Category Archives: Events

Code Across Austin V: Civic Hack Summit Recap

Civic Hack Summit 2015Code Across Austin V / Civic Hack Summit was held on Feb 28, 2015. This event was part of national Code Across activity. sponsored by Code for America.

For this year’s Code Across Austin event, we decided to take a new approach to the conventional hackathon model. With the help of many community partners and dedicated volunteers, we believe we succeeded.

Conventional hackathons usually combine project ideation, development, and deployment into a single event. The result is one or two projects with real potential, while the rest fall by the wayside.

The 2015 Civic Hack Summit, in addressing the aforementioned pitfalls, was designed to produce a collection of plans for projects that could anchor a year-long civic hacking effort.

First, four guest presenters spoke about the potential for civic technology to improve the lives of Austin-area residents.

Austin City Council Member, District 4, Greg Casar spoke about the need for data-driven tools to enhance decision making at City Council. For example, we might know about areas in Austin with too few parks, but knowing exactly who and how many people are affected by the issue would strengthen any proposal for action.

Austin Monitor Publisher Michael Kanin shared his experience working with the City to release the raw data from the AMANDA database, the system used to track all permits relating to building construction, remodeling, and demolition. Kanin spoke of the importance of working with the City to reach shared goals, and outlined his plan for a using the AMANDA data to create a more user-friendly and accessible tool.

Chip Rosenthal, chair of Open Austin, provided attendees with a real example of what makes a hack-a-thon project successful. After several attempts to create a tool to connect lost pets with their owners, it wasn’t until the third iteration that the project successfully deployed. Why was this the case? Chip identified community need and resource opportunity as crucial elements for Pet Alerts’ success. The need for people to reconnect with their lost pets always existed, but before the third iteration, the data was unreliable. After the Pet Alerts developers reached out to the City, Animal Services began uploading its animal intake data to the City’s open data portal. The Pet Alerts developers were finally able to match the need with the opportunity, and recently deployed a successful beta application.

Finally, Eric Boggs from the Austin Center for Design, spoke about a unique approach to app development: human centered design. The approach consists of research, synthesis, and prototyping, with each phase incorporating information and insights about the intended users and their needs. These strategies are essential for creating community buy-in and maximizing potential for a successful hack project.

With all this information, six hours of time at the Iron Yard, and plenty of sticky notes, what did we achieve at the Civic Hack Summit? Seventy participants split into 6 groups and generated a wealth of problem statements. Then, each group selected their three favorite statements and presented them to the entire group. Attendees then self-selected into the problem statements they wanted to work on during the afternoon session.

To facilitate the move from a problem statement to a project, we hacked a tool commonly used in the agile methodology called the “business model canvas” with the help of the City and local volunteers. This new “Civic Tech Planning Canvas” gave attendees the framework to develop a successful project plan. As far as we know, this was the first implementation of the Civic Tech Planning Canvas at any hackathon.

Using the canvases, groups created 11 different project proposals within six policy themes, ranging from a noise ordinance mapping tool to a streamlined portal for accessing government services and forms.

  • Development & Land Use
    • Noise Complaints
    • Granny Flats
  • Transportation
    • City Paths Policy Report
    • City Path User App
    • CapMetrics
  • Sustainability
    • Zero Waste Attainment
  • Health & Social Services
    • 211 Data
  • Broadband & Digital Opportunities
    • Streamlined City Portal UX
    • Map My Broadband
  • Civic Engagement
    • Budget Out of the Box
    • Council Connect

But the hacking doesn’t end here. From now until the National Day of Civic Hacking, these projects will be available for the community to develop and refine using the information and ideas produced at the Civic Hack Summit. We were extremely impressed with the 11 projects, and our goal is to help these ideas grow into successful deployment.

If you’d like to connect with one of these projects, please join us at one of our periodic civic hack nights. The next hack night is scheduled for Monday, March 9. Or, join our email list to stay up-to-date on latest news and activity.

Open Gov & Civic Tech Meetup, Mar 16

Date: Mon, Mar 16, 2014
Time: 6:45 – 8:45 pm
Location: Terrazas Branch Library, 1105 E. Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX, 78702 (map)
Calendar: link

Invited Guests:

We’ve invited some out-of-town guests, visiting for SXSW Interactive, to come by our meetup to talk about their work with open government and civic technology. If you are from out-of-town and would like to give an informal lightening talk on a local project or open gov/civic tech activity in your community, please contact chip [at] unicom [dot] com (Chip Rosenthal).

Jennifer Pahlka is the founder and executive director of Code for America. She recently served as the US Deputy Chief Technology Officer in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. She is known for her TED talk, Coding a Better Government, and is the recipient of several awards, including the Oxford Internet Institute’s Internet and Society Award, MIT’s Kevin Lynch Award, and National Democratic Institute’s Democracy Award.

Jeff Reichman is a principal at January Advisors, a firm he founded in 2009.  He works on open data and urban planning projects for the City of Houston, and a variety of other technology projects for the public sector.  He is also the co-founder of Open Houston, a community group dedicated to civic innovation.

The meetup location is easily accessed by public transportation and has plentiful parking.

Open Austin hosts a monthly meet-up, to discuss local open government and civic technology issues. Our meet-ups are free and open to the public.

Open Gov & Civic Tech Meetup, Feb 23

Date: Mon, Feb 23, 2014
Time: 6:45 – 8:45 pm
Location: Terrazas Branch Library, 1105 E. Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX, 78702 (map)
Calendar: link

Mar 3 update: Sharla’s slides are here.

Invited Guest: Sharla Chamberlain, City of Austin, Telecommunications and Regulatory Affairs
Topic: Data to Drive Digital Innovation

The City of Austin envisions a community in which every Austin resident has access to the resources and knowledge needed to fully participate in our increasingly digital society. We are working to build a transparent and data-driven informational portal to visualize available resources, identify unmet needs, get information about digital opportunities directly to residents, and learn more about the barriers residents face to access and literacy. Tools and services like website design, interactive mapping, spatial and statistical analysis, database management, graphics, and user interface enhancement will be key to building this portal.

The meetup location is easily accessed by public transportation and has plentiful parking.

Open Austin hosts a monthly meet-up, to discuss local open government and civic technology issues. Our meet-ups are free and open to the public.

Code Across Austin V: Civic Hack Summit / Sat, Feb 28

Date: Sat, Feb 28, 2015
Registration: 9:30 – 10:00 am
Time: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Location: The Iron Yard, 3601 South Congress Ave, Bldg C, AustinTX 78704  (map)

The event is free, but seating is limited and advance registration is required: REGISTER NOW

Mar 6 update: event recap posted here.

Feb 27 update: the event program is available  here.

Feb 23 update: added registration hours, 9:30 – 10:00 am. Updated map link to show facility location.

Interested in helping us make this event a success?: Call for Volunteers

The Civic Hack Summit will bring together local developers, designers, project managers, government staff, public policy experts, and citizen advocates to launch a new wave of community-developed civic technology projects for Austin.

At this one-day event, we will explore a number of themes and community needs. The goal is to identify solution and formulate project plans. The projects we initiate here will be developed throughought the year, through events such as the ATX Hack for Change and Open Austin hack nights.

Some of the themes we’d like to explore include:

  • Development and Land Use
  • Transportation
  • Broadband and Digital Opportunities
  • Health and Social Services
  • Sustainability
  • Civic Engagement
  • Crime and Justice

In the morning sessions, local subject-matter experts will brief us on some of the challenges in our community, and help identify some interesting open data and technology opportunities. In the afternoon, we’ll break into workgroups, identify solutions we want to build, and initiate plans for hack projects.

We need non-coders. We need your interest and domain knowledge to help identify the issues we’d like to take on, and what the solutions will look like.

We need coders. We need your expertise to identify technology opportunities and develop architectures for these solutions.

It’s the hack before the hack. If you’ve got interest, skills, and passion for solving community problems with innovative technology solutions, we need your help.

Please re-visit this page periodically. We’ll be adding more information as details develop.

The event is free and open to the public. It is conducted as part of the national “Code Across” weekend, sponsored by Code for America. “Code Across Austin” was launched in 2012 by visiting Code for America fellows. Now produced by Open Austin, the “Civic Hack Summit” will be our fifth “Code Across Austin” event.

 

Presented by:
Open_Austin_Banner_400x80.png
City of AustinAustinGO-70x80Austin Monitor logo

 

Sponsored by:
Google
Socrata
 Rackspace
The Iron Yard logo Code for America Brigade

 

Community supporters:

Open Gov & Civic Tech Meetup, Jan 26

Date: Mon, Jan 26, 2014
Time: 6:45 – 8:45 pm
Location: Terrazas Branch Library, 1105 E. Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX, 78702 (map)
Calendar: link

Invited Guest: Kerry O’Connor, City of Austin, Chief Innovation Officer
Topic: City of Austin Open Data Initiative

The City of Austin has enacted an open government policy, and the City Manager has issued an open data directive. Late last year, the City Manager created a high-level board to execute on an open data program.

Kerry O’Connor, the city’s Chief Innovation Officer, participates on that board. She will give an update on the city’s open data initiatives, and discuss plans for the coming months.

The meetup location is easily accessed by public transportation and has plentiful parking.

Open Austin hosts a monthly meet-up, to discuss local open government and civic technology issues. Our meet-ups are free and open to the public.

Open Gov & Civic Tech Meetup, Dec 15

Date: Mon, Dec 15, 2014
Time: 6:45 – 8:45 pm
Location: Terrazas Branch Library, 1105 E. Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX, 78702 (map)
Calendar: link

Topic: Open Austin / Advancing Open Gov & Open Data 2015

We will not have a guest speaker this month. Instead, we’ll use the December meetup to identify our key objectives for bringing more open data and technology to the City of Austin in 2015.

We’ll have a facilitated discussion how we should focus on for our policy and hacking efforts in 2015. There is an immense opportunity before us to push open data and open government to the next level. We want your input — and involvement — to help make that happen.

The meetup location is easily accessed by public transportation and has plentiful parking.

Open Austin hosts a monthly meet-up, to discuss local open government and civic technology issues. Our meet-ups are free and open to the public.

Open Gov & Civic Tech Meetup, Nov 17

Date: Mon, Nov 17, 2014
Time: 6:45 – 8:45 pm
Location: Terrazas Branch Library, 1105 E. Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX, 78702 (map)
Calendar: link

Invited Guest: Robert Brizendine, Austin Animal Center

Austin Animal Center runs the largest no-kill animal shelter in the United States, providing shelter to more than 18,000 animals each year and animal protection services to all of Austin and Travis County. The Austin Animal Center is an open-intake facility where lost and surrendered animals from all of Travis County in need of shelter are accepted regardless of age, health, species or breed. The goal of the Austin Animal Center is to place all adoptable animals in forever homes.

Robert Brizendine, Research Analyst at the Austin Animal Center will talk about automation tools the animal center uses, open data they currently provide, and future plans.

The meetup location is easily accessed by public transportation and has plentiful parking.

Open Austin hosts a monthly meet-up, to discuss local open government and civic technology issues. Our meet-ups are free and open to the public.

Open Gov & Civic Tech Meetup, Oct 20

Date: Mon, Oct 20, 2014
Time: 6:45 – 8:45 pm
Location: Terrazas Branch Library, 1105 E. Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX, 78702 (map)
Calendar: link

Invited Guest: Joe Iannello, VP & Chief Information Officer, Cap Metro

Nov 10 update: Joe’s slides are here (2MB PDF document).

Capital Metro already is publishing open data. They’ve also have embraced open data standards such as GTFS. Soon they will be rolling out a new advanced capability: real-time data for certain transit services. Continue reading

New Resource: How to Use the City Data Portal

screenshot-data-portal-howtoYou may know that the City of Austin runs an open data portal, with more than 200 unique open government datasets.

The data portal, however, is much more than a mere file repository. It offers features that allow you to search, sort, roll-up, and graph the data. If the dataset has addresses, you can even generate maps of the data.

It’s a lot of capability — but people don’t always know it’s there. It would be great if we had a tool that helped explain how to use these features of the data portal.

At the ATX Hack for Change hackathon this past June, a team of volunteers developed a website to help people use some of the tools provided on the data portal. A hackathon prototype is great, but moving that to a released product is always a challenge.

So, we’re pleased  to announce their website is now available for use. Check it out:

How to Use the City of Austin Open Data Portal
http://atxdataportal.wikispaces.com/

Thanks to Juliette Kernion, Alane Fitzgerald, Chris McConnell, Marbenn Cayetano, Tim. and Gail Maynard for developing this resource and making it available to the community.

Open Gov & Civic Tech Meetup, Aug 25

Date: Mon, Aug 25, 2014
Time: 6:45 – 8:45 pm
Location: Terrazas Branch Library, 1105 E. Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX, 78702 (map)
Calendar: link

Invited Guest: City of Austin Council Member Laura Morrison
Topic: City of Austin Open Government Initiative

Council Member Laura Morrison is a member of the Austin City Council and chairs the council’s committee on Emerging Technology and Telecommunications. She has sponsored the open government resolutions adopted by the City Council, as well as the budget amendment that led to the hiring of a Chief Innovation Officer for the city.

We’ve invited her to come speak about the current status of the open government initiative, and some of the challenges that lay ahead for these programs.

After the meetup, we’ll move across the street to Cenote cafe.

The meetup location is easily accessed by public transportation and has plentiful parking. If you park, however, be sure to move your car if you plan to come to Cenote. The lot is locked when the library closes.

The Open Austin Hack Team will have a check-in from 6:00 – 6:30 pm, in advance of the meetup. If you are a developer or designer who wants to work on hacking projects, please come for the check-in to find out what’s going on.

Open Austin hosts a monthly meet-up, to discuss local open government and civic technology issues. Our meet-ups are free and open to the public.