Belfast Hacks & Hackers

The Belfast campus of the University of Ulster was the setting for the first ever Irish Hacks and Hackers Day, organised by Scraperwiki on Saturday, November 13th, 2010

Using Scraperwiki, the award-winning new screen scraper and data mining tool, funded by 4iP, the one day practical hack day in Belfast saw web developers and designers (Hackers) team up with journalists and bloggers (hacks) to produce a number of projects and stories based on public data. It was all part of the ScraperWiki UK and Ireland Hacks and Hackers tour.

Sponsored by SkillSet member School of Media, Film and Journalism, University of Ulster, Digital Circle and Guardian Open Media, the event showed investigative journalists in Northern Ireland how to use programming and design techniques to create news stories and features. The teams used scraping techniques to ferret out data and present it in a news-worthy manner

The aim of the day was to show journalists how to use programming and design techniques to create news stories and features and vice versa, to show programmers how to find, develop, and polish stories and features. Francis Irving, one of the creators of ScraperWiki, gave an introduction and the teams soon split off into their chosen projects. The choice of subjects varied and included:

Mr ‘No Vote’

This was the winning entry for the day and all about politics in Northern Ireland and representation. Ivor Whitten (@iwhitten), Alan Meban (@alanbelfast), Matt Johnson (@cimota) and Rob Moore (@robsogc) set about gathering data and graphing the impact of people choosing not to vote and what this meant for representative democracy across Northern Ireland.

Money for Mention

Jo Briggs, Dee Harvey (@deeharvey), Julian Todd (@goatchurch) and Ian Walsh (@ianwalshireland) all worked on a project that examined the patterns within the NI Court System. This was all about how court case data appeared on a web site for a single week and the implications and difficulty of measuring the costs of cases as this information could not be captured or aggregated. The data was captured and will be maintained so it will be interesting to look at the findings over time. This project scooped the 2nd prize.

A Bit of Red Sky Thinking

Tony Rice (@ricetony), Philip Bradfield and Francis Irving (@frabcus) set about looking at the depth of one of Northern Ireland’s Property companies – Red Sky and its relationship with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

Money (That’s What I Want)

Brian Pelan (@"" title="Visit ckarkkent's Twitter Page ">ckarkkent), Veronica Kelly (@veedles) and Declan McGrath (@theirishpenquin) decided to look at public and private sector pay in Northern Ireland.

The Hackers’ prize for the ScraperWiki mug was won by Declan McGrath, a hacker who had come from Dublin for the event.

Plans are already underway to have another ScraperWiki event in Belfast next year. For further information on ScraperWiki, the Belfast event and to view a video of the day, visit