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On June 1, programmers, activists, and civic leaders
participated in the first ever National
Day of Civic Hacking (NDoCH) across 83 U.S. cities. The weekend event was organized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Code for America, Random Hacks of Kindness, and many other organizations and companies. TechSoup, Caravan Studios, and
NetSquared were on the scene to observe and participate in hackathon events all
over the country. Interestingly, the hackathons varied in terms of their
activities and the challenges. While some were very coding-focused, other events
were focused on exchanging ideas and brainstorming solutions.
This hackathon took place at
San Francisco State University's Paul J. Leonard Library. The diverse crowd,
made up of students, activists, government employees, and librarians, worked on
datasets presented by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Peace Corps. The challenges
included connecting African farmers to markets, creating an online networking
space for women veterans, mapping Africa’s natural resources, and a few others.
Open source champion Brian Behlendorf spoke
at the event, encouraging the hackers to focus on finding an interesting
problem to solve rather than worrying about building a sustainable model. He
also spoke about the importance of hackathons in general and why we need more
events like these.
Arthur Grau of NetSquared Honolulu reported
back on the National Day of Civic Hacking/Code for Hawaii event in Honolulu. While the
challenges were focused mainly on local or statewide issues, they came up with
solutions that could be adopted for national issues as well.
One interesting challenge was creating a database of bicycle
rack locations throughout the islands. The concept is that people can tweet
the @bicyclerack Twitter account. Using tweets' GPS, the database can then track
where the rack is. Another project was creating an easily accessible map of Hawaii's farmer's markets.
Burlington hosted its first-ever Day of Civic Hacking event.
The participants were tasked with developing digital tools to help nonprofits
and government agencies work better together. The projects varied from
educational tools for children to energy efficiency. Amanda Levinson of NetSquared Burlington put
together a Storify
page to document the weekend's events.
TechSoup Global's Ale Bezdekian attended another San
Francisco event, but it was much different from the one at San Francisco State.
It was actually a kickoff event for a series of events and hackathons at [freespace], a "pop-up community
center." Hosted in the warehouse in San Francisco, the space will serve as
a place for civic hacking for the month of June.
The projects for this event don't
necessarily have to be technology-related. One group is working on a mural,
while another was designing an LED sculpture. Another interesting concept was a
mobile tech shop for homeless shelters. To see what [freespace] comes up with for the
rest of this month, be sure to "like" them on Facebook.
Caravan Studios' Sarah Washburn attended ReWrite Oakland, which
focused on rebuilding the Oakland City website to make it easier to use and
more accessible. This NDoCH event differed from some of the others in that it
focused on brainstorming ideas and asking questions, rather than coding. Or, as
Sarah put it, "Instead of codes and binaries, we used words and
sentences." You can read Sarah's account of becoming a civic hacker over at Caravan
Did you or your organization participate in NDoCH? Share your
experiences with us in the comments!
Image 1: National Day of Civic Hacking, IntelFreePress
Image 2: Code for Hawaii, Bytemarks
Image 3: ReWrite Oakland, Caravan Studios
Ginny Mies is a Content Curator at TechSoup Global.
Thanks, very interesting. I'll look forward to tuning in to this sooner next year, maybe it is something that could happen local to me.
Oh, missing one of my FAVORITES - Accessibility Internet Rallies (AIR) by Knowbility (http://www.knowbility.org). These have been going on since, oh, 1998 or so, before we called them "hackathons." These events gather teams of volunteers together in one day to build web sites for area nonprofits AND that meet accessibility standards. It's not only a "web raising", it's also a contest (awards are given later for the best sites) and an educational event (all participants walk away with new understanding regarding the importance of accessible web design).
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