Category Archives: Events

Open Gov & Civic Tech Meetup, Apr 21

Date: Mon, Apr 21, 2014
Time: 6:45 – 8:45 pm
Location: Terrazas Branch Library, 1105 E. Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX, 78702 (map)
Calendar: link

Topic One: Meet the City of Austin Data Architect

The City of Austin has just created a new position, a Data Architect. This person will be on the Communications and Technology Management (CTM) staff, and will be responsible for the data architecture of key enterprise projects in the city. They also will play a large role in shaping our open data systems.

His name is Ted Lehr. We’ll have an opportunity to meet Ted, and talk about the future for open data initiatives in the city.

Topic Two: Austin 3-1-1: Data, Apps, and API

Back in early 2013, the City of Austin was contemplating a contract extension with our 3-1-1 service system provider. At the direction of the City Council, Open Austin members met with city staff to discuss the project plans. Our key feedback point was concern the project support open data and open API standards, and not lock us into a proprietary platform app. We also dove deeper into the plans to integrate 3-1-1 with other city systems.

The city council approved the contract — with our support — and city staff have been moving forward on implementation.

Now, about a year later, the results are coming to fruition. Open data is already being published on the open data portal. Soon, the city will begin limited testing  not only of mobile platform apps, but also Open311 API services. Also, plans for an enterprise service bus to integrate the 3-1-1 systems into the other city enterprise systems is proceeding.

Brian Hooper and Bill Starks from Austin 3-1-1 will be coming to our meeting to provide a status update, and discuss plans for public testing of the apps and API.

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.

Open Gov & Civic Tech Meetup, Mar 17

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

Topic: Public Information in the Age of Open Data

Invited Speaker: Sherri Greenberg, Director of the Center for Politics and Governance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin. Ms. Greenberg served in the Texas House of Representatives for ten years, and previously was Manager of Capital Finance for the City of Austin.

Our March meetup falls during “Sunshine Week“, a national event recognizing the importance of access to public information and what it means for you and your community. Our meetup is one of the national events scheduled for Sunshine Week.

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Geospatial Jam Features Skill Sharing, Data Awareness

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Civic hackers, GIS analysts, government officials and members of the general public came together Saturday, Feb. 22 at the University Hills Branch Library in “Austin for Code Across Austin IV: Geospatial Jam”. Over 50 people attended the day-long event presented by Open Austin and the Austin Open-Source GIS User Group. The Geospatial Jam was Open Austin’s local event coordinating with the international Code Across 2014 events and International Open Data Day.

Unlike many of the Code Across and Open Data Day events, the Geospatial Jam was not a hackathon. Instead, it was a series of presentations and tutorials intended to share skills with the local community. These sessions ranged from sessions explaining geospatial data and how to do basic visualization with free tools to advanced presentations on how to develop geospatial web applications. Participants ranged from community members with a passing interest in data analysis to geospatial developers with years of experience.

All of the events took place at the Austin Public Library branch in the University Hills neighborhood, a historically African-American neighborhood in Northeast Austin. Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, excellent food and beverage — including lunch – were provided to all presenters and participants. Sponsors for our local event were Google, Socrata, and Boundless. We also received support from Code Across 2014 national sponsors Microsoft, ESRI, and Code for America.

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Jan ’14 Meetup Features Watershed Protection Safety and Visualization Projects

Sixteen people participated in Open Austin’s first meetup of the year, this past Monday night at the Terrazas Branch Library. Open Austin plans to host monthly meetups throughought 2014, to discuss open data policy and projects with the general public. At Monday’s meetup, Matt Porcher and Rob Clayton from the City of Austin Watershed Protection Department presented some projects they developed, as well as efforts to share data with the public.

Porcher gave the group an update on ATXFloods.com, a project that was initiated by Code for America fellows during their residency in 2012. The website provides a map that shows low-water crossings that lead to road closures and dangerous conditions because of flood waters. The project has been incorporated as a service maintained by the City of Austin to inform residents of dangerous driving situations. One perhaps unintended use case is local news media, which have used the site to inform their audiences of dangerous conditions. The current president of the Dove Springs Neighborhood Association attended the meetup with keen interest. The Dove Springs neighborhood suffered devastating damage in floods last year. He provided feedback on how the city and emergency services could best provide residents with emergency information.

Clayton demonstrated FloodPro, an online application that maps the city’s flood plains and indicates the water quality of watershed areas around the city. The tools he presented were largely developed for policy and scientific audiences, so he asked the group for feedback on potential uses by the general public and interface considerations for a broad audience. Watershed Protection is one of the most data-intensive departments in the City government. Because of concerns after the 1981 Memorial Day flood, Austin has been a leader in developing flood-related programs and maintaining data about watersheds in the city.

Slides from the presentations are available here:

Open Austin is planning several events a month through 2014, including a monthly meetup and a monthly hack night. The next meetup is scheduled for February 24 at the Terrazas Branch Library. It will feature Thomas Levine, a citizen hacker who has produced a number of data visualization projects based on open government data. Join our email list for latest news and events.

Code Across Austin IV / Geospatial Jam, Sat, Feb 22

Date: Sat, Feb 22, 2014
Time: 10:30 am – 4:30 pm
Location: University Hills Branch Library, 4721 Loyola Ln, Austin, TX 78723 (map)

The event is free, but seating is limited and advance registration is required: register here

From crime incidents to restaurant inspections, the most interesting and highest value open government data often has a geospatial component: a place, a district, a boundary, or the like.

The “Code Across Austin IV/Geospatial Jam” is a one-day workshop for the community to learn about location-rich data and tools. It is intended for everybody from programmers to spreadsheet jockeys to neighborhood advocates. We will focus on tools and technology for manipulating civic datasets that contain location information.

The event is free and open to the public. It is conducted as part of the national “Code Across America” weekend, sponsored by Code for America. This will be fourth time Austin has participated in a national “Code Across” event.

Presenters:

  • Marben Cayatano, City of Austin
  • Mateo Clark, Open Austin
  • Maya Coleman, City of Austin
  • Chris McConnell, UT Telecommunications and Information Policy Institute
  • Ryan Murphy, Texas Tribune
  • Chip Rosenthal, Open Austin
  • Sara Safavi, Austin Open Source GIS Meetup
  • James Seppi, Texas Natural Resource Information System
  • Kelly Strickler, Texas A&M Transportation Institute

Sessions:

  • Introduction to Geospatial Data
  • Government Datasets Online
  • Data Crunching and Conversion
  • Use Case: Data Visualization and Reporting with Google Fusion Tables
  • Use Case: Creating and Styling Maps with Mapbox and TileMill
  • Developer Tools for Database and Mapping
Presented by:
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City of AustinAustinGO-70x80

 

Code Across Austin sponsored by:
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Code Across America sponsored by:
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Austin Annual Holiday Web Bash 2013

Date: Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Time: 7 – 9pm
Location: Buffalo Billiards, 201 E 6th St, Austin, TX
Event/RSVP Page: https://refreshaustin.ticketbud.com/austin-web-bash-2013

Open Austin is joining over 30 other local groups in co-hosting the Austin Annual Holiday Web Bash.

The organizer’s say about this year’s event:

Following in our grand tradition, we plan to get together with the rest of the Austin web and tech community for a giant holiday party. Come escape from the stress of end-of-year deadlines and impending familial obligations with some great drinks and awesome people.

Each year participation has grown, and we’re very proud that what started out as a small gathering now includes over 25 active groups spanning a wide swath of the Austin Web and Tech community. Last year over 800 people joined us. This year we’re we’ve got more space and our sponsors are helping us make it even bigger!

In line with participation from so many groups, awesome local businesses have stepped up to sponsor the event, providing a bar tab and covering other party-related costs.

Austin is an amazing town filled with inspiring people and groups. You should come hang out with all of them on December 10th.

Open Government Performance Audit, Wed, Aug 28

City Council Audit and Finance Committee Meeting (link)
Date: Wed, Aug 28, 2013
Time: 10:00 am
Location: Austin City Hall, Room 1101, 301 W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701 (link)

[Aug 28 update: Exciting news -- the City of Austin has issued its long-awaited Open Government Directive. We are expecting to hear more at the meeting today.]

This City of Austin has conducted a performance audit of the Open Government initiative. The results will be presented this Wednesday morning, to the City Council Audit and Finance Committee. The meeting is open to the public. We request local open government and civic technology supporters attend, to show support for these issues.

We are concerned that the City of Austin Open Government Initiative, launched nearly two years ago, has faltered, and is on the brink of failure.

In December 2011, the City Council passed a resolution directing the City Manager to develop an Open Government Framework, including timelines and budget requirements. Now, nearly two years later, the framework has not been done and we have seen no recent signs of activity. The budget requirements called for have never been developed, even though we are now going through the second budget cycle since the resolution was passed.

In 2012, Austin hosted a Code for America fellowship, and three fellows were assigned to our city. They produced two significant apps: one to help mitigate risks from wildfire (prepared.ly) and another to relieve animal shelter space by helping get recovered pets back to their owners (Stray Mapper). Both apps have failed. prepared.ly is not being maintained and has not been activated this current wildfire season. Stray Mapper has never been deployed, even though, this summer, the animal shelter has declared an overcrowding crisis — which is the circumstance this app was designed to help alleviate.

The flow of information on the open data portal (data.austintexas.gov) has slowed to a trickle. The city produces hundreds — if not thousands — of new public datasets each year, but they are not getting released. In the past 30 days, only nine new datasets have been added — and that’s higher than recent months. One department (Budget and Finance) did a large release of eight new datasets, which accounts for nearly all the activity.

In August 2012, we foresaw the need for leadership to move this initiative forward. We proposed the creation of a high level Civic Innovation Office. The City Council approved $250K funding to pilot this initiative. Yet nearly a year later, the office is still unstaffed, and the first personnel requisition was issued just this month.

Even worse, city management has not allowed the community to participate in the development of the program, and has redirected the effort away from the civic and community vision we advocate, to an office that supports internal city processes and functions. While we certainly support the City Manager trying to bring innovation to internal city processes, we do not support his efforts to take funds allocated for one mission — a mission advocated by the public and approved by the City Council — and apply them to something entirely different.

We anticipate that the performance audit will document the lack of progress on the Open Government initiative, and we hope it provides guidance to get the program back on track.

We plan to attend the Wednesday meeting, to present our ideas on how to do that. We hope you can attend, and add your support for open government and civic technology.

Report from the ATX Hackathon for Change

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The weekend of Jun 1-2 was National Days of Civic Hacking across the nation. The local NDoCH event was the ATX Hackathon for Change, held on the St. Edward’s University Campus. The event was produced by the St. Edward’s Office of Information Technology, with support from Open Austin and the UT Food Lab. Numerous sponsors, both local and national, helped underwrite the costs of the event.

The event was — beyond a doubt — the most widely attended and successful civic hacking event ever held in Austin. Approximately 60 people attended the kick-off session, and an even larger number gathered at the end of the event for final presentations.

City of Austin Council Member Laura Morrison and St. Edward’s University Vice President for Information Technology David Waldron joined in the opening session, and offered welcoming comments to the hackers and participating non-profits. The attendees were queried as to how many had participated in a hacking event before, and over half said they had not. But not to fear; the operating principles were explained. Then everybody with a project idea was offered an opportunity to make a two-minute “pitch” to the hackers.

A stunning total of 19 potential projects were pitched to attendees. This is a testament to the support civic hackers enjoy from both the City of Austin and the local non-profit community. The City of Austin Public Works Department, for instance, was responsible for offering three proposals, backed by either app use cases or recently released datasets.

After the opening session presentations the hackers selected which projects they wanted to work on. Unfortunately, the number of pitches exceeded the capacity of the hackers. The participants selected nine projects for hacking. That’s, unfortunately, only a fraction of the total offered, but it’s more than twice the number taken up at any previous civic hackathon in Austin.

The selected projects were:

  • Agenda Alerts
  • Art Finder
  • Austin Recycles
  • Bike Share Locator
  • Connect2Good
  • Food Lab Mapathon
  • Getting Them Home
  • Keep Austin Fed
  • TEC Filer

Visit the event wiki for more information on the project proposals.

The closing session was open to the public, to view the results of the weekend. Seven of the projects presented the work they did, with demos and prototypes. A panel of subject matter experts provided their feedback to the groups, along with questions and advice to help move their projects on towards full implementation.

The ATX Hackathon for Change was one of two hacking events held in Austin this past weekend. The Austin American-Statesman wrote up a summary of the events: Dual hackathons lure creative thinkers.

KVUE-TV interviewed Claire Jordan on Saturday morning, in advance of the event. That interview is here: Computer hacking for a good cause

Open Austin invites any of the participants who want to continue the work they started, as well as those who want to join in on civic hacking efforts, to join us for one of our Open Government Hack Nights. The next one will be Monday, June 10, back on the St. Edward’s campus. See the calendar in the sidebar for info on our upcoming events.

Report from the ATX Civic Tech Expo

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Last Thursday, the ATX Civic Tech Expo came to City Hall.

For more than a year, Open Austin has been actively reaching out to the tech community, sponsoring events such as hack nights and meetups. The expo came from our desire to begin telling the story of civic hacking and civic tech to the general public. We chose the week so it would align with the upcoming National Day of Civic Hacking, a high-visibility initiative launched from the White House in February.

We were in the City Hall atrium all day, showing off civic apps and talking about open data. We talked with members of the public about what civic hackers do and the apps that have been developed by the city, its partners, and the community. We talked with city employees about the importance of open data, and how volunteer hackers can help develop tools they might not have the time or staff to do on their own.

The demo website we produced for the expo highlighted several topic areas, including open data, civic apps, and the upcoming ATX Hackathon for Change.

We also presented a slideshow with information on civic tech and civic hacking.

During the expo, we conducted a demo hackathon, where volunteers worked on a new app called ATX Scores, a query interface for the restaurant inspection scores published on the City of Austin data portal.

Here are some news stories filed from the event:

We want to thank all the event participants:

  • City of Austin, Communications and Technology Management
  • City of Austin, Corporate Public Information Office
  • City of Austin, Watershed Protection Department
  • St. Edward’s University, Office of Information Technology
  • Socrata
  • Austin Free-Net

 

Media advisory: Local hackers to bring civic technology to City Hall

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For immediate release
May 17, 2013

Local hackers to bring civic technology to City Hall

The City of Austin and its community partners will host the first ATX Civic Tech Expo May 23 to demonstrate websites and apps that have been developed by this civic collaboration.

The free public event will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the City Hall Atrium, 301 W. Second St. The expo will provide hands-on exhibits of innovative civic tools and services. Members from the community and City departments will be on hand to answer questions about the showcased technologies.

These innovative tools range from a means to help new bicycle commuters find a supporting buddy (bike-buddy.open-austin.org) to real-time indication of flood conditions and road closures (www.atxfloods.com).

Some of these civic tools emerge from “hackathons,” events where technology-savvy people gather to brainstorm or “hack out” new ideas. Hackathons throughout the country have focused on issues ranging from civic needs to commercial start-ups to fashion. Austin has seen an increasing number of civic hackathons such as the ATX Civic Hackathon III last February.

“Civic hacking is the new civic engagement,” said Chip Rosenthal of Open Austin, a local volunteer group that advocates for open government, open data and civic technology. “Many people in Austin are both technically skilled and active in the community. Civic hacking allows their local government work better for them.”

The May 23 expo will include a one-day hackathon where local volunteers will develop new tools for civic benefit. This will give Expo visitors a first-hand view of the civic hacking process.

The expo and hackathon are sponsored by Open Austin, the City of Austin, St. Edward’s University’s Office of Information Technology and Austin Free-Net. Representatives of each will be available to discuss their civic technology efforts.

Open Austin (www.open-austin.org), founded in 2009, is affiliated with Code for America, a national non-profit that uses technology to help governments work better, as the local “civic brigade.”

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