FreedomHack: hacking for Aaron Swartz and freedom
In his 26 years of existence, Aaron Swartz, who hanged himself in 2013, had arguably worked on more things than anyone else his age. He changed the internet in a way no one could have imagined — from authoring the RSS syndication specifications at the age of 14 and then co-creating the Markdown.
Soon after he started web.py and attended the first summer school program of YCombinator, he started backing up the internet using The Internet Archive. He then founded Infogami which became part of Reddit, and he was later acknowledged as one of the co-founders of Reddit. Aaron worked strongly in the field of internet activism and freedom of information.
In 2011, Aaron was convicted on several charges, including wired fraud and computer fraud for downloading research papers from JSTOR in MIT campus. He was instrumental in stopping the passage of SOPA. Aaron was found dead on January 11, 2013, in his apartment. On August 3, 2013, he was indicted into the Internet Hall of Fame.
As a tribute to Aaron, software developers and hackers in Bangalore came together on February 8-9 for a hackathon aptly titled, FreedomHack. While most hackathons are aimed at identifying talent, FreedomHack was different. It was to remember and carry forward the work of Aaron Swartz. Organised by InMobi, the only requirement at the 24-hour hackathon was to do something using open dataset (most preferably data sets in the public domain).
Over a hundred people registered for the event and a lot of intelligent ideas and brilliant implementations were discussed over coffee and Redbull. The top hacks from the hackathon were:-
1) PERCO – Personal Emergency Response Ecosystem. An app by Power Train, a team of students from PESIT, created this award-winning hack to save lives during the ‘Golden Hour’. The app uses predictive analysis to nearest safe zone in case of an emergency and live-tracking, support and updating features to ensure that victim’s whereabouts are reported in real-time. The winners took home a cash reward of INR 50,000.
2) All Street Journal – Another brilliant app, made by a team known as Miners, it collates all the news around the web and identifies the areas which the news is related to thus making the news context specific. For example, if there are more reports of harassment of women from a particular area, it can mark the area as not safe for women. The app won the second prize of INR 30,000.
3) Feeling Lonely – An awesome app whose USP is letting strangers find other lonely strangers to play multiplayer games without revealing their identities. We think it was inspired by Valentines Day. This team was aptly named Loners, and took home a cash reward of INR 20,000 to party together.
Another interesting hack was Freedom Box – A Raspberry Pi computer which could store all the Khan Academy and Wikipedia content offline, thus making sure the knowledge is available even offline and accessible from any place.