My 5th hackathon

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I spent a whirlwind two weeks leading up to the start of school interviewing fantastic nonagenarians on the Upper East Side and the Bronx for The Feast on Good social innovation conference.  I met a sharp-tongued, soft-spoken French woman, a self-described “life long Kochloffel”, or “person that stirs things up!”, and a nonagenarian psychotherapist.

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Any social innovation conference with a 1:1 Play-doh to attendee ratio is a winner in my book.  Working with The Feast team, we turned the raw anecdotes and life experiences of our stakeholders into the challenge briefs for The Feast Hackathon. 

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Sponsored by Intel, the Hackathon took place during The Feast, which made for such juxtapositions as a table of iOS developers talking shop while Arcade Fire gave an impromptu acoustic show onstage, yards away.  

Our research highlighted aspects of our stakeholders’ lives (elderly in the city, or single parents in low-income neighborhoods) that deserve attention from makers — designers, developers, anybody with empathy and a bias towards action.  

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We presented these specific needs of urban seniors:

- Reconnecting with communities surrounding interests and activities they used to enjoy in the company of others, but now experience passively and alone, as friends moved or passed away.

- Overcome social barriers that exist between them and younger friends or acquaintances.  Introduce the idea that younger friends and acquaintances are interested in what they have to share.

- Improve the painful research experience of families and seniors deciding on long-term care options.  Currently there is no unbiased, personalized, comprehensive, or crowd-reviewed information source.

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The urban senior findings were a part of the larger Intel Data Challenge, which was one of five challenges presented.

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In a slightly unorthodox turn of events, I participated in the Hackathon I helped write.  I worked with a brilliant team of iOS developers: Larry of House of Legend, Dana of The Melody Book, and Yeepeng of Cocoa Star Apps.  Over two days and really only 6 hours of total working time, we hacked together a demo of an iPad app we named Legacy.

Here’s a funny picture of me from the official Feast feed, presenting our demo onstage.

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Here’s what I said:


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Context for design: we’ve all heard this story: you grow old, you get sick. your friends pass, and you feel isolated from your family. But only dwelling on this story is dangerous.  because the danger of a single story is that it obscures all of the other ones.

And the older you get, the more you become a wealth of stories.  A woman I interviewed told me she only used her computer for one thing: to write down everything she wanted to tell her grandchildren.  

With Legacy, seniors don’t have to write their life stories alone anymore. Friends or family members request a legacy book from a senior using our application.  They send in questions to prompt the senior to tell their stories.  Over time, these compiled anecdotes become a book of precious stories, a keepsake for posterity.

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What speaking on stage at The Feast is like: a blur.

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A hearty thanks to Feast Hackathon sponsors, Intel Labs.  Above is Josh Bancroft from Intel, introducing all Hackathon participants onstage.

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The after party was fantastic, too.

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