Report on the Will’s World Online Hack Event (Part 5/5) – Legacy

This post is the fifth and final part of our reflections on the organisation of an online hack for the Will’s World project.  The first post looked at the planning, the second post at the promotion , the third post at the format of the event and the fourth post at how things unfold during the hack. In this last post we look back over the hack and reflect on the experience.

All’s Well That Ends Well

Following the event we sent out an email summarising the final day to the mailing list and ensured that a blog post announced our winners. We also tried to ensure we linked to and acknowledged posts about the event – several of our participants have written about (or planned to write about) their hack experience, see Owen Stephens’ post  Shakespeare as you like it.

As the Will’s World Project had drawn to an end with the hack event, any potential follow up time has been limited although connections were made between data suppliers and hack participants where there was interest in taking ideas forward. The mailing list and Google+ Community remain available to allow on-going collaboration.

This Will’s World Online Hack felt a lot like a roller coaster ride. The planning of the event was the sharp ascent with a lot to learn, organise and set up in a short time frame before the exhilarating ride that was the event itself with its share of excitement and fear at the unknown twists and turns, with a smooth and happy finale being the hack presentations. It was very enjoyable! I would do it again and urge other to do so!

Now that the daze has settled, we can reflect on what we have achieved.


The use of social media as the main support for communication helped in creating a well documented trail of the event. The event wiki, project blog, YouTube channel, Pinterest boards, Tweeter and Google+ feeds were used throughout to broadcast the event and provide a catch-up facility to the participants. They remain available after the event and act as an account of the hack. The Shakespeare Registry itself is an Open Access resource fully available to all at:

The Will’s World Hack YouTube channel has recorded 473 views spread over 15 videos:

16 Nov 12 – 16 Dec 12 17 Dec 12 – 4 Feb 13 Total
Event Introduction 174 3 177
Data Introduction 49 1 50
Winning hack presentation 35 9 44
Opening session 29 29
Closing session 25 9 34
Day 1 2nd hangout 21 21
Day 7 hangout 20 1 21
Day 2 hangout 17 17
Day 3 1st hangout 16 16
Day 3 2nd hangout 15 15
Day 5 hangout 14 14
Day 4 hangout 6 6
Infographic hack presentation 3 2 5
Prize giving session 2 2
Day 6 hangout 1 1

We encouraged all participants to share their experience of the hack:


We used a Google Form to capture feedback, and you told us that:

  • The use of social media was great. Twitter had the lowest rating, probably because not all participants engaged with it. Twitter works best for immediate chat which didn’t work well with people at different times.
  • You like the friendly spirit of the hack and the opportunity to collaborate with people outside your field of work.
  • You like the XML plays.
  • You would have like a bit more directions and suggestions on what to do.
  • You would definitely consider taking part in an online hack event hack.
  • You have no suggestion on what would improve our online hack format! (Don’t worry, we do!)

Top Nine Outcomes

The main benefits of the Will’s World Online Hack were:

  1. To promote the Shakespeare Registry to the developer community within and beyond the UK academic sector. The dissemination efforts surrounding the event have reached a very large audience both from the art and technology world.
  2. To validate the outcome of the Will’s World project in terms of ‘aggregation as tactic’ and discovery principles. The submitted hacks provide specific use cases for such aggregations that may help inform other aggregation and registry projects.
  3. To promote the online resources and services listed in the Shakespeare Registry. It was very encouraging to see people contributing data and pointing to other relevant projects and resources.
  4. To evaluate a new format for a hack event and share reflections on the challenges and success of using such a format. The main success was the use of enabling technologies which supported the flexibility we wanted for the event. The biggest challenge was team building.
  5. To experiment with new combinations of social media and technologies as a primary channel for short term collaborative events.  Google+ Hangout was definitely the highlight here.
  6. To encourage Open Access. All the resources provided for the hack are freely available. The event itself was shared in as many ways as possible. The participants were encouraged to share their code, idea and experience. Several hacks published the code on github and personal blog.
  7. To create rich networking opportunities for professional and amateur developers, Shakespeare scholars, cultural organisations, and interested others both from across the UK academic sector and a broader international community.
  8. To seed potential new developments. It is clear that several hacks have huge prospect in term of being turn into fully fleshed applications or will serve as enabling technology for future projects.
  9. A range of fantastic hacks using the data provided in very different ways.

A Few Improvements

If we were to organise another online hack, what would we do differently:

  • A different topic: Shakespeare is a very popular subject with the advantage that there is a large audience for it but it can be rather over covered. It was a challenge in itself to find a focus that was novel and different for each individual hack.
  • More time for participants to familiarise themselves with the data ahead of the time and give a longer notice for people to register.
  • More effort: We had been warned it was going to be hard work! It was.  The planning wasn’t much different to an in-person event. The broadcasting of the event required a lot more rigour and effort in term of communication.
  • More structure: Too much flexibility can be confusing and create a lot of work. For example, having less check-in sessions and reducing the number of social media used would make for a more manageable event. Compulsory attendance at the first session may also boost participants’ active involvement and collaboration opportunities.
  • Less communication channels: being more selective would allow effort to be focussed on a selected set of preferred channels and avoid information, questions and collaboration opportunities being missed.
  • Different dates: Mid December is not conducive for much except Christmas shopping!

What next?

We hope to continue to inspire other projects to use our data or stage their own hack event. We will share our experience of setting up an online hack format with others: a presentation was made at the University of Edinburgh MSc in E-Learning Alumni Seminar, Virtual University of Edinburgh, Second Life, on the 20 February 2013, an article has been written for the next issue of  BITS, the digital magazine for Information Services at the University of Edinburgh, and guest posts for the (RSC, OKF) to share with their audience have been sought. We will keep contributing Will’s World Shakespeare Registry to future hackathon, the first of such event will be the Innovative Learning Week Hack help by the school of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh between the 18-22 February 2013.

We still have a few branded goodies to give away which will be awarded to use of the Shakespeare Registry in future hack events.


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