This saturday I went to my first hackday – the LocalHackDay NYC, organised by Young Hackers.
I’ve been trying to get more involved in social enterprises whilst I’ve been in New York. There’s lots of opportunity to volunteer here, and lots of good people that do that, but it feels like I should use the knowledge I have and do something related to computer programming. I’m teaching as my full-time gig right now, and I love it.
Sure, there are poor schools, and there are funding problems, and progress is slow. But there are charities and libraries, and the truth is that access to tech is getting easier and things are getting better.
Additionally, kids today have the kind of innate understanding of computers, interfaces, and processes that people of my generation never had. Ever seen a baby with an iPad? Young people know technology like I knew lego – there’s no semantic gap, it’s all just built in. It’s awesome – it’s why all I want is to live long enough to see what today’s newborn builds.
So on Saturday I went along to the General Assembly offices right here in NYC to find out. The YoungHackers, are a group of high school students who “aim to bring together high school students from all different backgrounds that are interested in technology and programming”. They find spaces in the city, and get sponsorship for pizza and prizes from big tech companies and local charities.
Go back and read that again, I’ll wait. These guys are incredible. Are you a software developer? Happy in your job? Comfortable? The guys and girls at YoungHackers are coming for you. They’re high school kids who are organising event spaces, adult supervision, food, games and competitions, mentoring and tuition, and times where themselves and their friends can get together and build awesome stuff with computers.
I worked with a young chinese guy who powered through a marathon 12-hour solo coding session to ship a 2-player iPhone game where two people hold opposite ends of the same phone and race to solve math problems.
I cut code with this guy who built a Firefox plugin that would stop him wasting time when he was supposed to be working.
We had a rap battle after lunch. An hour-long rap battle when high school kids rapped about git, css, hacking and JSON. What does JSON even rhyme with? “I got my code on” – that’s what. COOL.
And all this is happening before they’re cynical, before they get caught up in the vim vs emacs or tabs vs spaces nonsense. They’re so bold. They’re not afraid, not nervous. They’re in a world they’ve built for themselves – where being nerdy isn’t bad. They’re not shy – or if they are, they’re out there building apps for other shy kids. How awesome is that? How amazingly cool is it?
The whole day – 12 hours of it – was enlivening, and uplifting. I met some friends in the bar afterwards and talked their heads off for another hour before I crashed, the poor things.
So thanks to General Assembly for hosting. Thanks to the NYC CTO, the excellent Minerva Tantoco, for her introduction and her colleague Caroline, who’s working to make New York an even better place for innovation than it already is. Thanks to the Young Hackers and their excellent mentors at AllStar Code for hosting, and finally thanks to the excellent students for reminding me that I’m not safe in my job and that I should learn to carve wood or something.