to be discussed instead of letting the election being decided by catchphrases such as “Take back control” and “Make America Great Again”. Whether this sentiment reflects the reality of the situation or not, that’s a different topic which I will not approach here. However the idea that a informed society makes wiser decisions is hard to question, and in support of that we are trying to bring hot topics to the attention of the public. As this was an hackathon, the project consisted of gamifying aspects of political debates, where knowledge of both facts and candidate’s policies are tested. Would you like to be put to the test?

We have designed the structure of the website (without coding), with a few topics being open in the sense that we have contradicting ideas regarding certain aspects of the app, but nothing that would prevent us from developing a single app together. We started building it using the ionic framework, but much more needs to be done (and fast if we want to release it before the Dutch elections).

Other than the project we played werewolves (a.k.a. mafia) during the night (I managed to get myself killed in both games during the first round despite being a victim) and there was one interesting challenge I watched: competitors were provided with a manual of html and css code, but no Internet access. Then we were shown Gmail’s front page and we had to recreate it in 20mins from scratch. Whoever gets the most similar front page wins. A couple of participants got my vote for doing the “404 error” page, but sadly/expectedly they didn’t win.

I ended up sleeping in the Maths Institute (as many others did), and when I woke up I started working on what I went to the Maths Department for: actual academic work. That was the end of the hackathon for me, but the project still lives. Let’s see what we make of it.