Get Your Tech On For The PHA Innovation Challenge

Posted on Mar 7, 2014 in Conferences, Events

Tomorrow morning, we’ll be getting together with representatives from the Partnership for a Healthier America and a group of coders, designers, writers, teachers and other subject matter experts to prototype solutions to two challenges that the PHA has set for this year’s pre-conference hackathon. If you are coming to event, it’s time to make sure that you have all your tech ready to go.

For those of you who are coders, the tools we’ll be using will probably be familiar already. For those of you who are non-techy, never fear! We’re using some great tools that you’ll be able to work with right away.

First off, if you haven’t done so already, make sure that you’ve read the two posts from earlier this week about the challenges we’ll be working on.

Throughout the weekend, we’ll be using a site called Hackpad to work collaboratively, keep notes during brainstorming sessions, and keep track of datasets and other research. You’ll also be submitting your team project using Hackpad. You’ll want to head on over to that site to Sign up if you don’t already have an account. The easiest thing to do is use your Google or Facebook account to log in and, voila!, you’ll be ready to go. Once you are in, take a few moments to read the Hackpad 101 tutorial, and watch the short video they provide there. Don’t worry about memorizing all the possible formatting options. You can always use that page as a cheatsheet over the weekend, and basic formatting is easy to do with the handy buttons in the Hackpad interface, just like you would see in your favorite text editor.

All the code for solutions created this weekend should be uploaded to GitHub so that it’s available to the world after the event. You can also use GitHub to help save and track changes in other sorts of documents, including text, images, video and more. If you feel comfortable with the command line but don’t yet know how to use git, read the Git: Your New Best Friend. Non-techies should read the introduction and concepts sections just to get an understanding of what this tool is used for. If you want a hands-on tutorial that’ll get you comfortable with git in 15 minutes, try github right in your browser.

Open source software is software that is licensed so that others are free to use, change, and distribute the software. We refer to this as “Freedom as in Liberty” as opposed to “Free as Beer.” (Or as some say, “Free as in kittens!”) The projects you work on at the PHA Innovation Challenge should be released with an open license so that your work can be used and further developed by anyone who needs it. GitHub has a page about how to set the license on your work inside your project. GitHub also runs a great site called where they take you through a decision tree to figure out what the best license for your project would be.

When you pack your backpack or briefcase to come to the Challenge on Saturday morning, remember to bring your laptop and charger. If you like to work, read or take notes on your iPad or other tablet, make sure to bring that, too. We’ll have pens and paper on site, but it wouldn’t hurt to bring your own if you have a favorite notebook or something.

We’ll see you in the morning!