Baking-Soda Volcanoes Need Not Apply: Highlights From the NYT Open Source Science Fair

2 min Read Time


Last Thursday Lead Software Engineer Kristen McGregor (pictured above), a cardboard tri-fold, and I trekked to the New York Times building for the TimesOpen Open Source Science Fair: a showcase for local developers to demonstrate their open source projects, recruit potential contributors, and network with fellow FOSSniks. Now in its second/“2.0” year, the Fair took place on the Times’ 15th floor and featured exhibits by the likes of Novus, the New York Public Library, Meteor, and us!

Our booth focused on our use of the Play Framework–specifically, the Gilt Live page and our product pages. The technologists who stopped by to chat with us were genuinely interested in learning more about Play and the technologies we use, and several even signed up to receive information about our free training program. When we weren’t answering people’s questions about concurrency or free Scala classes, we got to mingle with folks from neighboring booths. Two of my favorite projects were Tabula, a data liberator that helps you conquer PDF bureaucracy with ease; and “Best in Show” award winner CSV Soundsystem, whose creators make electronic music based on U.S. economic data and other things:

Gilt won the Dress Code Award, natch. We were also vying for the “Swagmasters” and “Best Use of Ostriches” honors, but others bested us.

In addition to the featured projects, the Fair featured talks by talented Bitly scientist Hilary Mason, Knight-Mozilla OpenNews Project Director Dan “@MayorEmanuelSinker, and Haleigh Sheehan of GitHub. The crowd was an eclectic and impressive bunch: I met data scientists from Buzzfeed, the Times and Pro Publica; researchers from Columbia University; the editor of the Freakonomics blog; and an intern who solved one of her company’s “impossible” archiving problems in just over three weeks. There were also fantastic views of the Hudson, googly eyes and glue sticks, and at least one creatively arranged strand of flickering holiday lights.

All in all, the Open Source Science Fair was an enlightening and inspiring way to spend a few hours hanging out with NYC technologists and getting to know some of the developers and data engineers behind our nation’s newspaper of record. Can’t wait to see what next year’s Fair looks like–this is one science experiment that works. Congrats to TimesOpen for putting together such a great event!

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