Getting our hack on

Getting our hack on

The inaugural FutureBook Hack takes place this weekend. What can we expect?

First, we anticipate that up to 100 hackers from a range of disciplines will attend, including developers, coders, students, entrepreneurs, publishing and the media. University College London are kindly hosting the event and it is here our hackers will meet and interact with each other, as well as ‘publishers’ and other mentors.

I put the term ‘publisher’ in quotation marks deliberately. One of the things that has thrilled me in the run-up to the event is the number of people, both from within the companies we are working with and beyond, who simply want to come along - whether to hack, or simply lend advice or enthusiasm.

Formality is being dispensed with. What we hope to have is a big melting pot of talent unsiloed by affiliation, but brought together by shared passion for books, underpinned by the range of skills they arrive with. In Porter Anderson’s piece with Rick Joyce, chief marketing officer for Perseus Books Group (which ran a US publishing hackathon last year), Joyce remarks: “A hackathon is a way to socialise what you're looking for, to socialise publishing's needs to a community that might have the skills to work on those needs." Publishing might sometimes appear to lack the technological skills to push into the digital tomorrow, but when it comes to socialising it over-indexes.

Second, we have lined up a range of speakers, both inspirational and educational. The keynote inspiration talk is led by Blackwell’s digital director Matthew Cashmore, who has brought boundless enthusiasm and energy in his role as FutureBook Hack producer. Here is a link of Matthew talking about Over the Air, the hack event held at Bletchley Park, he has helped produce for a number of years.

Other talks include Daniel Appelquist, Open Web Advocate at Telefonica, and Jon Rogers, Professor of Creative Technology at the University of Dundee who has been an invaluable aid in the organisation of the hack event and one of the biggest supporters of the hack outside of its founders.

Publishing partners, including Pan Macmillan, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Faber, and Nielsen, will provide content; while mentors will be on hand to articulate the challenges, provide access to the content, and guidance. Among these mentors will be Nathan Hull, digital product director, Penguin Random House; Helen Jeffrey, associate publisher at the London Review of Books; Rick Joyce, chief marketing officer for the Perseus Books Group; Catherine Allen, senior manager at TouchPress; Joanna Ellis, c.o.o. The Literary Platform; Andre Breedt, director, Nielsen Book Research (for the full list, hit this link).

Reinventing audio, re-mixing children's books, the challenge of content curation, and mining metadata will form the core of the challenges put in front of hackers.

The hack takes place over 30 hours beginning at 10.00am on Saturday 14th June at University College London. There is a £5,000 prize for the overall winner, with other prizes on offer which will be announced on the day. The winners of the hack will be unveiled at a special drinks event, being held at new members club, LIBRARY, next Thursday 19th June.

There are other prizes, too, including Firefox OS devices, the Geeksphone Keon and the Geeksphone Peak, and a full suite of Touch Press apps. More prizes will be announced on the day. Food and entertainment will be provided free of charge including education sessions, films, reading, and yoga. The image on the right of this blog, is from the design of the specially-commissioned t-shirts.

For more background on the hack, read this fab PorterMeets with The Bookseller’s Alice Ryan, and Porter's piece with Rick Joyce. We are also pleased to announce two sponsors. Drinks have been provided by event sponsor Virtusales, and story-telling website Movellas will be on hand to lend its expertise.

Yvonne Biggins, director, business development and community, had this to say about why they’ve come on board. “Movellas is very pleased to be sponsoring the FutureBookHack. Hundreds of thousands of teenagers spend 10,000 hours a day on Movellas engaging in stories and storytelling, sometimes hacking the features of our platform to create a more immersive, collaborative and creative reading experience. We have been working with publishers on some exciting storytelling innovations, some of which we will look to take to market early next year, which will really radicalise the ways in which stories are consumed. It seems only right, in representing the next generation of readers and writers, that we should be involved in such a great event that may just produce the next new storytelling innovation.”