Sunday, June 05, 2011

Random Hacks of Kindess #3, Toronto

We live in a fast paced world. But every once in a while we get to stop and smell the roses. For me attending RHoK#3 Toronto was like "smelling the roses".
This was my first RHoK, (pronounced rock). I went to the event not knowing what to expect and came out of it expecting to attend every future RHoK organized, (next one is in October, check it out!).

It was a surreal experience and I tell you why. Firstly, the event was well crafted and get this by a group of volunteers who had taken care of everything: from finding a good location to host the event, OISE UofT, to sponsors who provided food, and snacks, (loved the Kinder Eggs, thanks!), to freebies, even to live streaming of the Stanley Cup Finals, (hacking while watching hockey, cool!). Secondly, the individuals who attended the event, I must add: from all walks of life, had one common goal/interest: to be part of a solution. Thirdly, and this impresses the most, the teams made of these individuals were able to design, develop a solution for a problem definition in a day.

Let me tell you my story attending RHok#3. I joined the Wound Classification Application team. The problem, suggested by Yaser Alyounes, was to design a prototype for an application that will be used in refugee camps or in areas troubled by war to streamline the process of classifying war wounds by taking pictures of the wounds. The benefits triaging the wounded far from qualified doctors and facilities quickly and efficiently.

We had very talented individuals on our team who quickly dissected the problem, analyzed each piece, and constructed the decision tree. By 12:20 pm we had a flowchart and owners/developers for each section. Some dived deep in the areas of their expertise and others researched, downloaded, and mocked around with software and source that were unfamiliar with.

I worked on the FrontlineSMS, an application that allows user mass communication via text
messaging. FrontlineSMS is an open source project that has been used in disaster relief situations. By connecting a mobile device, or a GSM modem with a SIM card to the computer where FrontlineSMS is installed you can send and receive messages to other devices that accept text messaging. I had some problems with the software, but I was able to test its send and receive capability, literally at the eleventh hour. By that time the team had decided to replace FrontlineSMS with a phone application that would let the volunteer to identify the four coordinates of the picture taken of wound. :) The coordinates of those four points will be sent from the app to the database. Once they are in the database, the algorithm calculates the dimensions of the wound based on those coordinates.

All in all this was great fun. Events like RHoK makes solving problems that our world is struggling with so much easier.

A big shout out to all those behind RHoK!


Dougie Haywood said...


I'm carrying out PhD research at the University of London into people who take part in events and groups such as Random Hacks of Kindness so was very interested to read your blog. Would you be interested in participating in my research by answering a few questions? Feel free to email me on - thanks, Douglas Haywood

Visda said...

I'd be to answer questions about experience attending Random Hacks of Kindness.