What Happened at #hacktheelections? Here’s a Quick Run-Down!

May 28, 2014

And the winner of #hacktheelections is… KO-14!

Everyone who knows me knows that I am passionate about hackathons. So when one of my colleagues asked me if I was interested in organizing one at Engagor, I was super excited. I felt like an 8 year old who just caught my favorite baseball player’s home run ball! At the time, I was working remotely in Phoenix, Arizona planning a hackathon that was going to take place in Gent, Belgium, so it was an interesting journey to make all this happen. I am not usually one to pat my own back, but the very first Engagor hackathon, #hacktheelections, turned out to be an absolute success.

With European, federal, and regional elections coming up in Belgium on May 25th, we decided to let our hackathon participants “hack the elections” the day before! We monitored everything that was being said about the elections and provided access to all this data via the Engagor API. To make it even more interesting, we worked together with Open Knowledge Foundation Belgium to allow teams to combine open data about elections or governments in the past with our current social data. You could, for example, merge what a politician promises on social media with the things he or she had accomplished in the past to see if this person tends to make empty campaign promises.

Monitoring #ep14 & #vk14 for the Belgian & European Elections

Four weeks before the actual elections, we already began fetching data in Engagor. For the European elections, we monitored the official hashtag #ep14, and for each Belgian political party, we tracked their party leaders. We monitored the hashtag #vk14 and all the candidates’ social media channels for the Belgian federal elections. Once again, we tracked keyword searches on the party leaders for the regional elections. And finally, we also monitored the social media channels of all the parties. That sounds like a lot of data right? Two million mentions to be exact!

Last Saturday, it was finally time for the participants to start hacking, and I was stoked. As we heard the pitches, I knew that by the end of the day there would be some interesting demos! The participants divided into six teams. Well actually seven, because our own Head of Support, Jozefien, decided to hack too. She had never written a line of code by herself until that morning when Ken, one of our web developers, teamed up with her.

Our Head of Support at Engagor, Jozefien, had never written a line of code before, but that definitely didn’t stop her from participating!

What were the top 3 projects?

#3 Coalition Cocktail

Did you know that Belgium owns the world record for longest time without a government? Following the last elections, it took the Belgian politicians 541 days to form a government! Thats why Team Coalition Cocktail wanted to prevent our country from being government-less for another year and a half. Their goal was to come up with the best coalition based on how politicians from different parties engage with each other on social media. The interesting thing about this team was that they combined those results with open data. For a coalition, they thought it might be a good fit if they checked how long it has taken them to actually form in the past. If this piqued your interest, make sure to read their blog post about it!

 #2 Polimon

What happens if you mash up Pokémon and politicians? You get Polimon! This game transforms politicians into battling cartoon monsters. In the game, you walk around and suddenly are challenged by another politician. The next step is to kill your opponent by using topics your politician is more active about on social media. It’s up to you to pick the right topic and get to the next level! Not only does this hack look really nice but we also liked the fact that you can only win this game when you actually know what topics politicians are talking about on social media!

#1 KO-14

If you want to know what KO-14 is all about, think about Street Fighter but with politicians. Instead of battling with your crazy fighting skills, you have to defeat your opponent with social media statistics. If your politician has more followers than your opponent, he might be better at engagement. Try that as a battle move! For us, this was the absolute winner. The hack isn’t just ‘easy on the eyes’, it also uses several types of data functionality within Engagor to make the implementation complete. Hooray for KO-14!

For me personally, it was really cool to see how creative the #hacktheelections participants were. If you’re curious about the other hacks that didn’t make it into the top 3, keep an eye on our website with a description of all the teams.

Thank You, Merci, Dank u wel!

I would like to thank Stijn Beauprez and Nils De Moor for their interesting tech talks at the end of the day. Nils gave us an introduction to Redis, and Stijn talked about all the technical aspects behind the elections bingo! I’d also like to thank Mathias and Pieter-Jan from Open Knowledge Foundation Belgium for talking about and helping the teams with the use of open data. Thank you to the entire Engagor team for helping me make this first-time event so successful. And finally, thanks to all the teams for their effort and creativity!

Are you curious what our support ninja made? Check it out here! She only needs a little more practice, and she can switch over to the development team!