The sparks of invention that led to Facebook, iTunes, Google and most technological advancements happened first through conversation.
Will Cadell is hoping sparks will fly when he and more than a dozen other computer technology professionals get together today for the city's first hackathon.
Hacking a computer sounds suspicious, like cyber thieves breaking into your personal machines to steal your information. This event is actually the opposite of that. Cadell and all those who attend will delve into the deep pool of open-access, publicly available data and try to come up with some helpful tool the general public could use.
"It's building things, not breaking things," Cadell said. "It is technologists coming together, collaborating and messing around with available data to build an 'app' or whatever for the common good. Our initial theme - because the Regional District [of Fraser-Fort George] is hosting us - is to think about civic duty and open public data about local government and maybe come up with something useful."
As inspiration, Cadell points to the Vancouver company Recollect that built a solid waste schedule app that is now a worldwide hit. Municipalities work with Recollect to input garbage collection schedules and other key solid waste data so local users will get a reminder the night before that their garbage should be set out in the morning for collection, or that a hypothetical massive dump of snow set back garbage collection so keep cans off the streets until the plows go by.
Taking a simple idea like that and giving it legs is what these informal group activities between computer peers are intended to do.
"It's a lot of data out there, but most people don't know it's there and even fewer people ever mess around with it in an application sense," said Cadell. "So this is an opportunity for the data-tech development community to have a discourse with our civic authorities about ways we see this data being used, things they can do to make it easier for people to handle the data, potential business applications using the data, and so on."
It is also a way for data-techies to meet each other. Cadell's expectations going in were for a handful of computer code writers to come out of their offices and studios and meet one another. As of Friday morning, more than 20 had registered to attend. More would be welcome, today or in the future, he said.
"I would be very surprised if we got a working application within the one-day exercise, but just the sitting down together and start these conversations and meet each other and start bashing around these ideas is very valuable. And it definitely illuminates the fact that P.G. actually has a tech community, as odd as that may sound to some people."
The evolving group has already been in preliminary conversations with the Canada Winter Games office, Northern Health and other stakeholders about working together on potential future themes. Cadell hopes to see hackathons happen several times a year.
Cadell is the proprietor of SparkGeo, a local company specializing in web mapping and connecting businesses to places. He is also part of the new entrepreneurial development group StartUp Prince George. Information on hackathons can be found on the StartUp Prince George website.
The event happens from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Regional District office at 155 George Street. All computer code writers, website developers, software designers, and other tech creators are invited to attend. There will be a Twitter conversation at #PGHACKS, and any questions can be emailed to he...@startuppg.org.