In January 2018 we hosted a Fake news themed hackathon at our place in Karlín. We organized this nearly 24-hours-long meeting together with Endowment Fund for Independent Journalism and Open Society Fund, so that the programmers could cooperate with data analysts, designers and journalist to enrich their own projects.
A good preparation leads to a success
A month before the actual meeting we started to share inspirational columns and tools via our FB event. A week before the meeting we called a brainstorming session discussing all possible FakeHacks themes. As a part of this there were a few scholary/academic lectures thematically linked to fake news aiming not only at future hackathonists as a target audiences, but also at general public. People arrived to learn more about fake news phenomenon because now, in the era of social networks, chain e-mails and bots it isn’t easy to distinguish between the genuine and fake even for professionals.
The main goal of hackathon was to create some apps that would help recognize fake news. Apart of that there were no other restrictions or rules; the solution was in the participants hands.
Participants worked with data sets that had been provided by Czech News Agency. An intelligent large text analyzer by Geneea was available too, as well as SocialWatch; a tool used for monitoring social media networks, online discussions and webpages made by Dataweps.
Ready, steady, hack!
Even though it was our first FakeHack meeting more then fifty IT experts signed up for it and 14 teams competed in the competition. Amongst them there was also our frontend developer Lukáš who shared with us a few insights.
“As soon as the starting ring belled, the teams begun to form. Some of the teams were pre-arranged but many participants were looking for partners for their ideas or ideas they would prefer to develop together.”
After this all participant would move to the catering room, so that they could passionately discuss the parameters of the realization of their projects properly over some snacks or even a beer. And this was what we did as well! Little by little our idea got its shape as we were discussing it with mentors who would circulate between all teams.
However, time flew by and when we decided that it was time to go to sleep it was already 3 in the morning. Some of my teammates went home to sleep it off, but not me; I stayed in the prepared dorm. The next morning I had a nice breakfast and with a clear mind I started fresh again. Suddenly we only had a few hours to get our app into a well-functioning shape and also finalize a presentation.
Last minute checks are a common phenomenon well known to most people, but this seemed to me like a rocket speed development that made us divide the work amongst us and finish both app and presentation. I was proud we were able to meet the deadline after all but 20 hours of a continues work was not exactly easy for our bodies and we felt pretty exhausted.”
The first FakeHacks competition winner was a three-membered team with MindBrella app. It is a plugin for Google Chrom browser evaluating pages and profiles credibility on Facebook. Developers Martin Vastl and Jakub Bareš and a designer John Roose were able to invent it, code it and install it into the browser in only 24 hours. They all met at FajeHacks meeting and by today their plugin was downloaded by 477 users.
Tool Source Check that simplifies access to news portals’ meta-information came in second. And the third place went to two teams: project BreakTheBubble analyzing and breaking the bubble on social network and a tool Relationeer that finds connections between Facebook users.
The last mentioned, Relationeer, even won the public competition while getting nearly half of all votes on FakeHaks’s partners’ Perezident21 site, where all the projects were published.
To sum up
There is a variety of classical technologically focused hackathons. However we wanted ours to have a certain social overlap. So we made FakeHacks to concentrate not only on monitoring or detecting fake news but also on verifiability of researched information, factual evidence, sources and education linked with critical thinking. We would like to continue with such a socially responsible actions also in future.