Weekend Challenge I: Epidemic Detection via Social Media

This weekend (November 14-17) is Collaborate‘s first Weekend Challenge! In this new series of community events, we’re taking a weekend to spotlight a project on Collaborate by inviting everyone to take on some coding challenges, remix and play with the project to bring your own ideas and perspectives, and take an opportunity to learn about a new tool or two with some hands-on fun.

This weekend, we’ll be diving into Jared Hawkins‘ (Boston Children’s Hospital & Harvard Medical School) biosurveillance in social media project. In it, Jared is exploring the idea of building a system that gives disease control centers an early warning when many people in a geographic area are reporting similar symptoms via Twitter posts.

This project is a great opportunity to learn about a number of tools and techniques:

  • I whipped up a quick sketch of the project in node.js, express.js & mongodb – since it’s a really bare-bones app at the moment, this is a great opportunity to take your first poke around this popular stack of server-side technologies, without too many extra complications.
  • Jared’s database of sample tweets is huge – in order to quickly search it, we have to take advantage of mongodb’s text indexing feature. If you’re new to database indexing (like me!), this is an opportunity for a hands-on example of the importance of database structure.
  • We’re using geoJSON and the Google Maps API for handling geographic data and drawing maps in the browser – if you’ve never used these mapping tools before, here’s your chance!

Also – no need to stick to the bones I laid down! If you have ideas on how to do the same faster, easier or better, please – color outside the lines, and show us your way.

As part of our Weekend Challenge event, Jared is going to be online from noon to 1 Pacific time (3-4 Eastern), Friday, November 14 to answer your questions, chat about the project, and help get you started, and we’ll both be keeping a close eye on the project over the weekend to help answer more questions and keep things rolling. Check out this forum thread for the hangout URL, and feel free to post comments, ideas and questions there! We hope you’ll join us.

Sounds good, what do I do? Just hit the ‘Join Project’ button on the Collaborate page for this project, join the hangout linked on the forum this Friday, and check out the issue tracker if you’re looking for some ideas on what to hack on, but remember – the issue tracker is just one way to get involved, feel free to come up with your own hacks, remixes and ideas, and ask questions and point out your work in the forum!

1 response

  1. Jared B. Hawkins wrote on :

    Hi everyone — looking forward to working on this project and hearing everyone’s great ideas!