For SomeJam, I joined a project that wanted to unify various online youth services. There are many different support groups and person-to-person chats provided by different charities. It can be confusing for a young person to track all these different services each with their own opening hours. Our team consisted of two youth service workers, myself, and another software developer, who was not a student at Helsinki University.
After brainstorming for a few hours, we came to the conclusion that persuading all the different organizations to adopt new software would probably not work. Thus, we felt it wiser to provide our own portal service, that displays the currently open support discussions at a glance. A worker on behalf of the portal service would monitor the schedules of the various services and maintain the information on the site.
Later in the afternoon saturday, the other software developer joined, and started work on integration with a calendar service. He had previous experience with Google App Engine, and so chose that as the platform. Using the Google Calendar API, he created a parser that parsed the events on the current day to the same kind of format I had used on my front-end. The parts fit together neatly, and we had a working prototype by sunday.
Thoughts for future SomeJams
Thoroughly discussing the problem paid off, since the original problem setting was not something that we could have feasibly answered in the given 48h constraint.
By focusing our efforts into a small and obvious problem, our product has a good chance of becoming a real service. The feeling that we can actually build something for the betterment of society was an invaluable source of motivation for the team.