From 13-15 November the amazing Odyssey Momentum Hackathon took place. Let us share our experience with you and also answer that one question that kept going round and round in our heads: what makes a hackathon a hackathon?
Members of TechTics have a rich history when it comes to hackathons and this one (again) truly stood out. The whole Odyssey experience was one big journey, as you could fly around in a massive online collaboration space. At first everyone had to overcome the teething problems of the new system, but after a while things really started rolling. Each team and challenge owner had their own platform, where you could learn from each others progress and interact on the spot. Definitely a very innovative way to bring 2,000 people from over 60 countries together in an online environment.
For this edition of Odyssey we formed a new team and participated in the Conscious Cities track which focussed on Scalable and Inclusive Living Labs. Very relevant for the Municipality of The Hague, where we operate, and also super interesting for our company since we are already part of Living Lab Scheveningen, where we did a demo with our BeachBot.
The challenge for our track: how might we automate access to a public digital ecosystem for citizens and machines in order to grow a conscious city? Certainly something to think about and luckily we had some preparation time, since the challenge was announced early 2020. After deliberation our focal point within the challenge eventually came down to 'enabling citizens to train a public object detection algorithm'. Main question we wanted to tackle for ourselves, is how to incentivize that process and how to integrate an ethical design from the very start?
For the occasion we joined forces with DataUnion. Together we co-launched the first Initial Data Offering (IDO) for ethically sourced data and dataset steward co-ownership in collaboration with Ocean Protocol. With the intended solution it is possible to keep (co-)ownership on the data you add to a dataset and get rewarded for enriching the data if this dataset is being sold or hired to be utilized, e.g. to train new A.I. detection algorithms. From our perspective this is groundbreaking. We are keen to utilize it for Project.BB (note for the Municipality: let's talk about that pilot :-)) and seek further collaboration with DataUnion to see how more of our use cases could benefit from this innovative setup. See our presentation for more information. And if you want to know more about DataUnion, please see this video where Tim of Crypto AI explains a bit more.
Then, our critical note: a hackathon should NOT be used as a pitch platform for 'established' companies! Of course, when a company sees a challenge that relates to their own business it is logical that you connect the dots. However the uniqueness of a hackathon is that you add a certain value to solving a problem and use the pressure cooker, like the 3-day Odyssey Momentum, to create something new. It is amazing to experience what could happen when a diverse group of people with a variety of skills put their heads together and work on solving issues based on new insights. If you just use you long time existing product to convince a jury, then you are not a hacker in our opinion. Unfortunately these situations keep occurring, also during Odyssey, and we therefore pledge for hackathons to stay true to their nature.
Having said that we also look forward again to the next physical hackathons, with a real-life networking aspect. We believe in the future of online collaboration, but for hackathons a hybrid form where you can still sniff (!), connect and collaborate with others in a steamy old fabric environment really gives that extra dimension to it all.
Many kudos though for the Odyssey organization for pulling off this 2020 version. For a startup like ours these type of events are truly worthwhile. We thank you for letting us participate and look forward to future editions and challenges.
Last but not least we want to thank our teammates Nayoung Jung, Krasi Bozhinkova, Alex van der Lelie, Marvin Kunz, Robin Lehmann, Edwin Bos and Martijn R. Lukaart. We really had a blast and learned a lot from all the feedback we received. See you next time!