Developers want to create from scratch. At Random Hacks of Kindness in Sydney,Australia, I was schooled by the Task Turks team. These very bright software developers created a tasking tool from scratch using Django, github, and some fierce project design thinking.
Task Turks team (Pamela Fox, Jared Wyles, Nathan Oehlman, Damon Oehlman,and Tom Jachimczak) created “Little Things” at the two day hackathon.
Task Turks Problem Definition:
During a crisis situation, a large number of tasks that are required for the commencement or resolution of relief efforts often stagnate as it is difficult to align specific tasks with people who are able to perform those tasks effectively. This may be due to specific skillsets being required or it may be a difficulty with aligning location specific tasks to people in the right area.
The Task Turking project aims to deliver a simple web interface to allow entry of tasks that are needed, specifying either specific skills, locations or additional information and then farm the jobs out to people performing the work based on the skills that they have. The project is adding smarts to the codebase, allowing for specific workflows of tasks dependent on user abilities and tasks themselves.
It was identified that users performing these tasks should also become rewarded through an achievement based system where performing tasks will lead to increased badges or achievements. These are also used to determine how a particular task will be performed – an example of this would be a task requiring translation. If a translator has not performed any work in the past, the task would then require a verification step either by the poster or by another user to ensure the quality of the translation is up to required standard, while a user who has done many translations in these languages would automatically be accepted as having performed a suitable job.
The code allows users to find jobs based on their specific skillset and allows search functionality to be saved for additional customization and ease of use. While being designed to be a simple intuitive interface, the project has included many flexibilities in the types of job requirements and skillsets that users have and tasks require.
Lead by Pamela Fox (a Google Wave team member by day) the team spent about 5 hours of the 1st day mapping out the project and building the requirements. Then, they taught themselves Github and started developing. The hardworking team even worked on the project up to the last seconds before the second day presentations. All the code and technical specifications can be found on the RHoK wiki.
Task Turk Project Team presenting “Little Things”:
Balancing innovation and problem definitions is never an easy job. With Crisis Commons work, we are concerned about duplicate software development projects. We simply don’t want to waste the time of keen, talented folks who want to contribute. I approached the Task Turk project as a duplicate effort. I was wrong. The more I consider the real-time use of this project, the more I become their advocate.
Development creativity at hackathons should be free to enthusiastically embrace a problem definition in the manner the developers see fit. As one person pointed out: “We are in development frames during our day jobs. We want to create from scratch.” Inspiring work can lead to more brilliant ideas. Change happens when people are free to innovate. I thought I was a believer before. Now, I am a drummer in their parade.
So, I am publicly thanking each of you for “Little Things”. Your teaching moment has made a big impact on my development in my volunteer time (as a lead for Community Development with Crisis Commons) and with my professional career. Oh, and for introducing me to the awesome Aussie candy: Whizz Fizz. Thank you!