Many of you will be familiar with the idea of hack days — where a bunch of programmers get together and throw together some interesting and innovative applications, or at least demos of what will be applications after a lot more work. These can be geared for any level of ability and interest, but one of the best uses of them is introducing disadvantaged people to programming. It turns out that IT is a good career for trans people, for the rather depressing reason that it is not a customer-facing job, so employers are less likely to say, “we are not prejudiced, but we have to worry about what our customers will think”. So a hack day is a good way of helping young trans folk get the skills they need to get jobs. Inevitably this sort of thing started in America, and I think we have Kortney Ryan Ziegler to thank for running the first one in Oakland.
Since then other events have happened in other cities, and in Chicago Angelica Ross has set up Trans Tech Social, which is a full-time training company aimed at helping young trans folk. Inevitably someone had to run one in London. Take a bow, please, Naomi Ceder. The UK’s first ever Trans*Code event too place this weekend. I was there.
Getting this to happen has involved Naomi and her colleagues in a lot of work. Profuse thanks are due in particular to GitHub who provided a lot of support, and to SalesForce and GoCardless who provided venues for the Friday night social and Saturday hack day respectively. The Python community (of whom Naomi is a well-known member) has also been very supportive, and having taken a look at it I’m pretty sure that if I were teaching young people to code these days I’d use Python.
There were a bunch of really great projects started today. I think I have the full list below, but apologies if I have forgotten anyone:
- A mobile app to enable trans people to call for help from a support network if they get caught in a difficult social situation
- A website allowing trans people to share their experiences of gender and transition, so as to show how varied those things are
- A website for rating trans experiences with GPs and other health care providers
- A tool for helping trans people to understand the results of blood tests for hormone levels
- A web comic
- A website for finding gender neutral toilets (based on OpenStreetMap)
- A website to help trans people find a personal style that suits their often unconventional body shapes
- A tool for analyzing attitudes towards trans people on Twitter
Obviously not all of these things will end up getting finished, and some, such as the doctor-rating thing, are partly duplicated by existing sites. But the creativity and skill shown by the participants was delightful. There are some really talented trans programmers out there.
I spent the day teaching myself new tricks. WordPress is in the process of developing an official REST/JSON API. That will mean nothing to many of you, but if you know what those acronyms mean you’ll recognize that all sorts of cool things can now be done. In particular you can build mobile apps than use WordPress as a content management system, but which have an interface not constrained by WordPress, and which can make use of the power of the mobile devices rather than just display a website.
OpenStreetMap has a REST API as well. In fact that toilet-finding app was based on it. I’ve been showing OpenStreetMap to Judith Clute, who does history walks, and she’s really impressed. I can envisage all sorts of useful applications, particularly if you can link a map location to a pile of additional data on a WordPress site.
Not that I really have time to do any of this, but software is fun. And software that helps young trans people is really valuable.
No religious wars in the comments, please.