In December, 2006, a group of 26 software developers from some of the most widely used life science programming toolkits and phylogenetic software projects converged on Durham, North Carolina, for a Phyloinformatics Hackathon, an intense five-day collaborative software coding event sponsored by the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent). The goal was to help researchers to integrate multiple phylogenetic software tools into automated workflows. Participants addressed deficiencies in interoperability between programs by implementing “glue code” and improving support for phylogenetic data exchange standards (particularly NEXUS) across the toolkits. The work was guided by use-cases compiled in advance by both developers and users, and the code was documented as it was developed. The resulting software is freely available for both users and developers through incorporation into the distributions of several widely-used open-source toolkits. We explain the motivation for the hackathon, how it was organized, and discuss some of the outcomes and lessons learned. We conclude that hackathons are an effective mode of solving problems in software interoperability and usability, and are underutilized in scientific software development.
Lapp, H., Bala, S., Balhoff, J. P., Bouck, A., Goto, N., Holder, M. . . . Vision, T. J. (2007). The 2006 NESCent Phyloinformatics Hackathon: A Field Report. Evolutionary Bioinformatics Online, 3, 287-296.