Codejamming at our internal hackathon

Over two days in June, developers at all levels from across Sopra in the UK met in the Edinburgh office – well, actually shut away in one meeting room - to work through a particular problem that a number of our clients are facing: how to discover GIS data from a number of sources, then index it and finally make it searchable?

A key challenge in GIS is the difficulty of pooling all the disparate information together in a usable format because of the myriad of file formats and coordinate systems.

Using an open source approach to solving a common problem, we tapped into the talent that we have within Sopra: our developers. Instead of using a commercial tool available on the market, we used many different open source tools (Drupal, Solr, Tika etc.) to create our solution. We brought together a team of developers who managed, not only to solve a practical real-life business problem, but also to gain some new skills while having a bit of fun along the way.

Some of our GIS specialists were on board to set the scene, but most of the hackers had no GIS experience. They do now. In two days the team wrote a consolidated tool for data mining geospatial data. Geospatial metadata was then loaded into the Solr search tool with Drupal being used as the presentation layer to enable the searching and querying of that data based on both content and spatial elements.

The team worked in a truly Agile way (with many coffees, doughnuts and even a few cold beers along the way!). The code is currently being reviewed prior to being committed and released back to the open source community.