programme | speakers list & bios | preconference | main page
Access 2002 - Hackfest
suggested projects | hackfest logistics | hackfest results
Typically hackfests are gatherings of programmers who compete against or collaborate with each other for prizes, fame, or even notoriety. The Access 2002 Hackfest was a somewhat informal and completely collaborative effort to solve real world library problems using freely available tools.

In order to get an early start on the Hackfest, we posted some information on how we envisaged this working for the Access 2002 conference. Hackfests are activities that typically take place at technical gatherings and involve a group of attendees putting their collective resources together to solve a computer problem or develop an application before the end of a conference. This is sometimes done as a contest and may even involve teams, but for Access we were looking for a non-competitive and completely collaborative activity, and one that was not limited to the confines of the duration of the conference.

Also, we were particularly interested in finding ways that existing software tools might be combined to address in tandem the problems described below. There are, for example, many mature and developing free software projects for libraries and otherwise that might be used to quickly prototype responses to these problems, and where that may be the case a hackfest activity might be a group process of choosing tools and implementing them.

The key in all this was that the Hackfest be for all Access attendees, including reference, collections, systems, web, cataloging/metadata, and administrative librarians, not just for software developers, and everyone was encouraged to participate.

Now there were actually two more suggestions that came in than what is shown, but one was framed as "doing something with Google" without any details, and the other was a presumably tongue-in-cheek idea about using Z39.50 for finding porn sites so that it would achieve more mainstream appeal (-: But the four applications hinted at in the problem statements offered a challenge for all of us. To see what happened with them, check out the
Hackfest Results page. On to Vancouver!


 Problem descriptions:
 Here are the requests that have come in through the Access web site, if there is a system or application that you think would be useful to libraries that isn't here, or if such systems already exist, feel free to toss it out as a suggestion:

1. There is a need for a system to disseminate HIV/AIDS information and Learning Materials to health care workers in southern Africa. K-Net <> is one possible model for the type of system that could be used for this. The system will include a map of southern Africa with HIV/AIDS statistics on it, research documents, HIV/AIDS legislation for every southern african country, list of organizations and pharmaceutical companies, country profiles, publications, word and pdf documents, medical associations and research councils, treatment and care information, library catalogue, CD-ROM searches, other programmes that the organization is involved in, etc. The system will also have a password-protected section for members to access organization-specific information. [Note: this system would assist the South Africa regional office of the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care (IAPAC).]

2. Patrons are often interested in receiving e-mail lists in digest format, but it would be useful if the library could offer a service to create digests from several listservs, possibly based on subject areas, and maybe offering an option to scan message text for certain keywords. The listservs could be requested/selected from a central point, and patrons could choose to connect or disconnect from the service at any time.

3. Virtual Reference systems seem to become very expensive when they offer any kind of co-browser technology (a co-browser is a browser mechanism where a remote patron and library staff can view the same web page at the same time and see the same results). The chat technology of Virtual Reference Systems is easy to find in Open Source options, why not come up with a working co-browser? [Note: I haven't done any research to confirm whether Virtual Reference systems are really that expensive when co-browsing technology is offered, or exhausted all open source repositories to verify that a working co-browser does not exist, though there are several that haven't seemed to get off the ground. Perhaps someone more familiar with virtual reference can chime in on how useful co-browsers are?]

4. EZproxy is one of the most popular and useful systems for working with IP-authenticated resources, yet is quite cumbersome to add entries for new services and requires starting and stopping the system for changes to take effect. Building on some existing tools for working with EZproxy, it would be useful to a large number of libraries to define an Open Source management system for maintaining EZproxy.
Participate in Hackfest:
 In terms of logistics, the conference part of the Hackfest was operated out of the hospitality suite on the 7th floor of the Hilton.

Access 2002 > registration > registration online
Last Updated: 08/12/2021
For more information, please send e-mail to