Thursday, June 7, 2012

#Phylotastic Day 3: It's business time, 'cause I'm wearing my business socks

The first day of coding is always the most productive. You're starting out with a clean slate, inspired and motivated to dive right in. You haven't come up against errors, barriers, broken links, or dilapidated software.

Yesterday our #Phylotastic Shiny group spent the day working together in silence - we were in the same room, but feverishly constructing different pieces of the puzzle. As our name suggests, we're building the "face" of the overall Phylotastic toolkit, pulling together different test cases and intertwining the outputs from different groups into a coherent whole. Or at least, we're trying to. A week is a such a short amount of time, and our plans are grandiose and ambitious. With programming, you can never be sure what will be easy and what will be hard. In our case we need to rely on different web tools and API services. We also need to code the new functions we want to implement. Sometimes you can copy and paste, and other times you have to write a veritable tome.

As we ran through several sessions of trial & error yesterday, we continued to narrow down our test cases, further define what was inside and outside of the hackathon's scope, and decide what tools were going to be harnessed or discarded in our web interface. Meg Pirrung, a grad student from Rob Knight's lab, made some fabulous mockups of our envisioned website: a sleek entry portal and a whiteboard sketch of the internal website architecture. Chris Baron liaised with the NESCent staff to get a development server up and running - we need a functioning website! Christian Zmasek worked on a gene-tree/species-tree reconciliation web tool, and Arlin Stoltzfus diligently vetted out test datasets, wrangled with huge trees and coordinated brainstorms. In addition to inputs for design and user options, I played around a lot with test data, wrote blog posts, and tweeted away. The day seemed so short, but simultaneously very long. We wrapped up with a summary discussion to bring all the groups up to speed.

So the hackathon continues; our days are filled with food, computers, computers, food, computers, computers discussion, food, and beer. And more computers. The pictures speak for themselves.

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