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Dar es Salaam Hackathon updates

1 Jun

Start at 0:0:50

Day 1 Report Out

SMS integration with Telerivet. It works! Translated into Swahili. Down to 10 lines of code. If you send something in the wrong format, it requests it in the right format, with example. Next up is #16 – goes from API to do something.

Translation – if we build this out, it should be usable to the community.

Discussed the user interface, have a few ideas on how to make it as simple as possible and usable for people who don’t know about coding or what’s behind it. Start coding tomorrow!

Setting up a new API end point. Spent most of the day understanding how it works, and how to make it work the way I want it to.

Community partners talked about how to indicate where a water point is, outside of its super long ID number, which is usually missing. USSD interface possibilities.

Data for flow rates are going to the cloud, working on how it ties into Taarifa in the model, and where it should live.

Built a mobile app. Have a fronted with the Tanzanian flag! Will code it up tomorrow. Can also add in new water points.

Day 2 Gear Up and Data Flow

The internet is really bad here, so here’s a link to the video, as I can’t watch it.

Taarifa Hackathon Update and Upcoming

16 May

We camped out for a few lovely days at the inspiring Little Devices out of N51 at MIT. Hugs and hearts to Anna and Jose who brought their brains and their space to our hackdays. And didn’t find our requests for things like buckets, tubing, and CNC strange. We were constantly surrounded by go carts and craziness. So happy.


Mark used the OSM-Bright style and started to add Tanzanian Open Data to create a basemap for Taarifa (and generally anyone interested in Tanzania). Have started to refocus the cartography on public services as opposed to navigation – roads are the design focus of OSM Bright – Mark is changing this!

Requests have been made to import this data into OSM, however, as yet have been unsuccessful – I am following up on this! So, seeing as I can replicate OSM’s stack insofar providing a map tile service is concerned, I’ve started to create a Tanzanian base map.
Before: TZ Before


After: TZ after

Next Steps

Currently continuing to work on it. Will need to understand how the loading of OSM Stylesheets into TileMill can be re-consumed by others, currently the work is installed on a local TileMill and isn’t packagable for wider consumption. Changing this is a priority.

Lives at

On Mark’s computer – needs to be on a github repo. As a (rather large) side note. The finished product will need to be hosted on a server with at least 100gb of space, if not more. Consequently understanding where and who has this infrastructure will be important.

User Interface / Dashboard

Drew did a bunch of work on this. Here’s a drawing from brainstorming:

And a link to the PDFs.
Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 7.24.56 AM

User Stories

It’s important to know who your users are, if you’re going to build any tool. By building out user stories based on experience and interaction, we can consider message format, connectivity, visual needs, and the like. Willow typed up a bunch of user stories based on her week in Tanzania.

Next Steps

There are some lingering questions that not enough experience was garnered in order to answer. Things like – if we want to show people that their reports are being acted on, but we can’t send them text messages back (if we’re protecting their identities), then having printouts at local municipal offices makes sense. What should those look like?

Code Base

Dirk and Florian led the charge on this.

  • Created initial installation and usage docs for the API and Waterpoints flavour of Taarifa.
    • Drew helped to guineapig this
    • range of bug fixes & doc fixes
  • Understand the sensor use case and how that relates to the Taarifa use case. Settle on the use of a separate, existing dedicated sensor api solution (potentially MITs chain-api).
  • Trying to complete the TaarifaWaterpoints application but ran into technical issues. Lots of debugging with Florian which lead to more a fundamental discussion as to what the scope of Taarifa should be.
  • Technical issues pretty much solved with a couple of things swept under the carpet for later. Scope discussion started on the mailinglist, community needs to comment (this is where a board could be useful)
  • Lots of discussions with Spencer (chain api), Jude (Promise Tracker), Ben (MoMo), Dan (Riffle) in between

Next Steps

  • Complete Waterpoint example so it’s usable
  • Main priority: focus on UI / Dashboard, implementing Drews mockups.
  • In parallel continue work (who?) on a more flexible, generic API depending on outcome of scope discussion on mailing list
  • Don’t actively evangalize Taarifa codebase to outsiders and other applications without some caveats.



Day 2 Updates

What Else?

There was also some killer work done on water sensors with Public Labs, and on telephony plugins with Tropo. Look for that followup here!

What’s Next?

Next, we’re taking this show on the road to University of Central London 5/24 and 25 (, and then to Dar es Salaam ( We hope you’ll join us, in person or remotely, for one or both.

See the list of our tasks on this hackpad page.

Taarifa featured as a Random Hacks of Kindness project at Google Zeitgeist 13

21 May

Dirk, Simon and Florian spent a very interesting and inspiring two days at Google Zeitgeist 13, representing Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) and Taarifa. We had been invited to show delegates and speakers from all over the world what these projects are about, what they can do for the world and what motivates us to invest our spare time to develop applications for social and humanitarian good.

Dirk demonstrating Taarifa to a delegate

Dirk demonstrating Taarifa to a delegate

We really got to experience Zeitgeist, listen to the talks broadcast in the demo area, try out Google glass and meet the other sandbox projects MaKey MaKey, 3Doodler and LifeWatch.

Florian exchanging his glasses for Google glass

Florian exchanging his glasses for Google glass

Scott Harrison gave a very stirring review of the story behind charity: water and the struggle to bring clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries. It would be great to learn from their raving success and discuss potential applications of Taarifa for water mapping.

Southampton Hackathon: Djangorifa

11 Sep

The Southampton Art House proved an apt venue for hacking on our return to Southampton. Building on the work at the previous hackathon we had a new toy to play with: Djangorifa – The new python version of the Taarifa platform. It’s currently in its very earliest stages of development, but where we’re going is clear, rebuilding from the ground up. The interface focuses purely on the data and reporting on it. If you’re interested in helping us develop it further, join us and check out our github for instructions to get started!

While hackathons on the Taarifa platform are a very good thing indeed, giving a view into how we develop our tools is as important as the hacking itself. With this shedding light on the problem statements, then design process, finally with incorporating lessons learned from deployments is important, and now fully incorporated in how we do things. Part of this is through videos and audio as well as code. Development in this area will get progressively more important as we grow. Our Knight Foundation grant has been submitted but more on this in a later post.