Hack Necromancy

[this is thinking-out-loud rather than a concrete proposal]

The hack necromancy hackathon track: bring dead hacks back to life. We would find tech projects that have fallen into disrepair, fix them and relaunch them.

I was thinking about how to connect the hackathon to the theme of stewardship. Development (especially open-source development) is really good at some aspects of stewardship. e.g. sharing resources (code), building things for the general good, open collaboration with volunteers.

But we often fail on another aspect of stewardship: preserving our assets through time, keeping them available for others even when we have lost interest. We generate a lot of great new things, which don’t last more than a few months or years:

  • hackathon projects which are forgotten after the event
  • grant-funded projects which die when the funder moves on to the next new thing
  • for-profit projects which close when the company goes bust

We should be able to do better!

Usually it takes much less work to fix code than to create it in the first place. But we don’t do it much, because our attention is taken up by building new things.

Before the event we’d reach out to our networks. We’d want to find projects which:

  • Are reasonably simple (e.g. the kind of things built at hackathons)
  • Don't work -- need to be fixed, or updated, or completed
  • Would be useful, if they did work again
  • Have the source available
  • Ideally, the original creators support having them worked on
  • Whatever infrastructure they need (servers, domains...) we can either get access to, or replicate ourselves

During the event, we would:

  • Select projects based on the skills/interests of participants
  • Get them working again
  • Improve them so that they can be kept running easily in the future (e.g. better documentation, automatic updates, make them easier to install elsewhere)
  • (re-)build the user communities

Great idea!

Really good attitude, @danohu, I like your style. The idea proposed by @Rémy here is a sort of necromancy, because this was a 2005 (I think) project that then fell into neglect.

Any specific idea?

Thanks, Alberto, and I’m glad you already see a possible project.

I didn’t have any particular project in mind, though it’d be pretty easy to find some.  For a start, we could just look at the records of almost any hackathon. I’ve surely helped build a dozen or more sites at various hackathons, and almost none are still running. I’m sure other hackers in this community would have similar experiences.

The harder question is filtering them down to those which (a) we care about, and (b) it’s technically feasable to get working again. I think ideally you would do (a) first, and have it led by users rather than techies.

[also, it looks like I’ll be focusing on the edgeryders website during the lote hackathon. So this is an idea either for another time, or for other people to take the lead on]