The power of a phone meets the flexibility of Drupal

In 2013, I attended an event in Canberra called GovHack.  It is a huge event with teams around the country all competing against each other to come up with the most fun, inventive and thought-provoking way of using Government Data.

Don’t be put off by the word ‘Hack’ in the title, everything is above board, so much so that Federal (and some State) Government agencies show up to help explain their Data to participants as well as provide a large chunk of the prize money.

While many people showed up in teams, or grouped up on the day, I showed up by myself with no laptop … only my phone.

The challenge

The challenge I had set myself was to see if I could make an entry into the competition using just my mobile phone.  This would mean I would need to:

  • find and manipulate data;
  • setup a web server;
  • install and configure Drupal;
  • display the data in an interesting way; and
  • create a project page and three minute video.

One more thing - I had to do it all in just under 48 hours, on a tiny screen, using mostly my thumbs.

Thankfully, the phone I had was a Samsung Galaxy, one of the most powerful on the market at the time. 

Having this phone in particular helped me greatly as I was able to download a large number of free applications from the Play Store to help me with the Data. Lots of stuff from spreadsheet applications to graphic and video manipulation.

I also needed a website in order to show the project to people.  During dinner I was remote controlling a server in the United States and by dessert I was installing Drupal on it. With the site setup I now had to organise the data.

The data set

The data set I had decided to use was wineries, hospital emergency rooms and police stations.  The concept was Everything you need for a great weekend.

The next problem was that the data was in a number of spreadsheets from a bunch of providers.  What would have normally been an annoying task on a PC became hours of hell on a tiny phone.  But, after wrestling with the data long enough, and using a number of fantastic Drupal modules and free phone Apps, I had the data in the website and ready to go.

The key now was to display it in a fun and interesting way so I decided to show all the data on an interactive map.  I installed a number of common Drupal modules and was able to quickly and fairly easily display the locations on a map.

The finished project

At the end of the event, with sore eyes and cramped fingers, I was able to present my project.

While I didn’t win any awards on the day, I came away learning so much about the power of the phones we carry around in our pockets as well as the huge flexibility that Drupal can provide.

It also gave me a great experience that I was able to turn into a TEDx Talk which I gave later that year and which you can see below.

TEDx Talk

Date posted:
04 August 2014
Authored by :
Toby Wild