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Organizing a Hackathon @ UC Berkeley: Managing the project …. (Part 2 of 3)

I was in back in Berkeley on January 17th  after the Christmas break and I had to start moving very quickly if I wanted to meet the the very tight deadlines.

I called my first project meeting for January 20th with objective of taking stock of progress and agree on the activities and planning that would take us to the successful opening on February 2th of #Campusinwatch 2015Berkeley, that was the name and the hashtag for the hackathon.

Very quickly with the help of Miguel ,whose organization has a Microsoft Lync cloud account we could organize multi-party conference calls with all the participants on both sides of the Atlantic. Lync worked flawlessly this was very helpful.

It become clear that it was urgent to open the registration site and start advertising. Alic did an excellent job by creating very quickly the site on challengepost.com , ours was on http://campusinwatchberkeley.challengepost.com/ and we saw the first registrations coming very fast. Luke was advertising on Fecebook and we agreed to send mass mailing to the available mailing lists in one week. Event launched !!!

In the mean time Luke had recruited some volunteers to help and they were added to the mailing list of the organizing committee.

Time to start with the logistics…… no “decent” Hackaton can be organized without T-Shirts… aha … needed to make design, collect the logos….. but…..do we have written permissions to use them..? Well , not exactly… do we have our first “showstopper” ? . Had to call a crisis meeting to see how to solve the issue.. We could not afford to have legal issues…..

But we could work in parallel in the mean time and  proceed with do the draft design of the T-Shirts and check the logistics for the delivery. One volunteer was assigned the task…. unfortunately she was overloaded and could not deliver… we lost a few days, time was running, we would need a week for delivery….. would we get there on time?

If participants had to develop applications for InWatchZ, we would need devices , technical documentation, perhaps specific libraries… InWatchZ will be running Android 4.4 (Kit-Kat), the open source libraries available on the Android web site should be enough…. hopefully… we needed information from China…

We expected the devices to be with us towards the first week of February….  but where were they, . I had requested the shipment of 25 to The Foundry but no news…. until we understood that they were retained in the US Customs since they were shipped from China, where the engineering and manufacturing takes place… we were lucky that US Customs called InWatch US to clear the shipment… I had already warned everybody that this might happen… you know my preferred sentence “I told you so…” ;-).

Customs cleared, the devices for Berkeley arrived four days before the starting date of the hackaton… we were good !!!

The situation for Spain was different …….. the shipment was still blocked in HongKong just three days before the starting date of the event. We were asked to ship ten devices to Madrid….. no guarantee they would arrive on time…. we decided not to do it.

The logo issue was , in the mean time, solved and another volunteer took over the design using the web tools of a T-shirt manufacturing company and we were ready to order with the hope that the T-Shirts would arrive on time since the estimated delivery time was one week….. at the same time we sent the customized design to Spain for them to order there.

Then a new issue came up, under the advice of one of the Directors of the CET, Luke came with the request for signing a so called “Project Agreement Document” with all the responsibilities of the participant parties, including description of the prizes, budget estimation, etc to formalize the process.

In order to avoid getting stuck, I immediately took over the action and prepared a draft of such document and circulated it for agreement. After a couple of revisions the document was ready to be signed by all the parties: InWatch USA, Global In Devices, CETSA, The Foundry@CITRIS, Telecenter.org …. but how to make everybody sign to complete the action if they were in three different locations?

I remembered that when I went to the ICA Conference in Ottawa back in October 2014, we had a meeting with Intel that was under Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA). In order for all the participants to formally accept it, they used Docusign to electronically sign the document.

Docusing is a company which offers a Software as a Service (SaaS) called Digital Transaction Management (DTM). It has emerged as a category of software designed to safely and securely manage document-based transactions digitally. DTM removes friction inherent in processes that involve people, documents, and data inside and beyond the “firewall” (outside the network of the organizations) to create faster, easier, more convenient and secure transactions. DTM delivers a suite of services that empower companies to easily deploy and update digital processes without the traditional expense and programming required of older enterprise applications.

Docusign is a worldwide service which claims that its electronic signatures are legally binding around the wall.

I thought that Docusign could help me to solve the signature issue and decided to test the service. I  saw on their site that there was the opportunity for a free trial and I signed up for it.

The system did not look very intuitive at the beginning and I thought it would be better to read the help before starting to start. I followed the instructions and uploaded the Project Agreement… unfortunately it would not upload and the “processing ring” was turning all the time. At the same time, the document appeared in the list as draft ….. very strange. I gave up and told myself that the system was useless…. and that I had to figure out another approach to the signing of the document…

When I came back to the office the next day, I decided to give it a try again and this time the document uploaded immediately, I typed in the names and the email addresses of the people that had to sign, I set the flag to be able to track progress as the signature workflow progressed and one hour later I had the document electronically signed by everybody.. cool !!!

In the meantime, I thought that Alic and Luke deserved also to be recognized for the excellent work they were carrying out and after some discussion I manage to convince InWatch USA and Global In Devices to fly them to Barcelona to help with the final hackaton. Alic will also go to Granada after Barcelona to set up relationships between The Foundry@CITRIS, the University of Granada and the startups in the Technology Park….. a good way of strengthening the relationships between universities in USA and EU. Unfortunately Luke cannot afford to miss more classes and exams therefore he will be back after the Mobile World Congress.

Here we were two days before the starting of the event with nearly all the preparatory actions nearly completed.. the T-Shirts arrived and they were cool as well …. miracles happen … 😉

Stay tuned for the third and final part !!!

Best

Paco

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