Rewired State

Connecting geek and government

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Young Rewired State round-up

Our guests were far more efficient than we were at writing up the happenings at Young Rewired State on the 22nd and 23rd August 2009. Apologies for our tardiness, we have pretty much recovered now so there are some important things to note and people to thank.

Firstly the young people who attended:

  • Elliot Theis
  • Jordan Hatch
  • Grant Bell
  • Jonathan Davies
  • Bryant Tan
  • Tim Dobson
  • Fergus Ruston
  • William Tinsdeall
  • Isabell Long
  • Rob Barry
  • Callum Lamb
  • James Bowden
  • Thomas Wood
  • Horatio Caine
  • Joe Henthorn
  • Ben Webb
  • Kyle Richards
  • Sahar Abdulrahman
  • Robert Leverington
  • Andrew Davidson
  • Sufian Hassan
  • Marcus Nelson
  • Jamie Dickinson
  • Sufyaan Patel
  • Nick Scott-Jones
  • Poppy Johnson
  • Shyam Thakrar
  • Samuel Hale
  • Richard Fontaine
  • Jawsh Jawshington
  • Alexander Jethwa
  • Jordan Smallin
  • Josh Buckley
  • Tim Dobson
  • Lawrence Job
  • Connor Smith
  • Stephen Mount
  • Thomas Veness
  • Harlan Kohll
  • Vivan Jayant
  • Scott Dennison
  • Richard Thompson
  • James Stoker
  • Max Siegieda
  • Marcus Stewart Hughes
  • Sarah Frost
  • Sean Whitton
  • James Robson
  • Daniel Kershaw
  • Chris Parsons-Giles
  • John Paul Dickie
  • Edward Worthy

We have bios for most and will put them all up here somewhere, when we have approval from them to do so. They had a variety of skills, a heady mix of highly skilled developers, young entrepreneurs who already run successful tech businesses, science and innovation geeks and those with a basic understanding of coding but a raging passion to understand and do more.

How did we find them?

Initially we used the power of twitter to get the word out, then we started calling people we knew who might know any young people with the interest and skills and finally we charged the mighty Dan Morris of the BBC with getting at least 50 people signed up. With a mixture of his contacts and going to events, he drummed up a list that grew so rapidly we had to close it in the end. Of the 55 signed up when we closed the list, 53 turned up <- an incredible achievement, and thanks mainly to Dan contacting every one and making sure they were able to get there and, for the 15 year olds, had permission from parents. Thank you, Dan! Now an honorary member of the Rewired State team.

In addition to this we used our own networks and it did help when Tim O’Reilly tweeted about us…

What did we do?

At the beginning of the weekend we gathered everyone in the St James’s Park room at Google London and outlined why we were there: to see what we could create over the course of two days using public sector data. Mentors, who had come along with a variety of skills, stood and introduced themselves and outlined their capabilities/passions.

After some hasty scribbling we put up sheets of paper with broad topics that might be a good trigger for an idea, such as: crime, sport, culture, travel. The obligatory post-it notes were dished out and everyone was asked to put down any ideas they had, or issues they wanted resolved and they were then grouped around topics. From then on everything really fell into place; people self-organised into groups, found a mentor and got on with creating stuff (we did have a few individuals that worked one-on-one with a mentor too).

Over the rest of the weekend we really just concentrated on leaving them to it, feeding, watering and encouraging where necessary. The mentors were brilliant and moved from group to group to share their expertise where needed.

What did they make?

Check their projects out live on our creations page

Education and the web (1)Compares violent crime rates with exam results (education)
Education and the web (2)Does having broadband affect exam results in the area? (education)
Education and the web (3)OFSTED results (education)
StepSafeRoute planner. Creates heat map of areas to avoid (based on violent violent crime data)
TFHellReal-time bus service status updates
Blab to BettySex & sexual health service for web and mobile – complementing the Talk to Frank service
AgeVerifierOnline age verification service using passport authentication
BlogoticsSniffs “mood” of the blogosphere around given Parliamentary Bills
Untransport DirectPlans journeys door-to-door. If a connection is missed, can replot the journey on the fly
How’s My Train?Live train service updates.
Will Work For PeanutsWork experience placement finder and advertiser.
EngageLeisure activity database.
UnicloudUniversity course search engine
Free The TheoryGet around the copyright on driving tests to enable more people to take theory tests online.
Schoolroutr 2.0 BetaSafe routes to school.

At the end of it all, everyone was asked to present what they had done to a group of government people, Press and the judging panel. Enormous thanks to our judges for coming along at 4pm on a Sunday afternoon:

  • JP Rangaswami, MD of Design at BT
  • Mark O’Neill – DCMS CIO
  • Ben Hammersley – Deputy Editor of Wired UK
  • Diana Johnson MP, Undersecretary of State for schools
  • Craig Elder – Communities manager for the Conservative Party
  • Helen Milner – MD of UK Online centres
  • Mike Hoban – Head of Communications Directgov
  • Dan Heaf – 4iP

Prizes were awarded in the following categories:

  • Most likely to be bought by Google: TFHell: Horatio Caine, Jordan Hatch, James Bowden, Lawrence Job
  • Wish I’d thought of that (prize category courtesy of Harry Metcalfe): Work for peanuts: Bryant Tan, Vivan Jayant, Daniel Kershaw, Shyam Thakrar, Chris Parsons-Giles
  • Most likely to antagonise CIO council (proposed by Mark O’Neill CIO of DCMS): How’s my train? Callum Lamb and Thomas Wood
  • Overall best in show: Schoolroutr 2.0 beta: Stephen Mount

Special mentions were given to:

  • Free the theory test: (developers yet to put their names to this)
  • Blogotics: Ben Webb, Joe Henthorn, Richard Thompson
  • UniCloud: Richard Fontaine, Marcus Hughes, Jawsh Jawshington, Sufian Hassan
  • Blab to Betty: Nick Scott-Jones, Poppy Johnson, Sufyaan Patel, Jonathan Davies

We are in the process of contacting all winners and organising their prizes, we have been jaw-droppingly rubbish and slow at getting this done – apologies to all (again!)

How did we afford it?

By the generosity of our partner Google and the sponsors, who dug deep (and even deeper when we started running over budget when we realised we had to bring so many from across the country, and accommodate them overnight safely and close to Victoria).

  • Department of Children Schools and Families
  • Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
  • Directgov
  • Department for Culture, Media and Sport
  • CIO Council
  • Unboxed Consulting
  • 4iP
  • The Guardian

It is very important to note that most of the sponsorship came from government. Our message is intentionally harsh and we want to prove the power of Agile working – but government departments wanted to be a part of this, to learn from this and indeed to take on some of the creations, or at least incorporate what had been done, in future planning. It is with thanks in main to them that this weekend happened. (Money was spent mainly on travel and accommodation in London for the young developers, food and computer hire took up most of the rest of it, with a little left over for prizes.)

What happens next?

Everyone was keen to remain in touch and to continue the work they had started. Some, like DFEY, were an established network – but work is underway to create a way for this collaboration to continue, for the young people and also for those who might want to tap into this talent.

The applications continue to be worked on, and you can watch this in real time on our projects page. We will be talking to all sponsors about those that might be useful to take forward and launched as services provided by government.

Rewired State was set up originally as a hack day for people who wanted to do something practical, rather than talking about what government should be doing. The first one ran in March 2009 and was so successful that we decided to make it an annual event. The idea for Young Rewired State came about when we kept hearing of the struggle government was having trying to get young people to use their websites. Rather than setting management consultants at the problem, we thought we would set some young people at it instead and see what happened.

Interesting discovery: the problems they want solved are no different than the frustrations everyone experiences, and their solutions were simple, focused and in retrospect – often blindingly obvious.

So now, we get ready for the next one! (After a year off)

Ed: There will be another Rewired State run in March 2010. We need a little bit of beer and food sponsorship (but not much as everyone can take care of themselves for getting to that one!) and people to sign up – oh and a venue.

Enormous thanks to the following:

Dan Morris – without whom we really could not have pulled this off at all, not just the gathering together of the young developers, but he threw his hat into the ring with everything – mad dashes across London with laptops, tough financial negotiations the lot <- you are a star

Harry Metcalfe – who provided server and server troubleshooting, mentoring and even suffered through our weekly Thursday night prep meetings without complaint or exasperation

Tiffany St James – who was unfortunately away for the event, but in the run up to it organised all of our press and event liaison, (and us when we flailed about), helped spread the word across government about the event and was generally wonderful

Milo Yiannopoulos – who intended to pop in and see what was going on, then possibly come back on the Sunday afternoon; turned up, stayed, carried on staying, came out with us on the Saturday evening, promised to return the following afternoon, but was there bright and early helping out, finding out who was doing what, writing lots of lists and finally mastered the show and tell session after exhaustion and loathing of public speaking beat Emma into the back seat. You were a legend, we are eternally grateful

Luc, Layla and Laura from Google (plus the Google mentors whose names we do not have – which is bad)

Finally, if you want to read about what everyone else said, then we encourage the use of our partner’s natty tool: Google Search and see the news items and blog posts; there are also many photos on Flickr if you search for ‘youngrewiredstate’ or ‘young rewired state’; and Lee Martin from the department for children, school and families (DCSF) put together this video:


James Darling, Richard Pope, Emma Mulqueeny

Founders of Rewired State

Filed under Young Rewired State Rewired State James Darling Emma Mulqueeny Richard Pope