Day One of the Will’s World Hack

In readiness for the beginning of the Will’s World Hack we were delighted to launch the Will’s World Registry this morning. The Registry, the development of which we have been charting on this blog, includes the metadata from our fantastic project partners, information on the schema and mappings, and related resources including XML versions of all of Shakespeare’s plays. During the hack we will be continuing to finesse the Registry and we’d really welcome your comments and feedback on the version we have launched today.

Then, this afternoon (at 1pm GMT) saw the launch of the Will’s World Hack (#willhack) via a live Google+ chat streaming to YouTube!

We introduced ourselves and the Will’s World project as well as saying a bit about what we hope may come out of the hack (Will’s World Hack Event Presentation).  It was brilliant to have four of our twenty or so registered hack participants joining us for this live portion of the event and we hope many more of you will be dropping into live sessions later in the week or able to catch up on YouTube. Today’s launch session can be viewed here:

We also had a check in session this afternoon and we got to hear about the first hack taking place: turning the Shakespeare plays we made available as XML for the hack into a Linked Data database for use in others hacks. Richard, who is working on this, would appreciate any pointers to existing ontologies for Shakespeare plays (or plays in general) so, if you have any suggestions, please leave a comment here or email the team. You can also find out more about that on our Current Hacks page on the Will’s World Hack Wiki – and you can add details of your own ideas, hacks and hack teams to the page while you’re there!

We plan to post a summary of the Hack each day so keep an eye here on the blog for updates all week of the Will’s World Hack. You can also join the conversation on Twitter with the #willhack hashtag.

And finally…


Can one desire too much of a good thing?

Image of spiced syrup cakes

An image of spiced syrup cakes – definitely too much of a good thing!

Our blog post title (from As You Like It (Act IV, Scene 1) reflects our desire for your feedback on our Will’s World Registry online hack event. We have had some fantastic comments back already – by email, Google+ and, mainly, via our survey – but we are still hoping for more!

Please do pass along the survey link,, to friends, colleagues or any mailing lists or groupd you think may be interested in working with data on Shakespeare.

Whilst we begin the process of analysing surveys and other comments we did want to share a few interesting ideas of new ways to work with Shakespeare data that you have already told us about…

We’ve heard about some fantastic work, led by Faith Lawrence, to programmatically analyse Shakespeare’s work to see if it passes the Bechdel test, originally conceived as a test for movies in one of Alison Bechdel’s regular comic strips. A movie (or cultural object) passes the test if:  (1) it has to have at least two women in it, who (2) talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man. Of course for Shakespeare this throws up lots of interesting issues as his plays regularly feature characters cross dressing and playing with their gender and/or identity. Read more in Chris Gutteridge’s blogpost and Faith Lawrence’s paper presented at the Narrative and Hypertext Workshop, Hypertext 2011.

Meanwhile an email with a jokey comment about Christopher Marlowe had us wondering if comparing or analysing the Will’s World Registry with data on any of those who have, at some point, been rumoured to be the real author of Shakespeare’s work might throw up some interesting data… with that in mind we’d welcome any data sets you may have on Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon or Edward de Vere…

Wanted poster based on "Christopher Marlowe, dramatist, poet" by Flickr user lisby1 / Lisby   Wanted Poster based on "Sr Francis Bacon" by Flickr user Stifts- och landsbiblioteket i Skara / Skara kommun    Wanted Poster based on "Edward Vere, Earl of Oxford" by Flickr user lisby1 / Lisby

We’ve also had a number of really thoughtful responses on the practical considerations of running an online hack – some of the risks and opportunities around doing this. If you have any thoughts or concerns on the idea please do leave us comments, complete the survey or email us with any feedback.

In other news… we hear that we have inspired another hack event already!  The SPRUCE project folk spotted our tweet about a Will’s World online hack event and decided to set up their own one day remote hackathon, on 16th November, to make file format identification better (crucial for preservation). You can find more information about their #fileidhack on the event wiki.

And finally… if you find yourself in London next week then there is a special  Late: Shakespeare beyond the city taking place on Friday 2nd November, from 6pm until 9pm in the British Museum Great Court. A variety of creative interpretations of Shakespeare will be taking part with contributions from the National Theatre and RADA students and creative potential Will’s World Hackers will particularly be interested in the prop-making workshop.

Image credits for this post: 

Wanted poster and thumbnail version of wanted poster based on “Christopher Marlowe, dramatist, poet” by Flickr user lisby1 / Lisby; Wanted Poster based on “Sr Francis Bacon” by Flickr user Stifts- och landsbiblioteket i Skara / Skara kommun; Wanted Poster based on “Edward Vere, Earl of Oxford” by Flickr user lisby1 / Lisby


Pondering the Possibility of an Online Hack…

Over the last few weeks we have been mulling the possibilities of running an Online Hack for the Will’s World project. You can read more about the plans on the Will’s World blog where you will also find a survey that we would love you to complete for us or pass on to developer/hacker/creative colleagues and friends.

As mentioned in our Will’s World post the idea is to try and take the energy and creativity of an online hack event and translate that into something virtual not because we don’t like people, pizza, and coding through the night but because we recognise that type of format isn’t always right for people who may want to take part. That might be because an employer is supportive but can’t release a staff member for a full work day, it may be that they are available but cannot fund travel and accommodation, it might be that they have caring responsibilities that would make an in-person event much harder to fit in, or it may be that the venue isn’t sufficiently accessible for those with different physical abilities.

But there are also lots of other special things that we think an online hack affords. Running something online and with a cunningly chosen time/appreciation of time zones means collaboration across the globe – something the Open Source movement have been up to for years of course. And it can be much easier to start on a new hack when you know what software and hardware you have to hand (not to mention not having to travel with all your tech!), you know your internet connection is reliable and/or you’re used to working with it’s speed, and you have all that quirky personal creative stuff to hand – be it arduino kit, a fine selection of felt tip pens, a monster supply of gluten free brownies, etc.

Will's World Online Hack is coming soon..

Will’s World Online Hack is coming soon..

And the reason I wanted to post something about this process on my own blog is that we think this is a pretty innovative idea but one of the particular challenges comes from considering which suite of social technologies will work and combine best to ensure this event has the buzz, the energy and the relevance of an in-person meet up.  The survey is part of our approach to finding out what might work but I’d also appreciate any comments here about what you think would work best for real time collaboration?

For instance I’m thinking that Google+ may be an effective and fun tool to try out – particularly for managing multiple video streams – for this event but I haven’t had a good excuse to trial this on such a grand scale before so would love to know others thoughts on how well this works in reality for larger groups of participants. Please do any suggestions or comments on the hack idea either here or via the survey.


Online Hack Event

Our Will’s World project is soon coming to an end. While we are busy populating the Shakespeare Registry with great data, we are keen to put this wonderful resource to good use. How can we achieve this in an unusual and fun way?

How about an online hack event!

The idea first came to us as we began planning a traditional hack event – something in person, overnight, possibly featuring pizza. As we started looking at how this would work best we realised there were lots of logistical issues to deal with from finding a suitable venue, to catering to the issue of how participants could find the time to travel and take part.

We also started to think about things that don’t always work so well in in-person hack days… sometimes the software you want to use is sitting on a machine you don’t have with you, sometimes you need to attend to caring responsibilities which just don’t fit into a 24 hour marathon lockdown, and sometimes you just can’t move that meeting or spare the travel time to fly miles away to make that fantastic looking hack day somewhere at the other end of the country.

And that’s when we realised that an online hack event might not only resolve our logistical issues but that the flexibility and potential benefits of an online hack event are also very exciting!

More people can participate:

  • Participants who wouldn’t be able to travel (whether because of the cost, time, distance, or scheduling conflicts) can easily join in.
  • The event can be scheduled to allow participants from further afield and different time zones to be included turning a local event into a global hack event.
  • There is no restriction on the number of participants due to the venue size or cost.

Enable use of familiar tools:

  • Participants can use their own machine, familiar set up and well-loved applications in their own environment. There is no need to get used to a different technical environment or to first install the tools you can’t do without. That means more time to be creative, to hack, play and collaborate.
  • Wifi and cable internet connections are also a lot more likely to be fast and reliable – at least something you are used to managing – if they are not being shared intensely by a room full of coders!
Keyboard disassembled and planted with cress

“Prepared keyboard waiting to sprout” by Flickr user wetwebwork

Flexibility in participation:

  • Participants can choose when and how much efforts they put in to the hack.
  • Participants can fit their participation around their other commitments.

Promote use of social media technologies:

  • Many collaboration tools can be used to run the event and connect people: blog, Twitter, wiki, Skype, Google Hangout, videos, websites…
  • Participants or those who find out about the event later can still share in the event with records of the hacks more easily captured via video, wikis, text chats etc.

Obviously,  the critical issue will be to ensure that communication takes place effectively during the hack between people scattered in various locations. Team formation will be interesting – but no weirder than grabbing a coke or a beer and introducing yourself around a room of fellow hackers. And we know that  interruptions could be tricky for some participants since they will be occupied with the Will’s World hack from their normal office or home desk. We can see challenges here but we think the benefits could make this a great format for our hack event.

But we want to know what YOU think of the idea…

We have come up with a few scenarios on how this type of online hack could work. We would really appreciate your help in evaluating different formats and communication tools for this event. Please take a moment to tells us what you think and provide us with your feedback by taking this short survey:

Please do feel free to share that survey link with others you think might be interested in this event. We also welcome any comments here as well.

Shakespeare's Globe Theater, Southwark, London

Image based on “Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, Southwark, London” by Flickr User nikoretro/Sheri

One last thing, we are aiming for the online hack to take place during the first week of December. Put it in your diary!