Tag Archives: hackathon

Opendataday & the International Hackathon: What happened. What happens next.

I’m floored.

As many of you know, 5 weeks I had a conversation with a group of open data geeks (like me, likely like you) in Ottawa and Sao Paulo and we agreed to see if we could prompt an international opendata hackathon. At the time we thought there would be our three cities and maybe three of four more. At no point did we think that there would be 1000s of people in over 73 cities on 5 continents who would dedicate the time and energy to helping foster both a local and international community of open data hackers, advocates and citizens. Nor did we know that the wonderful people like those with Random Hacks of Kindness would embrace us and help make this event such a success.


All of this of course was the results of 100s of people in communities all over the world, working on their own, hustling to set things up and to get people engaged. If you participated, as an organizer, and a hacker, as a gardener of the wiki, or as someone who just wanted to help – congratulations. We are amazed. We hope you are amazed.


If you are out there I’ve a few thoughts on what we’d like to do right away:

  1. Congratulate yourself.
  2. People have only just begun to share the cool work they started. I’m hoping that more of you will share it so that everyone can be inspired by your work. I’m also hoping that these projects will continue to evolve.
  3. Let us know who you are (if you are comfortable with that). A number of you have told me you‘d like to do this again. Part of what made Saturday amazing was how much happened without any of us having to connect directly. That is the power of the internet. And keeping these events simple and loosely joined will always be a goal for us, but I know I’d like to thank more of you personally and be able to connect more so as to make communicating easier.
  4. Finally, we are thinking that another event will be fun to do is something like 6 months. But in the meantime we hope that you, like us, will try to keep the flame burning in your city by hosting the occasional local event. I know I will be endeavoring to do so in Vancouver.

Longer term:

5. I hope we can develop tools and resources to enable participants to engage with politicians and public servants on the importance of open data. The projects we hack on are powerful examples of what can be, but we also need to become more effective at explaining why open data matters in a language everyone understands. I’m hoping we’ll have resources to help us with this important task.

In the meantime, we’ll be figuring out what to do next. We’d love your help, to hear your thoughts and frustrations and your ideas. Please reach out.

Dave, Edward, Mary Beth, Daniel, Daniela and Pedro

Some favourite shots:




Vancouver International Open Data Hackathon Event Agenda/Invite

Tomorrow is December 4th. The International Open Data Hackathon will be taking place around the world. Here in Vancouver, we’ll be contributing as well.
Here are some details:
Goals/Important points:
  • This is about having fun and working on something that makes you feel good. If, at any point you aren’t feeling that… then start doing something that does or come talk to me. :)
  • Our main goal is to create artifacts that will help strengthen our democracy, be fun to use, or just make life a little better – we want more open data, let’s show the world why it matters.
  • Our other goal is to build community, both here in Vancouver, and around the world, so let’s help one another, both in city, and those elsewhere…
  • Remember, this is not just for programmers. Any project will need a variety of skills.
  • If you don’t think you can do anything helpful, trust me, that is not the case.
  • W2/Storyeum 151 W. Cordova (map) in Vancouver
  • Phone: 604-689-9896
  • 9:30-10am People can start arriving any time after 9:30am
  • 10:00-10:30am We’ll be starting at 10am. We’ll begin with brief introductions and give those with ideas an opportunity to share them
  • 10:30 Sort into teams. If you haven’t already chosen a project to work on for the day… now is the time.
  • 10:30-12:00pm Hacking. Lots here to do for designers, developers, citizens to get materials organized, write copy or code, etc…
  • 12:00pm Check in. 5 minutes for teams to share progress, challenges, ask for suggestions
  • 12:30-3:30pm More hacking goodness
  • 3:30 project update/presentations

Vancouver Hack Space will be opening its doors after the hackathon for people who want to keep hacking over there. Great people at VHS so it should be good…

What to bring & expect:
  • A laptop.  If you absolutely can’t bring a laptop, please come anyway, there will be things to do.
  • We have a number of ideas that can be worked on. If you have one… great! If you are looking for cool people to work with… you’re coming to the right place.
  • Ideas that no one wants to work on will be removed.
  • We will ask people to vote with their feet, gathering into self forming teams for each project.

Sunlight Foundation and the International OpenData Hackathon

Building on the post from earlier today…

For those running or participating in the International Open Data hackathon this weekend who are still looking for ideas to hack on the Sunlight Foundation have a number of applications that are open source and could be “localized” to meet local needs.

The always awesome Eric Mill shared some of this promising candidate:

The “Congress” app for Android

The “Congress” app for Android has been very successful (>350K downloads) and, of course, is open source, so the code can be found here.

What’s required to “localize it”

a) Some translating (something non-developers could do)

b) identifying local data sources (something non-developers could do)

c) likely some restructuring to deal with that particular countries’ legislative structure.

Eric posted some information about it on the Sunlight Foundation’s blog here and the source code is open at Github. There is no documentation yet (although this could be another project for Saturday), but Eric is keen to work with any groups who want to work on it.

Two other projects include:

TransparencyData.com to which the source code can be found on Github here.

InfluenceExplorer.com not sure if the source code is available, but a good amount of interesting information can be found on the about page. My sense is that this project will be much more challenging…

Hope these inspire some good thoughts.

International Open Data Hackathon – IRC Channel and project ideas

Okay, going to be blogging a lot more about the international open data hackathon over the next few days. Last count had us at 63 other cities in 25 countries on over 5 continents.

So first and foremost, here are three thoughts/ideas/actions I’m taking right now:

1. Communicating via IRC

First, for those who have been wondering… yes, there will be an IRC channel on Dec 4th (and as of now) that I will try to be on most of the day.

irc.oftc.net #odhd

This could be a great place for people with ideas or open sourced projects to share them with others or for cities that would like to present some of the work they’ve done on the day with others to find an audience. If, by chance, work on a specific project becomes quite intense on the IRC channel, it may be polite for those working on it to start a project specific channel, but we’ll cross the bridge on the day.

Two additional thoughts:

2. Sharing ideas

Second, some interesting projects brainstorms have been cropping up on the wiki. Others have been blogging about them, like say these ideas from Karen Fung in Vancouver.

Some advice to people who have ideas (which is great).

a) describe who the user(s) would be and what the application will it do, why would someone use it, and what value would they derive from it.

b) even if you aren’t a coder (like me) lay out what data sets the application or project will need to draw upon

c) use powerpoint or keynote to create a visual of what you think the end product should look like!

d) keep it simple. Simple things get done and can always get more complicated. Complicated things don’t get done (and no matter how simple you think it is… it’s probably more complicated than you think

These were the basic principles I adhered when laying out the ideas behind what eventually became Vantrash and Emitter.ca.

Look at the original post where I described what I think a garbage reminder service could look like. Look how closely the draft visual resembles what became the final product… it was way easier for Kevin and Luke (who I’d never met at the time) to model vantrash after an image than just a description.



Vantrash screen shot

3. Some possible projects to localize:

A number of projects have been put forward as initatives that could be localized. I wanted to highlight a few here:

a) WhereDoesMyMoneyGo?

People could create new instances of the site for a number of different countries. If you are interested, please either ping wdmmg-discuss or wdmmg (at) okfn.org.

Things non-developers could do:

  1. locate the relevant spending data on their government’s websites
  2. right up materials explaining the different budget areas
  3. help with designing the localized site.

b) OpenParliament.ca
If you live in a country with a parliamentary system (or not, and you just want to adapt it) here is a great project to localize. The code’s at github.com/rhymeswithcycle.

Things non-developers can do:

  1. locate all the contact information, twitter handles, websites, etc… of all the elected members
  2. help with design and testing

c) How’d They Vote
This is just a wonderful example of a site that creates more data that others can use. The API’s coming out of this site save others a ton of work and essentially “create” open data…

d) Eatsure
This app tracks health inspection data of restaurants done by local health authorities. Very handy. Would love to see someone create a widget or API that companies like Yelp could use to insert this data into the restaurant review… that would be a truly powerful use of open data.

The code is here:  https://github.com/rtraction/Eat-Sure
Do you have a project you’d like to share with other hackers on Opendataday? Let me know! I know this list is pretty North American specific so would love to share some ideas from elsewhere.

International Open Data Hackathon – 63 cities, 25 countries, 5 continents

and counting. Never could any of us have imagined that there would be so many stepping forward to organize an event in their cities.

The clear implication is that Open Data matters. To a lot of people.

To a lot of us.

If you are in the media, a politician or the civil service: pay attention. There are a growing number of people – not just computer programmers and hackers, but ordinary citizens – who’ve come to love and want to help build sites and applications like fixmystreet, wheredoesmymoneygo, emitter.ca or datamasher.

If you are planning to participate in a hackathon – I hope you’ll read the next part (and help continue grow the wiki).

I think, for the day – December 4th – we all really have three shared goals.

1. Have fun

2. Help foster local supportive and diverse communities of people who advocate for open data

3. Help raise awareness of open data, why it matters, by building sites and applications

I’m confident that the first two will happen, but as I said in an earlier post… it is important that we have artifacts at the end of the day to share with the world.

In pursuit of that goal, I continue to believe that one of the easiest things we can do is localize cool projects that have happened in other jursidictions. For example, a team in Bangalore, India as well as a team in Vancouver & Victoria, Canada are contemplating porting openparliament.ca to their respective jurisdictions. It’s a great way to get a huge win and a new, useful, site up and running in a (relatively) short period of time.

I write this because I’m thinking there must be tons of interesting and engaging open data applications out there. If you run such an application… (I’m especially looking at you Sunlight Foundation, Open Knowledge Foundation, MySociety & others…) and you think people in other jurisdictions might want to localize them for their country, state or city… then I’d like you to consider doing the following:

Post to the Apps page of the wiki:

  • the project name,
  • link to the source code repository,
  • any documentation,
  • the various tasks you think will be involved in localizing it
  • things that non-coders can do to advance the project (like research, documentation, graphics, copy text for websites, etc…)
  • and some (very) rough senses of scope and timelines

(Note, I’m hoping to throw a template up shortly, but sadly, right now, I’m hoping on a red-eye flight so can’t do it… with luck tomorrow sometime I’ll delete this text and have added an example like openparliament.ca. For now Victoria and Vancouver have the beginnings of what I’m thinking of on their wiki pages)

Nothing would be cooler than having open data apps ported around world, helping spread citizen engagement, democratic accountability and fun with them.

I know there are some emails flying around about connecting cities for demos as suggested on the opendata hackathon website. Hope to have more on that soon as well.

Also, if you do think that media or local officials will attend and you’d like to brief them on opendata, I have some people at the world bank who’ve been helping launch and expand their open data portal who might be willing to help engage and explain why it is important to such people. Could be nice to have the additional help. Up to you. But feel free to let me know if there is interest.

Finally, if you are running a hackathon, please reach out and say hi. I’d love to hear from you.


Very, very excited.

Open Data planning session at BarCamp Vancouver

With the International Open Data Hackathon a little more the 2 weeks away a lot has happened.

On the organizing wiki people in over 50 cities in 21 countries and 4 continents have offered to organize local events. Open data sets that people can use have been posted to a specially created page, a few nascent app ideas have been shared, as has advice on how to run a hackathon. (on twitter, the event hashtag is #odhd)

In Vancouver, the local BarCamp will be taking place this weekend. I’m not in town, however, Aaron Gladders, local hacker with a ton of experience working with and opening up data sets, contacted me to let me know he’d like to do a planning session for the hackathon at Barcamp. If you’re in Vancouver I hope you can attend.

Why? Because this is a great opportunity. And it has lessons for the hackathons around the world.

I love it because it means people can share ideas and projects they would like to hack on, recruit others, as well as hear feedback about challenges, obstacles, alternative approaches, and think about all of this  for two weeks before the hackathon. A planning session also has  has an even bigger benefit. It means more people are likely to arrive on the day with something specific ready to work on. I want the hackathons to be social. But they can’t be exclusively so. It is important that we actually try to create some real products that are useful to us and/or our fellow citizens.

For those elsewhere in the world who are also thinking about December 4th I hope that some of us will start reaching out to one another and thinking about how we will spend the day. A few thoughts on this:

1. Take a look at the data sets that are out there before Dec 4th. People have been putting together a pretty good list here.

2. Localization. I think some of the best wins will be around localizing successful apps from other places. For example, I’ve been encouraging the team in Bangalore to consider localizing Michael Mulley’s OpenParliament.ca application (the source code for which is here). If you have an application you think others might want to localize, add it to the application page on the wiki. If there is an app out there you’d like to localize, write its author/developer team. Ask them if they might be willing to share the code.

3. Get together with 2-3 friends and come up with a plan. What do you want to accomplish on the 4th?

4. If you are looking for a project, let people know on the wiki, leave a twitter handle or some way for people with idea to contact you before the 4th.

Okay, that’s it for now. I’m really excited about how much progress we’ve made in a few short weeks. Ideally at the end of the 4th I’d love for some cities to be able to showcase some apps to the world that they’ve created. We have an opportunity to show the media, politicians, public servants, our fellow citizens, but most importantly, each other, just want is possible with open data.


International Open Data Hackathon Website and Wiki is up

So when I first wrote Let’s Do an International Open Data Hackathon I thought… maybe they’ll be 5 or 6 cities that will want to do one.

That may still be the case, but given the number of visits the blog post experienced and the number of people who registered interest on the etherpad, we may end up with a few more – which would be exciting.

To date people in 33 different cities spanning 16 countries four continents (some really nice guys from India emailed me saying they want to do one, but haven’t connected to the wiki yet) have said they are interested in organizing a hackathon in their home town. Will all of these happen? Who knows. But it is great to see that there is so much interest in an issue that represent an important opportunity.


So, to celebrate the growing interest we’ve launched a website and a wiki to help inform people about the open data hackathon and give them a place to register their interest and organize.

Please, check them out! Feel free to create wiki pages for your cities, to share best practices and ideas on running hackathons, or even just translate materials and content into a parallel page.