Vesna Manojlovic

Hackathons are Awesome!

Vesna Manojlovic
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In December 2014, we announced our first RIPE NCC hackathon, and since then we had six (and a half)! Looking back at these glorious events, we notice the results and inspirations they produced, and we are preparing for the exciting future. This article is a big THANK YOU to the community that made it possible!


The RIPE NCC organised six hackathons over the past three years. All of them were great fun and produced lots of  interesting results. All of the hackathons we organised so far involved:

 

  • 20-45 participants 
  • Production and publication (on GitHub) of lots of FLOSS: code, software tools, software libraries, data analysis  
  • Presentations at RIPE, IETF and other meetings, research papers and articles published on RIPE Labs 
  • Between one and three sponsors for each hackathon

 

Date Location Co-located with Topic
March 2015 Amsterdam stand-alone RIPE Atlas DataViz
October 2015 Bucharest RIPE 71 RIPE Atlas Tools
May 2016 Copenhagen RIPE 72 RIPE Atlas Interface
October 2016 Madrid RIPE 73 IXP Tools
April 2017 Amsterdam stand-alone DNS Measurements
November 2017 Copenhagen IPv6 Week IPv6

  

Inspiration for… 

We are proud to have inspired many similar events in the communities in which our participants are active. Since we started out, there have been several events directly connected with or inspired by RIPE NCC hackathons: 

Impressions from the IPv6 hackathon in Copenhagen

Long-term Benefits 

Results of the hackathons have been both immediate and long-term: during the event, we all benefit from creating new connections with people, learning from each other, and contributing to each-other's projects; after the event, other people get to use the tools that are created, either stand-alones, or as "patches" to the existing FLOSS tools.  

Sometimes we see good follow-up work so that projects that started as quick hacks continue to be developed and deployed. These results vary in format: either they are software projects or research papers or a feature that gets included in existing tools. Sometimes it's an intern position that creates lasting collaboration or a follow-up event. See some examples below.

Success Story: from DISCO to Health 

Since the first hackathon, we've seen several projects dealing with the "disconnection of RIPE Atlas probes" and how that illustrates the general (lack of) reachability of services, companies, regions and countries. 

In April 2015, one of the projects was called DISCO - "Real time atlas probe disconnect monitor". It combined RIPE Atlas data with the Twitter feed and weather info, then visualised it on a fancy dashboard - and that was the winning project!  

In May 2016, another group continued the work with a project they called Tartiflette (Near Real-Time Anomaly Detection from RIPE Atlas Stream). They later published a paper called DISCO and implemented the project on a stand-alone website called Internet Health Report

"The Internet Health Report helps network operators to monitor network conditions. Network performance data is collected with RIPE Atlas and analyzed with a set of tools pinpointing delay changes, forwarding anomalies and network disconnections."

Success Story: Alice (through the) Looking Glass 

This was presented at the DENOG 9 meeting in November 2017:  

Alice-LG was born during RIPE NCC’s RIPE 73 hackathon in Madrid where our developer Matthias Hannig joined forces with INEX’s Barry O’Donovan’s team to build a front-end for Barry’s new BIRD API, Birdseye. We decided to further develop this new looking glass into Alice-LG. A huge thanks to Eileen Gallagher from INEX for coming up with that name.

A pretty sweet feature which Alice-LG throws at us is her REST API, some examples:

  • lg.ecix.net/api/routeservers
  • lg.ecix.net/api/routeservers/0/neighbours

Alice-LG is developed in-house at ECIX, but it is entirely open source and available to all at github.com/ecix/alice-lg 

Known Alices:  

Development on Alice-LG is ever ongoing. If you find a bug, miss a feature, or miss documentation don’t hesitate to open up an issue on GitHub.

From idea to hackathon project to open source product

Success Story: PCAP

During the sixth hackathon, in November 2017, a small team single-handedly improved the security in IPv6 networking for the years to come: they patched the libpcap library (used by WireShark and tcpdump) to add support for symbolic filtering for ICMPv6 packets type field values.

The patch and the documentation were accepted during the hackathon weekend!

So, since then, all the users that directly download libpcap from GitHub had the benefit of being able to make use of these new features. And the users of all the Operating Systems that include this library will be able to use improved IPv6 troubleshooting, once their systems have been upgraded. 

 

Presentations at NOGs 

There is a big overlap between our hackathon participants and the people going to local NOG meetings. This is how the good news spread - through presentations about various projects, and about hackathons themselves. 

Let us know if you would want us to add a link to your presentation! 

There were also lots of follow-up articles in the previous three years:

 

Will Code For T-Shirts! 

Future Plans

In 2018, we plan to organise two hackathons in cooperation with other organisations: 

  • In June in Dublin together with iNOG  
  • In October in Amsterdam or Delft together with QuTech

In addition to that we will be talking part in other hackathons:

For future hackathons we heard the following topics could be interesting to our community: IoT, sustainable Internet, security, data visualisations, measuring Internet disruptions, and any combination of the above.

Invite us to be your partner in organising hackathons: we have experience, we have open data and tools, and we have a great community to bring along!

You can read all about past and future RIPE NCC hackathons on RIPE Labs. Don't hesitate to contact labs@ripe.net for details. 

 

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About the author

Vesna Manojlovic is Community Builder at RIPE NCC. Vesna joined the RIPE NCC as a Trainer in 1999. In 2003, she took responsibility for developing and delivering advanced courses, such as RPSL, Routing Registry, DNSSEC and IPv6. In 2008, she lead efforts to establish IPv6 RIPEness as a measure of IPv6 deployment among LIRs. In 2011, she joined the Science Division as Manager of the Measurements Community Building team; in 2015 she moved to Communications Department as Senior Community Builder, with a focus on organising hackathons. Vesna gives presentations at many technical conferences and workshops, and enjoys visiting hackerspaces. Vesna received a Batchelor of Sciences Degree in Computer Science and Informatics from the School of Electrical Engineering, University of Belgrade. She has three children.

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