In association with heise online

Wednesday, 3 August

Issy and Joe finally made the Ofgem site cough up a tiny, old data set of 18 installations (viewable only in IE6) and plotted it, and that's it for Solar. They're trying to think up a second project.

Josh is still out sick; Kush's new partner, Alex, helped him finish Snackonomics. They, too, are looking for a second project. Alex favours correlating wealth to school quality or crime. The Social Network, he says, made him realise how powerful a medium the Web is and inspired him to learn PHP. His target, he tells me, is the "Most likely to annoy" prize.


Zoom Joshua Allwood at Osmosoft
Source: Wendy M. Grossman

The 4pm demo shows me that what Priyesh and Daniel are trying to do is harder than I thought. The front end is average for this crowd: plot positive/negative points on a map and mash up with government data on multiple deprivation. It's when they explain that they crowdsourced training data and show the sentiment analyser returning positives and negatives that I see they're building the equivalent of a Bayesian spam filter. Granted, they're adapting existing tools, not writing them from scratch, but still. I feel stupid for underestimating them and think my inability to see the difficulty without prompting is why I’d be a poor judge.

Priyesh's efforts to understand a spreadsheet of multiple deprivation index data are also revealing. The columns are labelled with internal jargon, and there's no telling which way the rankings go. It's a lot like reading uncommented program code. A crew recording the event for Rewired State comes by to video-interview the kids.

"What would you be doing if you weren't here this week?" they ask Daniel.

"I'd just be at home coding anyway," he says.


Zoom Kush and Alex at Osmosoft
Source: Wendy M. Grossman

Thursday, 4 August

Today I skip Osmosoft to visit the centres at the Guardian and Bletchley. The difference in atmosphere is marked and, I think, largely due to Ruston's organisation and personality. It helps that this is Osmosoft's third year running a centre. Last year, he tells me, they felt they didn't give the kids enough help. "Not so much technically," he says, "but being part of the gang with them." Hence the emphasis on interaction and chatting.

Emma Mulqueeny, the brains behind this whole operation, has, along with a couple of other Rewired State guys, also been touring the various centres. The highlight for her seems to be the thrilled emails she's getting from parents whose kids are filled with excitement at finding themselves at home among people like themselves.

Overnight, I check the YRS IRC channel and find Issy posting anguished screams about the difficulties of hacking JavaScript.

Next: Friday, 5 August

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