From humble beginnings, GovHack truly became a national gathering in 2013 hosted for the first time across eight city centres, boasting of $170,000 in prize money and featured 134 teams.
I teamed up with an old friend, Justin Clacherty, and along with his RedFish colleagues (Jason Richards, Ryan Hodge), picked up RedHat alumni David Ryan and Luke Brooker on the opening night of the event. As experienced travellers amongst a class-full of journeymen, we aptly named ourselves Old Folks United.
We aimed for a concept that would take advantage of all the databases available – an ambitious idea to say the least. Our brainstorming inevitably touched onto The Simpsons, a cultural cornerstone of the time, and via an impersonation of Abe "Grandpa" Simpson with his endless non-sensical ramblings, we found a muse to weave disparate sets of data into a novel form of delivering an engaging narrative.
BrisBert was born.
BrisBert briefly lived as a website where users could ask questions. Picking up on keywords and associated matches, the query was returned with appropriate information blocks spliced with snippets of 'old person ramblings'. A more button would further add to the results with consecutive queries returning less and less relevant information and more ramblings. A Twitter account hooked up via API later and we had inadvertently created a chatbot ahead of its time.
BrisBert's true value lay in the idea of serving database results to user queries via a branded narrative structure. And with that we swept the prize pool:
- Best of Digital Humanities Prize (National)
- QUT IFE Prize (Best of Brisbane)
- Think Big Culture Prize