Tag Archives: hackathon

Open Data Day 2013 in Vancouver

Better late than never, I’m going to do a few posts this week recapping a number of ideas and thoughts from Open Data Day 2013. As is most appropriate, I’m going to start the week with a recap of Vancouver – the Open Data Day event I attended and helped organize along with my friend Luke Closs and the very helpful and supportive staff at the City of Vancouver – in particular Linda Low and Kevin Bowers. I’ve got further thoughts about the day in general, its impact and some other ideas I’ll share in subsequent posts.

Vancouver! 2013!

What made Open Data Day in Vancouver great for me was that we had a range of things happen that really balanced time between “creating” (e.g. hacking) and engagement. As a result I’m diving this blog post into three parts: setting the scene, engagement and outcomes as well as sharing some lessons and best practices. My hope is that the post will make for fun reading for regular readers, but the lessons will prove helpful to future open data day organizers and/or plain old hackathon organizers.

Setting the scene

City hall photo by Roland

Despite competing with a somewhat rare sunny day in Vancouver at this time of year we had over 80 participants show up at City Hall, who graciously agreed to host the room. Backgrounds varied – we had environmentalists, college and university students, GIS types, open street mappers, journalists, statisticians among others. In addition, the city’s administration made a big commitment to be on hand. Over 20 staff were present, including one of the Deputy City Managers and a councillor – Andrea Reimer – who has been most active and supportive on the Open Data file. In addition we had a surprise guest – Federal Minister Tony Clement, who is the minister responsible for Open Data with the national government.

Our event was fairly loosely organized. We had a general agenda but didn’t over script anything. While Luke and I are comfortable with relatively flexible agenda for the day, we knew the unstructured nature of the event was a departure for some from the city and were grateful that they trusted us both with the format and with the fast, loose and informal way we sought to run the day.

Here are some high level lessons:

  • When Possible host it Somewhere Meaningful. City Hall is always nice. Many attendees will have never engaged with local government before, this creates a space for them to learn and care about municipal government. It also reaffirms the broader culture changing and social/change oriented goals of an open data hackathon. Besides, who isn’t welcome at City Hall? It sets a great tone about who can come – which is pretty much anyone.
  • Give the Politicians Some Room. Don’t be afraid to celebrate politicians and leaders who have championed the cause. Hackathons are about experimenting, not talking, so Andrea’s five minute talk at the beginning was the right mix of sincere engagement, enthusiasm and length.
  • Don’t Only Attract Software Developers. Vancouver’s event was in part a success because of the diversity of participants. As you’ll see below, there are stories that emerged because we tried hard to engage non-software developers as well.
  • Transit. This may sound obvious but… if you want to attract lots of people make it convenient to get to. We right off the subway line – City Hall is pretty central.
  • RSVP. We did one thing wrong and one thing right. On the wrong side, we should have allowed more people to register recognizing that not everyone would show. We’d turned people away and ended up having room for them because of the no shows. On the right side, we blasted our list to see if anyone wasn’t going to come at the last minute and, got some responses, which allowed us to re-allocate those seats.

Engagement: Open Dataing

Speed Dating with Minister Clement

The one thing both Luke and I were committed to doing was getting participants and city staff to talk to one another. Building off an idea Luke witnessed in Ottawa we did 45 minutes of Open “Dataing.” During this period city staff from about eight different departments, as well as Minister Clement, staked out a part of the room. We then had people cluster – in groups of about 5-7 – around a department whose data or mission was of interest to them. They then had 10 minutes to learn about what data was available, ask questions about data they’d like, projects they were thinking of working on, or learn more about the operations of the city. In essence, they got to have a 10 minute speed date on data with a city official.

After 10 minutes blew a whistle and people went and clustered around a new official and did it all over again.  It was a blast.

Key Lessons:

  • Open Dataing is about getting everyone engaged. Helping public servants see what citizens are interested in and how they can see technology working for them, it’s also about getting participants to learn about what is available, what’s possible, and what are some of the real constraints faced by city staff
  • I wish we’d had signs for the various departments being represented, would have made it easier for people to find and gravitate towards the issues that mattered most to them.
  • This type of activity is great early on, it’s a way to get people talking and sharing ideas. In addition, we did the whole thing standing, that way no one could get too comfortable and it ensure that things kept flowing.

Outcomes

After the dating, we did a brief run through of projects people wanted to work on and basically stepped back and hacked. So what got worked on? There were other projects that were worked on, but here are the ones that saw presentations at the end of the day. There are some real gems.

Bike Parking App 

The Bike Rack app came out of some challenges about data gathering that Councillor Reimer shared with me. I suggested the project and a team of students from UBC’s Magic Lab turned it into something real.

The city recently released a data set of the locations of all city owned bike racks. However, the city has little data about if these locations are useful. So the app that got hacked is very simple. When you arrive at your destination on bike you load it up and it searches for the nearest bike rack. For the user, this can be helpful. However, the app would also track that lat/long of where the search was conducted. This would let city planners know where people are when looking for bike rack so they would start to have some data about underserved locations. Very helpful. In addition, the app could have a crowdsourced function for marking the location of private bike racks (managed by businesses) as well as an option to lat/long where and when your bike was stolen. All this data could be used to help promote cycling, as well as help the city serve cyclists more effectively.

Homelessness Dashboard

Luke showing off his rental dashboard

My friend Luke connected a Raspberry Pi device to one of the giant TVs in the room where we were working to share the work he had done to create a dashboard based on the city’s rental standards database.  Luke’s work even got featured on the Atlantic’s website.

Crime mapping – lots of quality questions

One great project involved no software at all. We had some real data crunchers in attendance and they started diving into the Vancouver Police Department’s data with a critical eye. I wish the VPD could have been there since their conclusions were not pretty. The truth is, the Vancouver Police department makes very little data open, and what it does make, is not very good. What was great to see were some very experienced statisticians explain why. I hope to be able to share the deck they created.

Air quality egg

A few weeks prior to Open Data Day I shared that I’d be launching a project – with the help of the Centre for Digital Media – around measuring air quality in Vancouver. Well, the air quality egg we’d ordered arrived and our team started exploring what it would, and might not, allow us to do. The results were very exciting. Open Data Day basically gave us time to determine that the technical hurdles we were worried about are surmountable – so we will be moving forward.

Over the coming months we’ll be crafting a website that uses Air Quality Eggs to measure the air quality in various neighborhoods in Vancouver. We have a number of other community partners that are hoping on board. By Clean Air Day  we’d love to have 50-100 air quality eggs scattered across various neighborhoods in greater Vancouver. If you are interested in sponsoring one (they are about $150) please contact me.

Youth Oriented events RSS feed

One intrepid participant, also not a developer, got the city to agree to create and share an RSS feed of youth oriented events. This was important to them as they were concerned with youth issues – so a great example of a community organizer getting a data resource from the city. Next steps – trying to get other organizations with youth organized events to agree to share their program data in a similar data schema. What a great project.

Provincial Crowdsourced Road Kills and Poaching Maps

I was very excited to have to participants from the David Suzuki Foundation at the hackathon. They worked on creating some maps that would allow people to crowdsource map road kills, and instances of poaching, across the province of British Columbia. I love that they had a chance to explore the technical side of this problem, particularly as they may be well placed to resolve the community building side that would be essential to making a project like this a success.

Neighbourhood quality Heat Maps

Another team took various data sets from the Vancouver Open Data portal to generate heat maps of data quality (proximity to certain services and other variables). This prompted a robust conversation about the methodologies used to assess quality as well as how to account for services vs. population density. Exactly the types of conversations we want to foster!

Figuring our how to translate all of the data.vancouver.ca datasets

Another participant  Jim DeLaHunt – put in some infrastructure that would make it easier to translate Vancouver’s open data into multiple languages in order to make it more accessible. He spent the day trying to identify what data in which data sets was structured versus unstructured human readable text. And… much to his credit he created a wiki page, the  Vancouver Open Data language census to update people on his work so far.

Live Bus Data Mapped

Transit mapping

Another team played with the local transit authority’s real time bus data location API. It was pretty cool to see the dots moving across a google map in real time.

Their goals were mostly just to experiment, play and learn, but I know that apps like this have been sold into coffee shops in Boston, where they let customers know how far away the next bus.

Open Street Map

A Open Street Mapper participant spent the data getting address data merged with OSM.

Key Lessons:

  • Don’t try to over manage the event – give people space and time to create
  • Even if the energy feels low after a long day – definitely share out what people worked on, even if they didn’t finish what they wanted. There is lots to be learned from what others are doing and many new ideas get generated. It was also great for city staff to see what is possible
  • Get people to share github repos and other links while on site. Too many of the above projects lack links!

Thank you again for everyone who made Open Data Day in Vancouver a success! Looking forward to next year!

International Open Data Hackathon Wiki now live – 14 cities added in 24 hours

Just a brief update for those interested in participating in or organizing an event for International Open Data Day on February 23rd, 2013.

The Wiki

The Open Data Day wiki (sans logo, so a little rough around the edges) is now live and ready for action.

The wiki is where organizers can list the city in which they’ll be putting together an event and where interested participants can find local events and let people know that they’ll be attending (to give organizers a sense of numbers) and what projects, workshops, discussions or other activities they are interested in participating in.

It has been awesome to see that in the first 24 hours of the wiki being up how 14 different people have stepped forward and listed their city as a place where they will be hosting an event. Better still, I’ve been contacted by numerous people saying they would like to host an event who have not yet added their city to list, so if you have not yet done it, please do so! The wiki is super easy to edit. If you are thinking of organizing event you can use my city, Vancouver, as a template for how to organize your city’s wiki page. But feel free to innovate and do you own thing!

Translations

A number of people have asked me about translating the opendata day website. We have not yet translated the version (except to portuguese which will be posted soon). So if you are interested in making a translation please do so. I’m happy to share that it is really easy!

The html for the site is on github. For those who know how (and it is VERY easy to learn) please feel free to fork the code and write a version in your language. I will approve it! Already THackday Portugal has done an updated portuguese version of the new site.

One warning, there is a good chance that I’ll edit (not heavily – but a little) the page once or twice before the event. I will let people know if I make changes.

Super excited about the response so far and hope the wiki helps people see what is going on and coordinate activities more effectively.

International Open Data Day – An Update

(Can’t read the whole post? Important stuff is highlighted in grey below.)

Two years ago, I met some open data advocates from Brazil and Ottawa, and we schemed of doing an international open data hackathon. A few weeks later, this blog post launched International Open Data Day with the hope that supporters would emerge in 5-6 cities to host local events.

Instead, on December 4th, 2010, an amazing group of volunteers organized events in 60 cities on every continent except Australia (OK, and Antartica). A year later, our second effort enjoyed similar success – including Australia this time! We also benefited from a generous informal partnership with the Random Hacks of Kindness, who let our open data hackers participate in spaces where they were organizing hackathons on the same day.

A number of people have been asking me about this year’s International Open Data Day. First, I want to apologize to the community of wonderful people who have been asking me if will we do it again. Between an outrageous travel schedule, work commitments and, most happily, the advent of my little boy – whose 36 hour birth(!) prevented me from participating in Vancouver’s Open Data hackathon last year(!) – I have been remiss in not organizing and communicating information regarding this year’s event.

So, over the past 4 weeks I’ve been consulting with some of the previous year’s organizers (I deeply apologize if I have not spoken to you), and here is the status update:

  1. I’ve been reminded of the awesomeness, organizational skill, patience and general wonderfulness of open data advocates around the world
  2. We are DEFINITELY DOING International Open Data Day and WANT YOU TO PARTICIPATE
  3. For a number of reasons* we are MOVING THE EVENT TO FEB 23rd, 2013.
  4. We are more keen than ever to have this not just be about hacking code, but reusing other projects and BROADENING THE COMMUNITY by using data to do all sorts of things from analysis to visualizations and even just sharing an interesting insight.

So with that in mind, here are a few things that are going on as we speak.

  • If you are interested in participating in, or organizing an International Open Data Day event in your community, please join the Open Data Day mailing list. We’ll post any updates there, and it is a great place to ask questions and get to know other organizers.
  • You may have noticed that opendataday.org is not working. Yikes! We know! We are in the midst of transferring the site over to the Open Knowledge Foundation, who has generously offered to manage it.
  • Once we get the site up – and especially the wiki – I’ll be hitting the mailing list again asking people to start registering their cities, noting locations and sharing information. In the past, the wiki has been amazingly well organized, which has been exceedingly helpful and awesome.
  • For those interested in hosting an event, there is a great guide on how to do so, thanks to Kevin McArthur, Herb Lainchbury and Donna Horn – that can be found here.
  • We are starting to reach out to some of our past partners including The Open Knowledge Foundation, Data.gov/White House, the World Bank, ScraperWiki, the Sunlight Foundation, various Hackerspaces, Hacks and Hackers – and anyone else who wants to be involved, we’d love to hear from you.
  • Feel free to send me an email if you have any thoughts, questions or concerns.

Okay, apologies for the long blog post and the delay in communicating about this. If you have participated or organized an event in the past, thank you. I hope you’re excited about doing it again and that the new date works for you!

Am looking forward to hearing from you.

*Those reasons being: too close to various holidays, too much at the best time of summer in the southern hemisphere, too little time to organize, timing around the Code for America fellows being in their partner cities.

NASA space hackathon (in Vancouver) this weekend

So, many, many things I’d like to blog upon at the moment. I’m in Brasilia at the Open Government Partnership meeting, so obviously lots to talk about there, and, of course, Canada Post has completely lost it and is suing a company over postal code data but it’s been twenty hour days and those post more thought (and rest).

In the mean time, if you are in Vancouver, the very cool people over at Steam Clock Software – and Angelina Fabbro in particular – are organizing the Vancouver edition of the NASA International Space Apps challenge THIS WEEKEND at the Network Hub.

You should feel free to show up as a team, or come on your own and join a team. It’s worth checking this out now, as there is some pretty rich data sets to explore so getting familiar with it before hand is… recommended.

Mostly I just love that NASA is thinking this way.

It’s also good that the Canadian government is not involved, since even getting them to acknowledge there participation would have proven too controversial (and sucked up a ton of public servants time).

Space geeks… unite!

Open Data Day 2011 – Recaps from Around the World

This last Saturday was International Open Data Day with hackathons taking place in cities around the world.

How many you ask? We can’t know for certain, but organizers around the world posted events to the wiki in over 50 cities around the world. Given the number of tweets with the #odhd hashtag, and the locations they were coming from, I don’t think we were far off that mark. If you assume 20 people at each event (some had many more – for instance there were over 100 in Ottawa, Vancouver had close to 50, 120+ in New York) it’s safe to say more than 1000 people were hacking on open data projects around the world.

It’s critical to understand that Open data Day is a highly decentralized event. All the work that makes it a success (and I think it was a big success) is in the hands of local organizers who find space, rally participants, push them to create stuff and, of course, try to make the day as fun as possible. Beyond their hard work and dedication there isn’t much, if any, organization. No boss. No central authority. No patron or sponsor to say thank you. So if you know any of the fine people who attended, or even more importantly, helped organize an event, please shake their hand or shoot them a thank you. I know I’m intensely grateful to see there are so many others out there that care about this issue, that want to connect, learn, meet new people, have fun and, of course, make something interesting. Given the humble beginnings of this event, we’ve had two very successful years.

So what about the day? What was accomplished? What Happened?

Government Motivator

I think one of the biggest accomplishments of Open Data Day has been how it has become a motivator – a sort of deadline – for governments keen to share more open data. Think about this. A group of volunteers around the world is moving governments to share more data – to make public assets more open to reuse. For example, in Ireland Fingal County Council released data around trees, parking, playing pitches & mobile libraries for the day. In Ontario, Canada the staff for the Region of Waterloo worked extra hard to get their open data portal up in time for the event. And it wasn’t just local governments. The Government of BC launched new high value data sets in anticipation of the event and the Federal Government of Canada launched 4000 new data sets with International Open Data Day in mind. Meanwhile, the open data evangelist of Data.gov was prepared to open up data sets for anyone who had a specific request.

While governments should always be working to make more data available I think we can all appreciate the benefits of having a deadline, and Open Data Day has helped become just that for more and more governments.

In other places, Open Data Day turns into a place where governments can converse with developers and citizens about why open data matters, and do research into what data the public is interested in. This is exactly what happened in Enschede in the Netherlands where local city staff worked with participants around prioritizing data sets to make open.

Local Events & Cool Hacks

A lot of people have been blogging about, or sharing videos of, Open Data Day events around the world. I’ve seen blog posts and news articles on events in places such as Madrid, Victoria BC, Oakland, Mexico City, Vancouver, and New York City. If there are more, please email them to me or post them on the wiki.

I haven’t been able to keep track of all the projects that got worked on, but here are a sampling of some that I’ve seen via twitter, the wiki and other forums:

Hongbo: The Emergency Location Locator

In Cotonou, Benin the open data day participants developed a web application called Hongbo the Goun word for “Gate.” Hongbo enables users to locate the nearest hospital, drugstore and police stations. As they noted on the open data day wiki, the data sets for this application were public but not easily accessible. They hope Benin citizen can use it quickly identify who to call or where to go in emergencies.

Tweet My Council

In Sydney, Australia participants created Tweetmycouncil. A fantastic simply application that allows a user to know which jurisdiction they are standing in. Simply send a tweet to the hashtag #tmyc and the app will work where you, what council’s jurisdiction you are in and send you a tweet with the response.

Mexican Access to Information Tracker

In Mexico City one team created an application to compare Free of Information requests between different government departments. This could be a powerful tool for citizens and journalists. (Github repo)

Making it Easier for the Next Guy

Another project out of Mexico City, a team from Oaxaca created an API that creates a json file for any public data set. Would be great for this team to connect with Max Ogden and talk about Gut.

Making it Even Easier for the Next Guy

Speaking of, Max Ogden in Oakland shared more on Gut, which is less of a classic app then a process that enables users to convert data between different formats. It had a number of people excited including open data developers at other locations such as Luke Closs and Mike West.

Mapping Census Data in Barcelona

A team of hackers in Barcelona mapped census tracts so they could be visualized, showing things, like say, the number of parks per census tract. You can find the data sets they used in Google Fusion Tabels here.

Foreign Aid Visualizations

In London UK and in Seattle (and possibly other places) developers were also very keen on the growing amount of aid data being made available and in a common structure thanks to IATI. In Seattle developers created this very cool visualization of US Aid over the last 50 years. I know the London UK team has visualizations of their own they’d like to share shortly.

Food Hacking!

One interesting thing about Open Data Day is how it bridges some very different communities. One of the most active are the food hackers which came out in force in both New York and Vancouver.

In New York a whole series of food related tools, apps and visualization got developed, most of which are described here and here. The sheer quantity of participants (120+) and projects developed is astounding, but also fantastic is how inclusive their event is, with lots of people not just working on apps, but analyzing data and creating visualizations to help others understand an issue they share a common passion for: the Food Bill. Please do click on those links to see some of the fun visuals created.

The Ultimate Food API

In Vancouver, the team at FoodTree – who hosted the hackathon there – focused on shipping an API for developers interested in large food datasets.  You can find their preliminary API and datasets in github. You can also track the work they’ve done on their Open Food Wiki.

Homelessness

In Victoria, BC a team created a map of local walk-in community services that you can check out at http://ourservices.ca/.

BC Emergency Tweeting System

Another team in Victoria, BC focused on creating twitter hashtags for each official place in the province with the hopes that the province’s Provincial Emergency Program.

Mapping Shell’s Oils Spills in Nigeria

The good people at the Open Knowledge Foundation worked on getting a ton more data into the Datahub, but they also had people learning how to visualize data, one of whom created this visualization of oil spills in Nigeria. Always great to see people experimenting and learning!

Mapping Vancouver’s Most Dangerous Intersections for Bikes

Open Data hacking and biking accident data have a long history together and this hackathon I uploaded 5 years worth of bike accident I managed to get from ICBC to Buzzdata. As a result – even though I couldn’t be present in Vancouver – two different developers took it and mapped it. You can see @ngriffithshere and @ericp’s will be up soon. It was interesting to learn that Broadway and Cambie is the most dangerous intersection in the city for cyclists?

Looking Forward

Last year open data day attracted individual citizens: those with a passion for an issue (like food) or who want to make their government more effective or citizens lives a little easier. However, this year we already started to see the community grow – the team at Socrata hosted a hackathon at their offices in Seattle. Buzzdata had people online trying to help people share their data. In addition to these private companies some of the more established non-profits were out in force. The Open Knowledge Foundation had a team working on making openspending.org more accessible while MySociety helped a team in Canada set up a local version of MapIt.

For those who think that open data can change the world or, even build medium sized economic ecosystems, over night, we need to reset their expectations. But it is growing. No longer are participants just citizens and hacktavists – there are real organizations and companies participating. Few, but they are there. My hope is that this trend will continues. That open data day will continue to have meaning for individuals and hackers but will also be something that larger more established organizations, non-profits and companies will use as a rallying point as well. Something to shoot for next year.

Feedback

As I mentioned at the beginning, Open Data Day is a very decentralized event. We are, of course, not wedded to that approach and I’d love to hear feedback from people, good or bad, about worked or didn’t work. Please do feel free to email me, post it to the mailing list or simply comment below.

 

 

Postscript

Finally, some of you may have noticed I became conspicuously absent on the day. I want to apologize to everyone. My partner went into labour on Friday night and so by early morning Saturday it was obvious that my open data day was going to be spent with her. Our baby was 11 days over due so we really thought that we’d be in the clear by Dec 3rd… but our baby had other plans. The good news is that despite 35 hours of labour, baby and boy are doing well!

International Open Data Hackathon, Dec 3rd. It's coming together.

So a number of things have started to really come together for this Saturday Dec 3rd. I’ve noticed a number of new cities being tweeted about (hello Kuala Lumpur & Oakland!) and others adding themselves to the wiki. Indeed, we seem to be above 40 cities. It is hard to know how many people will be showing up in each given city, but in Vancouver I know that we already over 20 registered, while in Ottawa they are well above 40. If other cities have similar numbers it’s a great testament to the size of the community out there interested in playing with open government data.

A few thoughts to share with people as we get ready for the big day.

1. Leverage existing projects.

I’ve mentioned a few times that there are some great existing projects out there that can be easily leveraged.

In that vein I’ve noticed the good people at the Open Knowledge Foundation, who are behind OpenSpending (the project that powers WherDoesMyMoneyGo.org) have not only made their software easier to use but have put up some helpful instructions for creating your own instance up on the wiki. One hope I have for Saturday is that a number of different places might be able to visualize local budgets in much easier to understand ways. OpenSpending has the potential of being an enormously helpful tool for communities trying to understand their budget – hopefully we can provide some great examples and feedback for its creators.

In addition, the folks at MySociety have provided some helpful advice on the wiki for those interested in spinning up a version of MapIt for their country.

2. Get Data Now, Not on Saturday!

Here in Vancouver, my friend Luke C asked if we could get bicycle accident data for the city or province as he wanted to play around with it and maybe visualize it on December 3rd. It just so happened I had a contact at the Insurance Company of British Columbia (ICBC) which insures every vehicle in the province. I reached out and, after going through their request process, now have the data set to share with Luke.

The key piece here: now is the time to check and see if data you are interested in is available, see investigate what is out there, and request it from various stakeholders if it is not.

3. Share Your Code, Share your Data

Indeed, one advantage of having the BC bicycle accident data early is that I can start sharing it with people immediately. I’ve already uploaded the data set (all 6400 lines) onto BuzzData’s site here so others can download it, clone it, and share their own work on it. That way, even if Luke and I get separated, he’s still got something to hack on!

So please do let people know where they can find data you are hacking on, as well as project you’re hacking on. The Open Data Day Projects 2011 wiki page currently sits empty (as should be expected). But take a swing by the page 2010 project page, notice how it is quite full… I’d love to see us replicate this success. I’m hoping people link to not just their projects, but also Github repos, scraperwiki creations, BuzzData accounts and other places.

If you have a project and you think people in open data day hackathons in other cities might be interested, put it in the project page and tweet about it using the #odhd hashtag. You may discover there are people out there who feel as passionately about your project as you do!

4. Let’s Get Connected

Speaking of sharing, my friend Edward O-G, who is organizing the hackathon in Ottawa, did a great job last year setting up some infrastructure so people from different hackathons could video conference with one another. This year I think we’ll try using Google hangouts on google+. However, there is a non-trivial risk that this will not scale super well.

So…

Edward also suggested (brilliantly) that people create YouTube videos of whatever they create during the hackathon or in the days and weeks that follow. Please post those links to the Open Data Day Projects 2011 wiki page as well. There were a few projects last year that had youtube videos and they were very helpful, particularly when a project isn’t quite ready for prime time. It gives us a taste of what will be available. It also becomes something we can point people to.

5. Have Fun, Do What Is Interesting

Remember, Open Data Day is about meeting people, learning about open data, and working on something that you feel passionate about. This is all very decentralized and informal – no one is going to come and save your hackathon… it is up to you! So make sure you find something you think is worth caring about and work on it. Share your idea, and your passion, with others, that’s what makes this fun.

Can’t wait to hear what people are up to. Please feel free to email or tweet at me what you’re working on. I’d love to hear about it and blog about them.

 

Here in Vancouver, the open data hackathon will be happening at the offices of FoodTree, which has some of its own developers working on Open Food data.(If you haven’t signed up yet, definitely do so here).

 

 

Open Data Day – a project I'd like to be doing

As some readers and International Open Data Hackathon participants know, I’m really keen on developers reusing each others code. All too often, in hackathons, we like to build something from scratch (which can be fun) but I’ve always liked the idea of hackathons either spurring genuine projects that others can reuse, or using a hackathon as an excuse to find a project they’d like support and contribute to.

That’s why I’ve been really encouraging people to find open source projects out there that they’d find interesting and that will support others efforts. This is a big reason I’ve been thinking about MapIt and the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Where does my Money Go project.

In Vancouver, one project I’m eventually hoping we can contribute to is Adopt-a-Hydrant. A project out of Code for America, the great thing about Adopt-a-Hydrant is that it can be adapted to become an adopt an anything app. It’s the end goal of a project I’m hoping to plan out and start on during the Hackathon.

Here in Vancouver, I’ve been talking with the Parks Board around getting a database of all the cities trees opened up. Interestingly this dataset does not include location data (Lat/Long) for each tree… So what would initially be great is to build a mobile phone app that will show you a list of trees near the address the user is currently at, and then allow the user to use their phone’s GPS to add the lat/long data to the database. That way we can help augment the city’s database. Once you begin to add lat long data then you could map trees in Adopt-a-Hydrant and create an Adopt-a-Tree app. Citizens could then sign up to adopt a tree, offer to take care of it, maybe notify the parks board if something is wrong.

I consider this a fairly ambitious project, but it could end up engaging a number of stakeholders – students, arborists, retirees, and others – that don’t normally engage in open data.

I know that the crew organizing a hackathon in Hamilton, Ontario are also looking to create an instance of Adopt-a-Hydrant, which is awesome. We need to both track what worked and what didn’t work so that the kinks in Adopt-a-hydrant can be worked out. More users and developers like us will help refine it further.

If you are planning a hackathon for the Dec 3rd International Open Data Hackathon, please be sure to update the wiki, join the mailing list, and if you have a project your are planning on working on, please email the list, or me directly, I’d love to blog about it!