Sharing some resources

I’m gathering resources for an international group of colleagues, for a workshop where we’ll be discussing principles for App and Platform development for Citizen Science. The vast majority are coming from the academic world, so unfamiliar with the stuff we’ve been discussing at Over the Air for years now.

And I’m not necessarily au fait with the lastest thinking either, so I’ve called out to folks on Twitter to share some of the favourite guidelines and resources for good UI/UX design. Thought this might be a good place to share what everyone sends me. I’ll keep it updated as stuff comes in.

Design Tools


Lists of existing CitSci Apps, Platforms and Tools

Blogs Reviewing / Listing Citizen Science Apps

Project / App / Platform Design Resources



We’ve got 3D scanning & printing!

3d sponsorThanks to Hercules, as Manager of our Art Space at OTA16, and with the support of both Mystery Vibe and 3dscanbot we have a 3D scanner and printer in the Main Hall, to use to your heart’s content!

If you haven’t had a play with it yet – get cracking, and join them for a hands-on workshop on the fly.  Scans can be manipulated in 3d modeling software ready for printing.

Hercules has invited some exciting musicians and artist to join us and perform, and will be doing some live painting. Let him know if you are interested in working together with him on some  rapid development tools by dropping him a note at @herx.

SYNTHESYS is Hackathon Sponsor of OTA16

We’re thrilled to announce that SYNTHESYS is sponsoring the Over the Air Hackathon this year, as well as running the Natural History Open Data Challenge.


SYNTHESYS is an EC-funded project, of which the Natural History Museum in London is one of the 20 members, to create an integrated European infrastructure for natural history collections. It’s activities include funding short research visits to selected natural history collections and herbaria within Europe, developing virtual collections improve the quality of and increase access to digital collections and data within natural history institutions by developing virtual collections.

nhm-data-portal-first-steps-toward-the-graphoflife-6-638The Natural History Museum in London is committed to open access and open science, and has launched the Data Portal to make its research and collections datasets available online. It allows anyone to explore, download and reuse the data for their own research.

Our natural history collection is one of the most important in the world, documenting 4.5 billion years of life, the Earth and the solar system. Almost all animal, plant, mineral and fossil groups are represented – and we’re inviting you to get involved!

To find out more, come join our Workshop Session on Friday at 15:30 in the Marquee, watch our Lightning Talk at 19:00 in the Main Hall, and enter our Hackathon Challenge! is Lightning Talks Sponsor

logo-crateWe are pleased to announce that the lovely team at are the Sponsor of OTA16 Lightning Talks. CrateDB is a new kind of datastore that combines SQL and search in a way that’s simple to scale. The next wave of big data is being generated by “things.” Sensors, wearables, vehicles, networks, servers can generate millions of data points per second. was founded in 2013 to help mainstream SQL developers put all that machine data to work, simply. Just like our database we’re distributed, with teams in San Francisco, Berlin, and Austria. Find out more at: is delighted to be joining other world-class technology sponsors to support one of our favorite technology events as the Marquee sponsor. CrateDB is an open source, distributed SQL database with integrated search that makes it simple to store and analyze massive amounts of structured and unstructured data in real-time. Our team has worked hard to be sure CrateDB works great with machine data, allowing you to stream millions of sensor readings, network messages, call detail records, and other machine and log data into CrateDB per second.” – Jessica Rose, Head of Developer Relations

Enter the CrateDB data challenge at the OTA16 hackathon!

At Crate, we’re big fans of data. Big data, small data, open data. We want to see what you can do using the CrateDB, oodles of data, and the limitless power of your imagination.

Luckily for our happy hackers, a SQL database shouldn’t be too hard to integrate into most projects, letting us focus on judging entries that use CrateDB to build creative, compelling projects around interesting data. Libraries are available for Java, Python, Ruby, Go, etc. so choose your flavor! We’ve put together some demo applications here to get you started!

Give-aways and Prizes

We are pleased to tell you about some wonderful give-aways and prizes at Over the Air this year:


GitHub Repositories for all

OctocatGitHub is how people build software. Millions of individuals and organizations around the world use GitHub to discover, share, and contribute to software. This year at Over the Air, ALL ATTENDEES will be receiving one month of unlimited private repositories, for individual use.

In addition, the WINNERS of each category in the Hackathon will be given one year of unlimited private repositories.


Pluralsight Trial Certificates for all.

ps-logo-with-icon-horizPluralsight is an on-demand technology learning platform, and this year at Over the Air they are giving ALL ATTENDEES  a free trial,  and 3 lucky HACKATHON WINNERS a full annual license, with access to 5200+ technology courses from beginner to expert level as well as skill assessments. Very useful for budding technology wizards!


O’Reilly Books for every Hackathon winner


The lovely people at O’Reilly Media are once again donating a wide range of informative and instructive books for all of our Hackathon winners:

1. Best in Show LEGO Christmas Ornaments Book, The No Starch Press
Maker’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, The No Starch Press
Arduino: A Technical Reference O’Reilly Media
2. Audience Favourite Cooking for Geeks O’Reilly Media
3. Best use of Open APIs / Open Data Data Wrangling with Python O’Reilly Media
4. Best Android Entry High Performance Android Apps O’Reilly Media
5. Best iOS Entry High Performance iOS Apps O’Reilly Media
6. Best Windows Entry Make: Fire Maker Media, Inc
7. Best Mobile Web / HTML5 Entry CSS Secrets O’Reilly Media
8. Best Game Entry Game Art No Starch Press
9. Best Use of Other Features: Bluetooth, NFC, RFID Messaging, etc Make: Bluetooth Maker Media, Inc
10. Best Hardware / IoT Hack Engineering for Industrial Designers and Inventors O’Reilly Media
11. Best Wearable Hack Designing for Sustainability O’Reilly Media

Other Hackathon Prizes include:

  • An Amazon Echo Dot from Nexmo for the winner of the Nexmo API Challenge
  • Access to the Digital Catapult Contributor Programme for 6 months, donated by the Digital Catapult Centre to the Best in Show
  • An Apple TV donated by Twitter to the Audience Favourite
  • Two Samsung Gear VR headsets, donated by Samsung, for the winner of the Best Game / VR entry
  • And more still to be announced!

What to read when you’re not at OTA

**EDIT: I stand corrected, “ESR  (as Eric Raymond is most well known) did NOT write the Jargon File. He is a maintainer of it. You can see the revision history at The Jargon File was published as a book as the Hacker’s Dictionary (and then the New Hacker’s Dictionary).”

– thanks David!!

(correction picked up below)


I was just taking a little trip down memory lane, to the time when Matthew Cashmore helped organise the first Yahoo! open Hack Day in London, back in 2006. Which lead me to Chad Dickerson’s blog post about the 4th ever Yahoo! Hack Day and a lovely little reading list:

You may already be familiar with Eric Raymond’s writing (if not, get on that!!), but you may not know he also maintains the Jargon File, which includes a great definition of ‘Hacking

“Hacking might be characterized as ‘an appropriate application of ingenuity’. Whether the result is a quick-and-dirty patchwork job or a carefully crafted work of art, you have to admire the cleverness that went into it.”

and a brilliant Bibliography that you can add to your reading list next. You’re welcome!


Here are some other books you can read to help you understand the hacker mindset.

[Hofstadter] Gödel Escher Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. Douglas Hofstadter. Copyright © 1979. Basic Books. ISBN 0-394-74502-7.

This book reads like an intellectual Grand Tour of hacker preoccupations. Music, mathematical logic, programming, speculations on the nature of intelligence, biology, and Zen are woven into a brilliant tapestry themed on the concept of encoded self-reference. The perfect left-brain companion to Illuminatus.

[Shea-ampersand-Wilson] The Illuminatus! Trilogy. Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. DTP. ISBN 0440539811.

(Originally in three volumes: The Eye in the Pyramid, The Golden Apple, and Leviathan).

This work of alleged fiction is an incredible berserko-surrealist rollercoaster of world-girdling conspiracies, intelligent dolphins, the fall of Atlantis, who really killed JFK, sex, drugs, rock’n’roll, and the Cosmic Giggle Factor. First published in three volumes, but there is now a one-volume trade paperback, carried by most chain bookstores under SF. The perfect right-brain companion to Hofstadter’s Göodel, Escher, Bach. See Eris, Discordianism, random numbers, Church of the SubGenius.

[Adams] The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Douglas Adams. Pocket Books. Copyright © 1981. ISBN 0-671-46149-4.

This ‘Monty Python in Space’ spoof of SF genre traditions has been popular among hackers ever since the original British radio show. Read it if only to learn about Vogons (see bogon) and the significance of the number 42 (see random numbers) — and why the winningest chess program of 1990 was called ‘Deep Thought’.

[Geoffrey] The Tao of Programming. James Geoffrey. Infobooks. Copyright © 1987. ISBN 0-931137-07-1.

This gentle, funny spoof of the Tao Te Ching contains much that is illuminating about the hacker way of thought. “When you have learned to snatch the error code from the trap frame, it will be time for you to leave.

[Levy] Hackers. Steven Levy. Anchor/Doubleday. Copyright © 1984. ISBN 0-385-19195-2.

Levy’s book is at its best in describing the early MIT hackers at the Model Railroad Club and the early days of the microcomputer revolution. He never understood Unix or the networksthough, and his enshrinement of Richard Stallman as “the last true hacker” turns out (thankfully) to have been quite misleading. Despite being a bit dated and containing some minor errors (many fixed in the paperback edition), this remains a useful and stimulating book that captures the feel of several important hacker subcultures.

[Kelly-Bootle] The Computer Contradictionary. Stan Kelly-Bootle. MIT Press. Copyright © 1995. ISBN 0-262-61112-0.

This pastiche of Ambrose Bierce’s famous work is similar in format to the Jargon File (and quotes several entries from TNHD-2) but somewhat different in tone and intent. It is more satirical and less anthropological, and is largely a product of the author’s literate and quirky imagination. For example, it defines computer science as “a study akin to numerology and astrology, but lacking the precision of the former and the success of the latter” andimplementation as “The fruitless struggle by the talented and underpaid to fulfill promises made by the rich and ignorant”; flowchart becomes “to obfuscate a problem with esoteric cartoons”. Revised and expanded from The Devil’s DP Dictionary, McGraw-Hill 1981, ISBN 0-07-034022-6; that work had some stylistic influence on TNHD-1.

[Jennings] The Devouring Fungus: Tales from the Computer Age. Karla Jennings. Norton. Copyright © 1990. ISBN 0-393-30732-8.

The author of this pioneering compendium knits together a great deal of computer- and hacker-related folklore with good writing and a few well-chosen cartoons. She has a keen eye for the human aspects of the lore and is very good at illuminating the psychology and evolution of hackerdom. Unfortunately, a number of small errors and awkwardnesses suggest that she didn’t have the final manuscript checked over by a native speaker; the glossary in the back is particularly embarrassing, and at least one classic tale (the Magic Switch story, retold here under A Story About Magic in Appendix A) is given in incomplete and badly mangled form. Nevertheless, this book is a win overall and can be enjoyed by hacker and non-hacker alike.

[Kidder] The Soul of a New Machine. Tracy Kidder. Avon. Copyright © 1982. ISBN 0-380-59931-7.

This book (a 1982 Pulitzer Prize winner) documents the adventure of the design of a new Data General computer, the MV-8000 Eagle. It is an amazingly well-done portrait of the hacker mindset — although largely the hardware hacker — done by a complete outsider. It is a bit thin in spots, but with enough technical information to be entertaining to the serious hacker while providing non-technical people a view of what day-to-day life can be like — the fun, the excitement, the disasters. During one period, when the microcode and logic were glitching at the nanosecond level, one of the overworked engineers departed the company, leaving behind a note on his terminal as his letter of resignation: “I am going to a commune in Vermont and will deal with no unit of time shorter than a season.

[Libes] Life with UNIX: a Guide for Everyone. Don Libes. Sandy Ressler. Prentice-Hall. Copyright © 1989. ISBN 0-13-536657-7.

The authors of this book set out to tell you all the things about Unix that tutorials and technical books won’t. The result is gossipy, funny, opinionated, downright weird in spots, and invaluable. Along the way they expose you to enough of Unix’s history, folklore and humor to qualify as a first-class source for these things. Because so much of today’s hackerdom is involved with Unix, this in turn illuminates many of its in-jokes and preoccupations.

[Vinge] True Names … and Other Dangers. Vernor Vinge. Baen Books. Copyright © 1987. ISBN 0-671-65363-6.

Hacker demigod Richard Stallman used to say that the title story of this book “expresses the spirit of hacking best”. Until the subject of the next entry came out, it was hard to even nominate another contender. The other stories in this collection are also fine work by an author who has since won multiple Hugos and is one of today’s very best practitioners of hard SF.

[Stephenson] Snow Crash. Neal Stephenson. Bantam. Copyright © 1992. ISBN 0-553-56261-4.

Stephenson’s epic, comic cyberpunk novel is deeply knowing about the hacker psychology and its foibles in a way no other author of fiction has ever even approached. His imagination, his grasp of the relevant technical details, and his ability to communicate the excitement of hacking and its results are astonishing, delightful, and (so far) unsurpassed.

[Markoff-ampersand-Hafner] Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier. Katie Hafner. John Markoff. Simon & Schuster. Copyright © 1991. ISBN 0-671-68322-5.

This book gathers narratives about the careers of three notorious crackers into a clear-eyed but sympathetic portrait of hackerdom’s dark side. The principals are Kevin Mitnick, “Pengo” and “Hagbard” of the Chaos Computer Club, and Robert T. Morris (see RTM, sense 2). Markoff and Hafner focus as much on their psychologies and motivations as on the details of their exploits, but don’t slight the latter. The result is a balanced and fascinating account, particularly useful when read immediately before or after Cliff Stoll’s The Cuckoo’s Egg. It is especially instructive to compare RTM, a true hacker who blundered, with the sociopathic phone-freak Mitnick and the alienated, drug-addled crackers who made the Chaos Club notorious. The gulf between wizard and wannabee has seldom been made more obvious.

[Stoll] The Cuckoo’s Egg. Clifford Stoll. Doubleday. Copyright © 1989. ISBN 0-385-24946-2.

Clifford Stoll’s absorbing tale of how he tracked Markus Hess and the Chaos Club cracking ring nicely illustrates the difference between ‘hacker’ and ‘cracker’. Stoll’s portrait of himself, his lady Martha, and his friends at Berkeley and on the Internet paints a marvelously vivid picture of how hackers and the people around them like to live and how they think.

Lightning Talks at OTA16

It’s time once again to submit your idea for a 5 minute lightning talk for Over The Air. On Friday evening everyone will be gathering back together in the great hall for a series of Lightning Talks, put on by members of the community. Each speaker will have exactly 5 minutes in which to inform, inspire, enlighten and entertain us.

Why not give it a go? Your talk can be about ANY topic you want – are you passionate about a particular geeky subject or just know a lot about something very niche? Built a cool hack previously you’d like to show off? The tell us about it!

You can also check out what previous talks have been about for a bit of inspiration.

Thibaut LTAnd we’re not super strict about that 5 minute limit – although you should prepare and practice for a 5 minute talk, we know that it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and over-run a bit, so we’ll give you up to 8 minutes for a bit of breathing space (after which a timer will go off and you will have to leave the stage). 

For those of you interested, we’re also providing space/time to practice your talk before the event, with a handful of experienced speakers to help give you feedback. Find out more on our Lightning Talks page.


In memory of Luke Razzell

OverTheAirLogo(blackbackground)We are very sad to have learned today of the passing away of our friend Luke Razzell, known to many of you as @weaverluke – a kind and creative man, always full of ideas, who designed the Over the Air logo for us.

Words fail us, so we’ll use his, that he used to describe his inspirations for the design, but fit him rather well: “Over the rainbow… a mandala… an angel… a radio mast…”

If you knew him too, and would like to make a donation in his memory, you can do so here:

Our flag is flying black and at half mast.