Brewing up a telescopic (sand)storm for digital charities’ projects

Yesterday, I was at the Tech Infrastructure for the Future Social Sector Hack. It’s a two-day event, so most of the good work will no doubt happen today, but I just wanted to share something that I worked on in the afternoon with Alex Marshall from Student Hubs. 

We spent the morning collectively thinking about a user journey around digital commissioning, and then broke into teams. I had an idea for some kind of ‘watercooler’ where people could share with the sector the projects they’re working on. Some of these would obviously be very early – little more than ideas. Others may have launched.

To capture this, we used Telescope, a free and open source ‘social news’ app that can be deployed with one click using We did try creating a more friendly URL via spinning up a Heroku instance, but that ended up being painful and unfruitful.

In the end, we demoed a live version of the screenshot above. The features to note are that projects can be shared with little more than a URL, title, description, and category. They can then be commented upon by people who may be able to help (or even just give the project lead a high-five!) Each project that’s shared can be voted up, if people like the look of it, and there’s a newsletter (and RSS feed) that people can subscribe to.

I guess the ‘creative’ part of what we did was to assign the categories to Nesta’s Seven Stages of Innovation, to provide an objective, at-a-glance way for people to understand the maturity of each project.

It was great to be at a hack day where I could contribute more than just words and ideas. I actually built something which could serve as an MVP for an app that could legitimately bring people together.