Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Next Civic Hacking Event In NE Wisconsin -- January 12, 2016

The next meetup of civic hackers in NE Wisconsin is scheduled to happen at Appleton Coworking from 7 to 9 PM on January 12, 2016. If you don’t know what civic hacking is, we’d love to have you come, and we’ll answer your questions about the topic. (For an intro to civic hacking, see “Why Good Hackers Make Good Citizens.”)

If you already know what civic hacking is, that’s even more reason to show up on January 12. You can work on your own civic hack, or you can help others with civic hacks they’re working on.

120 N. Morrison St, Appleton, WI, USA -- Appleton Coworking is on the first floor
Appleton Coworking is in downtown Appleton at 120 N Morrison Street, Suite 101, just north of College Avenue. Click here for a location map.

Parking options are typical downtown Appleton parking. There are lots of metered spots near AHQ if you come before 6 and want to plug meters. Nearby metered spots should be free after 6 PM; just check the instructions on the parking meter to verify the hours of enforcement. There are also nearby parking ramps, which cost $2.

Below are the NE Wisconsin civic hacking meetups of 2015. The first civic hacking event ever held in our region was in June 2015. Back-to-school activities made September too hectic for a meetup, and we skipped December due to the Christmas holidays.

Tomorrow I’ll write a blog post about “2016 Civic Hacking Food For Thought” for people to consider and discuss in NE Wisconsin places such as Appleton, Black Creek, Brillion, Chilton, Clintonville, Combined Locks, Darboy, De Pere, Egg Harbor, Elkhart Lake, Fish Creek, Florence, Fond du Lac, Grand Chute, Green Bay, Green Lake, Greenville, Hilbert, Kaukauna, Kewaunee, Keshena, Kimberly, Kohler, Little Chute, Manitowoc, Marinette, Menasha, Neenah, New London, Oconto, Oshkosh, Peshtigo, Plymouth, Ripon, Seymour, Shawano, Sheboygan, Shiocton, Sturgeon Bay, Suamico, Two Rivers, Washington Island, Waupaca, Waupun, Wautoma, Winneconne and all the other cities in our region that I didn’t list here.

Please set aside a couple hours on Tuesday, January 12, 2016, to work with fellow NE Wisconsin residents to make our cities, counties and region a better place to live in the new year.

See you on January 12 at Appleton Coworking!!


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Day-After-After Report -- Nov 17 Civic Hacking Meetup

tl:dr -- below are 9 points discussed on Nov 17; skip directly to numbered items for quick overview.

This post is a short summary of what happened at the NE Wisconsin civic hacking meetup on November 17, 2015, at Bazil’s Pub in Appleton, Wisconsin, USA.

For those who wondered, day-after-after is akin to antepenultimate.

‘Day-of’ summaries are coverage provided on the same day an event happens. Day-after reports are written on the first day after an event occurs. Day-after-after reports are done by undisciplined non-journalists who are overwhelmed by life’s many commitments (or who don’t plan well enough and don’t have sufficient willpower) and end up writing an event summary two days after the event ended.

I’d love to see a day-of report for every participant-driven events I’m involved with, such as civic hackathons and BarCamps. But that requires a person dedicated to storytelling, someone who has the willpower and insight to keep themselves from becoming fully engaged and immersed in the event. Someone who observes the big picture of what’s happening instead of becoming fully engaged in the conversation about how a Facebook-connected civic hack might work, or the discussion at a BarCamp session about gamification of corporate business processes. I enjoy those conversations and discussions too much to be an effective day-of storyteller.

As a result, one of my goals for BarCamp Green Bay (BCGB) 2016 is to invite (which is sometimes spelled r-e-c-r-u-i-t) storytellers to that event. I’d like to have one of the Top Ten Themes of BCGB 2016 be storytelling, which will include many related topics such as videography, photography, documentaries, and indie filmmaking. With a bit of luck and planning, some of the storyteller-participants, in addition to participating in BCGB sessions, will also do day-of reporting for the event.

But I digress…

Here is my November 19 day-after-after list of what happened at the November 17 meetup of NE Wisconsin civic hackers.

  1. Incomplete Success. We didn’t successfully identify an agreed-upon civic hack topic for the Recycle Mafia (Mike, Mike, Chris, Ross, et al.) to tackle as a successor to the multiple hacks related to the AppletonAPI which Mike Putnam created and unveiled earlier in 2015. But we did have interesting conversations about possible topics for a successor hack.
  2. Facebook Leverage. It was felt there is high potential for a civic hack that somehow leverages Facebook (FB), primarily because of how many people are reported to use FB and how enthusiastically some people use it. Unfortunately, the Garbage Kings Gang doesn’t currently have a Facebook ninja, so we probably need to recruit someone who is both a prolific FBer and interested in civic hacking. Research will also be done to locate existing civic hacks that leverage FB.
  3. Hack Ecosystem. A desired aspect of the civic hack successor is that the successor have clear potential for the same sort of complementary hack ecosystem as the CityAPI-RecycleWeek hack family. Mike Putnam wrote the AppletonAPI hack, which led to the “Is it recycling week?” (IIRW) Android app, GreenvilleWI API, Civic Hack API Locator, Pebble Watch IIRW app, IIRW web app, Outagamie County API and work on other related hacks. It would be nice if another topic or theme can be identified that will spawn numerous complementary civic hacks.
  4. FB RecycleHacks. Ignoring all common sense and established grammar rules of the last millenium, and using FB as a verb, it was discussed that we should probably FB the NE Wisconsin ecosystem of recycle and cityAPI hacks. In upcoming weeks, we’ll explore how FB can be used to make more NE Wisconsin residents aware of these civic hacks and to get more people using the hacks, e.g. the IIRW Android app.
  5. Data Emancipation. Helping cities and other government units get their public data online in a structured, accessible format (like JSON/XML/CSV, not PDFs, HTML needing to be scraped, or proprietary document formats) was another discussion topic. Cities have limited budgets, project priorities and, sometimes, limited experience with data formats and retrieval methods like setting up a REST API or enabling JSON or XML output formats on a particular database platform. One way to enable development of more NE Wisconsin civic hacks might be for civic hackers to offer their assistance in emancipating public data which is not civic hacker-friendly. Here are definition links for the acronyms mentioned:
    1. * JSON - Javascript Object Notation - a common/preferred data format in mainstream use. A very large ecosystem of open source software and people exists that can leverage this data format.
    2. * XML - Extensible Markup Language - a common but less desirable data format (JSON was created as a reaction to the complexity/verbosity of XML) Still serviceable, smaller ecosystem, prevalent in 'enterprise' environments.
    3. * CSV - Comma Separate Values - a simple data format that, failing the availability of the previous two options, can serve as an easy way to deliver public data online. Database platforms, and spreadsheet programs can produce CSV files. Very low barrier to success.
    4. * REST API - Representational State Transfer Application Programming Interface - a really confusingly named way of saying "pass around data over the web" only instead of being made up of web pages readable by humans, made up of data formats that software can use.
  6. Resident Requests. One way to decide what civic hacks to work on is to figure out what resident requests, complaints or questions (RCQs) are most common in NE Wisconsin. Another way to say this is, “What city-related information would be most helpful to or appreciated by residents if a civic hack was built to make that info easier to find or easier to understand?” The challenge with this concept is that we civic hackers have no idea how to discover what those most common RCQs are. If each NE Wisconsin city and county had a comprehensive open311 system and a record of the open311 top 3 RCQs for the past 3 years. Although maybe that's too many 3s... What we'll probably need to do to identify common RCQs is talk to a lot of different NE Wisconsin city employees to learn what data is available for this topic.
  7. NextGen API-Locator. Mike Rosack’s Civic API Locator appears to have huge potential, and we haven’t even started to scratch the surface of that potential. Mark Boyd’s City-API-Discoverability GitHub repository discusses the issue of making it easier to find city APIs. We’ll try to connect with Mark, the US Census Bureau, coders in Rio Grand Valley, and others interested in this issue, like Code for America (CfA), to figure out where Mike’s Civic API Locator fits in the scheme of global civic hacking and how to best improve it, let more people know about and get more people using it.
  8. Civic Hackathon. It appears the next CfA national CodeAcross event will be on March 5, 2016. Click here for a bit of info on CodeAcross 2015. We’ll facilitate discussions in the next couple weeks about this 2016 date and event, but there’s a strong possibility we’ll target that date for a NE Wisconsin civic hackathon of the same general flavor as the NE Wisconsin June 6, 2015 civic hackathon. Location, agenda, partners and sponsors for a March 2016 NE Wisconsin CodeAcross hackathon to be determined...
  9. EdCamp Fox Valley. There was a short discussion at Bazil's about EdCamp Green Bay 2015, a K12 education unconference which happened on the same day as BarCamp Green Bay 2015, a technology unconference. It’s a small world after all… In a follow-up to the EdCamp Green
    Bay discussion on November 17, Mike Putnam discovered EdCamp Fox Valley and sent me a link to the event. Civic hackers, BarCampers, TIME community members (Tech, Innovators, Makers, Entrepreneurs) and other interested potential EdCampers are welcome to register for the February 6, 2016, EdCamp Fox Valley. The lead organizer for EdCamp Green Bay told me, “I would say without a shadow of a doubt that any edcamp organizer would love to have community members and parents present. Everyone should have a voice in public education, and it is also a cool opportunity to learn both ways - you can learn about what is happening in our schools (especially relative to the fields you contribute to) and we can learn from you about the mythical "real world" we like to talk about but haven't really been a part of!” Watch for a future post about EdCamp Fox Valley on the myDigitechnician blog.

Note to participants of November 17 civic hacker meetup: If I left out any discussion topics or Next Steps from this week’s meetup, please send me an email with your recollection of that, and I’ll update this post with that info.

If questions or a desire to get involved with any of the above, contact Bob Waldron -- bwaldron (at) gmail [dott] com.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Civic Hacking In The News: November 14, 2015

Below are a few civic hacking news items, but first, here's a comment about civic hacking activity in NE Wisconsin.

In the past couple months, I have published posts less frequently than during the first five months of this blog. Posts were written daily during the first five months for two reasons. The first reason was to cover many of the different topics involved with civic hacking. The second reason was to promote and connect the civic hacking community of NE Wisconsin.

Because of the midwest culture of NE Wisconsin and because people who are potential civic hackers in this region are often not well-connected with each other, our civic hacking community growth has plateaued. Frequent posts have less value during a period of slow community growth. Until the community connects with a CATALYST, the number of active civic hackers in the area will grow slowly, and we’ll likely continue to meetup every four to six weeks.

The catalyst who helps the region's civic hacking community grow significantly could be:
  • A teacher who is enthusiastic about getting K-12 students and teachers involved with the world of civic hacking.
  • A well-connected person in a large technical member-based organization who decides to promote civic hacking and gets many of the organization’s members actively involved.
  • A well-connected person in Green Bay, Oshkosh, Fond du Lac, De Pere, Sheboygan or another fairly large city in NE Wisconsin who chooses to kickstart civic hacking activities in their area.
  • A social media maven or marketing person who’s interested in the topic of civic hacking and wants to expand the NE Wisconsin civic hacker community.
  • A skilled coder (or a few of them) who develops a cool civic hack that gets a lot of traction and brings higher visibility to civic hacking in NE Wisconsin.
  • Civic hacking enthusiasts at one or several NE Wisconsin colleges and universities who promote the topic, help connect interested students, and maybe host or sponsor civic hacker activities on or near the campus.
  • A CEO or other influential person who gets excited about civic hacking and works at a NE Wisconsin company that has many coders or other potential civic hackers.
  • One or several NE Wisconsin influential city government people who launch a civic hacking initiative after learning about good things civic hacking can do for cities and the region’s residents.
  • Are YOU a civic hacking catalyst?
  • An influential NE Wisconsin individual who decides civic hacking is a good thing for our area and jumps in to connect resources and people to boost our civic hacking to the next level.

If any of the above catalysts read this post, please contact me at bwaldron (at) gmail [dott] com and we'll discuss how you can help expand and strengthen the NE Wisconsin civic hacking community!

Here are four recent articles and posts about civic hacking. If they sound like something you want to know more about, click the headline links and read them in their entirety. If you want more civic hacking news, check out the links in “Top 10 Sites For Civic Hacking News.”

A More Verdant Civic Process
Laurenellen McCann
“...Remember: democracy is a form of government that people create collectively. Who’s directly involved in that creation and whose involvement is assumed by proxy—by people acting on their behalf—changes how the system works...there is a lot out there that civic tech can learn from...this first phase of research I conducted focused on exploring collaboration in technology: projects like ELECTricity and others that develop through community direction and in response to expressed, collective needs. Projects that serve public good, whether or not they identify themselves as “civic tech.” Last week, during a workshop I held on this research at this year’s Code for America Summit, we released a book with our findings: Experimental Modes of Civic Engagement in Civic Tech (Meet People Where They Are). You can download a free PDF of the book here or buy the paperback version on Amazon. Experimental Modes is our first attempt to answer the question “what does it mean to build with, not for?” in a nuts and bolts way, based on the real experience of practitioners who do the work...”
Civic hackers and civic leaders in NE Wisconsin may want to check out Laurenellen McCann’s book to find out how civic hacking is solving problems and improving citizen’s lives in other parts of the country.

Exploring Durham Public Schools with Ease
When Alex Lemann, 32, started thinking about raising a family and buying a home in Durham, he was amazed to find that there was no single website where he could find all the public-funded schools — neighborhood, magnets and charters — on a map. Much less understand the different zoning complexities or compare schools in any way. As a member of Code for Durham, a local volunteer group of civic technologists and community advocates, he brought this challenge to the group. We believe all citizens deserve the best user experiences possible when it comes to getting information about tax-funded services, regardless of one’s views on education policy. So we took a second look. Many months and Github commits later, Code for Durham is proud to present the alpha release of Durham’s School Navigator @”
If parents with young kids or educators get involved with civic hacking in NE Wisconsin, one hack they might want to start with is a copy, or fork, of School Navigator from Durham. Other cities have built similar tools for ‘exploring schools.’ Because most of these tools are open source, we can quickly create a copy of the source code and start adapting it for use here. If someone wants to work on this type of civic hack, we’ll research the topic and evaluate which education hack appears to best-suited for our region.

Hackathon winner's app will help users "Explore Hampton Roads"
In about six months, anybody with a smartphone or laptop will be able to compare crime data, cost of living, restaurant inspections and maybe school test scores for just about any location in Hampton Roads with a few taps on a new app and website. "Explore Hampton Roads" will let users easily use control bars to break out information on certain types of crime, housing prices, restaurant inspections and other data. Color changes will show how those things overlap, and to what degree. It'll be free, courtesy of a team of software developers who collected $15,000 on Saturday after winning "Best in Show" at a two-day hackathon. The group was one of 11 teams that competed to develop new software that would benefit the region...”
As I mentioned in the post “NE Wisconsin Corporate Partners And Sponsors For Civic Hacking,” if we can line up partners and sponsors for a regional civic app challenge, we might end up with new worthwhile civic hacks and a much larger civic hacking community in NE Wisconsin. If anyone is interested in working to make this type of challenge happen, please contact me. We can look at the Hampton Roads event, as well as the Western New York and other civic app challenges.

Thinking Small on Civic Tech
The original idea of Government as a Platform is now almost a decade old. In the world of technology, that’s a long time...But in 2015 what does Government as a Platform actually look like, and what should it look like going forward into the future?...The idea of Government as a Platform – originally built on the idea of open government data – has become almost synonymous with Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). APIs are an important part of how modern software is developed, and have been for some time. Building APIs, and the accompanying tools to use them, are at the core of what most governments aspire to put in place to support the development of civic apps...Open data portals provide a central location for governments to publish data so that it may be
more easily obtained by third parties wishing to use it...these data portals almost always provide some sort of API access to data – so by publishing data to an open data portal, governments are creating APIs for developers to start using that data to build civic apps. An overview of how Government as a Platform typically manifests can be seen in the graphic below...”
This article will probably be of most interest to civic hack coders and to city employees who deal with public information databases or are highly interested in leveraging civic hacking for their city. One of the central themes or benefits of tech platforms is that they allow interested people to use the platform to build products and services, even if those people aren’t part of the organization that created and maintains the platform. In the case of civic hacking, the city, county, state or country builds a platform of open data. When there is no interest or awareness on the part of the government officials or employees, civic hackers can build the APIs. Civic hackers then use those APIs or platforms to build useful or interesting products. Because of lack of funding or tech expertise, these products would not be generated by the government, but the government or citizens often find them worthwhile.

Maybe new civic hacking platforms would be beneficial to cities and counties in NE Wisconsin??

If you want to learn more about civic hacking or start getting involved with it, come to the next civic hacker meetup in our region, at 7 PM on November 17 at Bazil's Pub in Appleton. Hope to see you there!


Monday, November 9, 2015

BarCamp Green Bay 2015: What Happened & What’s Next

This is a brief and necessarily incomplete summary of what happened at BarCamp Green Bay on November 7, 2015, at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College’s Corporate Conference Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA.

I say “necessarily incomplete” because so many interesting and worthwhile conversations and sessions happen at BarCamps that no one person can give a comprehensive summary of them all. What I’m presenting here is mainly conversations and sessions in which I participated, along with a few ideas I’m thinking about or developing for BarCamp Green Bay 2016 and other future unconferences.

If you aren’t familiar with BarCamp technology unconferences, you might want to read “BarCamp Green Bay: BarCamps Have Participants, Not Attendees” and “9 Reasons BarCamp Green Bay Is For Civic Hackers,” read the Wikipedia entry for BarCamps, or do a Google search for specific aspects of BarCamps that would be of interest to you.

BCGB 2015 Participants (CC attribution Chris Schmitz)
There were 51 people who registered online for BarCamp Green Bay and a few BarCampers who didn’t register but were, nonetheless, welcome participants. As with most events, some registered people were unable to show up. We ended up with ~ 40 adult particpants. Eight to ten kids showed up for KidsCamp and appeared to enjoy the activities there. There were a few first-time BarCampers, but most were repeat Campers. Most repeaters had only been to Green Bay’s BarCamp, but some people had participated in BarCamp Fond du Lac, BarCamp Milwaukee or other midwest BarCamps.

The two main benefits of participating in a BarCamp are the interesting discussions, both during sessions and between sessions, and meeting new like-minded or complementary-minded people. We had four designated session locations and five session periods, each an hour long, so there were twenty potential slots for people to lead a session and for participants to choose from for learning and sharing info about topics of interest to them.

Other minor, but fun, benefits for participants were free BarCamp Green Bay 2015 shirts, event stickers, a little Omni Resources swag, and beverages and munchies throughout the day, including sub sandwiches for lunch and pizza for supper.

One of the frustrating aspects of a BarCamp is that although you have an opportunity to participate in many interesting sessions, there are always many more cool sessions which linear time prevents you from participating in. There ended up being nineteen sessions (I think), and if you led one session, you were only able to participate in four other sessions. This meant that you missed out on fun discussions at fourteen sessions!! Fortunately, if you heard about a session that sounded really fun, you could talk with the session leader or participants during meals or in the open time after supper. (Session grid picture below is missing session description sheets.)

BCGB 2015 session grid (CC attribution Matt Everson)
The sessions I participated in were about serious games/gamefication, emotional intelligence (or EQ rather than IQ) in business relationships (see Six Seconds), the dev stack used for building the BarCamp Green Bay website. My final session, which I co-led, was about what would make a BarCamp more worthwhile and how to end up with 150 - 200 people participating in next year’s BarCamp.

One regret I have is that I didn't have enough time to do a session on civic hacking! There were people at BCGB 2015 who were interested in finding out more about civic hacking. I invited them to the November 17 civic hackers meetup at Bazil's Pub in Appleton or other future NE Wisconsin civic hacking events.

If other BarCamp Green Bay participants take the time to write up a short summary of the sessions in which they participated (please ;), I’ll add them to this post, with attribution…

As a result of the sessions I was in and the conversations I had outside of sessions, I’ve got at least fifty posts topics I want to write about related to BarCamp Green Bay 2016. I’ll probably publish most of the BCGB 2016 posts on the myDigitechnician blog rather than on DHMN Civic Hacks, since many of the BCGB posts will have minimal ties specifically to civic hacking. But I’ll also put links to those posts here on DHMN Civic Hacks in case civic hackers want to bounce over to the other blog to read the BCGB posts.

My thanks to Chris Jaure and the sponsors for making BCGB 2015 possible! Thanks also to Mathew Peterson and others who helped with shirts, supplies, and setup for the event. And a big 'thank you' to all the participants who spent a few hours or the whole day at the event, helping make it fun, interesting and worthwhile for the other BarCampers. I’m still thinking about ideas I heard and discussed at BCGB 2015.

And I’m thinking about ways to help make BarCamp Green Bay 2016 even more worthwhile for 150 - 200 participants…

  • Identify topics of high interest to NE Wisconsin barcampers
  • Invite to BCGB 2016 people doing really interesting work on those high interest topics
  • Recruit videographers, social media, session facilitators and other key people to get involved with the BCGB 2016 prep and event
  • Focus on an even better KidsCamp (extra fun for kids & enables more parents to participate in BarCamp sessions)
  • Lots more!


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Civic Hacking: Fixing A Corrupted Democracy

Question:  “Does America have a government where someone who is not a billionaire or a major political figure can run as a Republican or Democratic candidate for national office?”

Based on the 2016 presidential race, it appears the answer to the above question is, “An American can’t participate in mainstream national politics if they’re not incredibly wealthy or incredibly well-connected in business and politics.

Lawrence Lessig: A Corrupted Democracy
In light of the above question and answer, I think both active and potential civic hackers in NE Wisconsin should consider spending time and energy on fixing a corrupted democracy.

The way I see it, the reasons for calling America a corrupted democracy are that:

  • People allowed to seriously run for national office aren’t chosen by voters. They’re chosen by the large funders of campaigns because those funders determine who is allowed into the Republican and Democratic party campaigns, (discussed starting at 8:35 in the “Fixing The Republic” video below).
  • National legislation isn’t affected by the opinions of voters. It’s only affected by opinions of large funders, (discussed starting at 10:30 in the “Fixing The Republic” video below)
  • Congress has defined the borders of congressional districts to maximize the number of ‘safe’ seats for Democrats and Republicans. Of the 435 seats in Congress, 345 are considered safe, meaning the next congressperson elected for that seat will almost certainly be from the same party as the current congressperson. This is called gerrymandering, and its only purpose is to help national politicians be re-elected. Both parties do it, and both parties want to continue to do it, (discussed starting at 16:00 in the “Fixing The Republic” video below).

Lawrence Lessig has launched a presidential campaign for the American 2016 elections. In the October 24, 2015, video below, “Fixing The Republic,” he explains his campaign platform, which features the goal to pass the Citizen Equality Act of 2017 as soon as possible after the elections (on the first day after inauguration or, at most, within a couple weeks.)

As of October 2015, Lawrence Lessig is trying to campaign for becoming the Democratic presidential nominee. The Democratic party is not allowing him to participate in the Democratic presidential debates, the American mainstream media is not providing press coverage as a Democratic candidate, and the (mainstream?) political polls are not including him as a Democratic candidate.

The October 20, 2015, video below, “Why Is The Democratic Party Afraid Of Larry Lessig?” discusses reasons he hasn’t been allowed to participate in Democratic presidential debates and why mainstream media and polls are not covering him.

If you watch the two videos above and agree with Lessig’s description of America as a corrupted democracy, you might be interested in how you can help get rid of that corruption. One way is to be a civic hacker working on the issues Lessig is focused on.

The purpose of this blog post is to encourage NE Wisconsin civic hackers to spend time and energy reducing American national politics corruption. NE Wisconsin civic hackers are invited to gather on November 17, 2015 at 7 PM at Bazil’s Pub at 109 W. College Avenue in downtown Appleton to discuss potential civic hacks to work on in upcoming weeks and months. I feel one worthwhile focus area is politics, with an initial civic hack project to address reducing American national politics corruption.

As I see it, listed below are the challenges to Lawrence Lessig becoming a recognized Democratic candidate, to him becoming elected, and to greatly reducing corruption in American national politics.

  1. Most of America doesn’t know who Lawrence Lessig is.
  2. Most of America doesn’t know what Lawrence Lessig’s campaign platform is.
  3. The DNC will not allow Lawrence Lessig to participate in the 2016 Democratic debates.
  4. American mainstream media will not provide coverage for the 2016 Lessig campaign.
  5. Most American citizens think the national political system is corrupt and should be changed.
  6. Most American citizens think the national political system can’t or won’t be changed.
  7. American national politicians have huge incentives to keep the corrupted national political system.

I agree with Lawrence Lessig that public funding of elections and elimination of gerrymandering must be done before other important national problems can be fixed. Civic hacking is often described as using a 21st century toolbox to fix problems you see in government. As Catherine Bracy says in her TED video, “It’s the idea that if you see a problem, you work to fix it, and not just complain about it.” Working to get rid of corruption in American national politics is unquestionably civic hacking.

If you want to know more about Lawrence Lessig’s fight against corruption in American national politics, check out his presidential campaign website and consider working on civic hacks that help combat the causes of that corruption.

If you live in NE Wisconsin and want to discuss what civic hacks we should work together on next, either political or nonpolitical, come to Bazil’s Pub in Appleton at 7 PM on Tuesday, November 17th. Hope to see you then!


For more info about civic hacks related to voting, see:

Part 1: Civic Hacks For Better Voting
Voting Hacks Part 2: New Voting App for Appleton
Voting Hacks Part 3: Examples of Civic Hacks For Better Voting

For ideas about civic hack topics not related to voting, see:

Seed Projects For Civic Hackathons
Civic Hacking To Help Those In Need
DHMN Civic Hackathon/Appleton 2015: Top 10 Hacks
Ideation Session For Non-Code-Focused Civic Hackers


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

BarCamping Civic Hackers: Participants, Not Attendees

[This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared on the myDigitechnician blog.]

BarCamp Green Bay 2015 is happening on November 7, 2015, less than two weeks away. Sign up TODAY -- it’s free, it’s fun, and it’s for You.

Yes, this event is ‘for’ you -- and this means that you and other people at the BarCamp will be a key part of making the event an interesting and enjoyable gathering.

BarCamps are unconferences with a strong focus on technology and other topics of interest to people who use or help make technology. If you’re not familiar with BarCamps, read “9 Reasons BarCamp Green Bay Is For Civic Hackers” to find out why you may want to participate in the event. Many of those reasons will also be of interest to people who are not civic hackers.

PARTICIPATION is a critical aspect of BarCamps. BarCamps have only ‘participants,’ not ‘attendees.’

Conferences have attendees. At most conferences, most attendees have little or no impact on the success of the conference or how fun and interesting it is for other people at the event. The conference organizer(s) decides what will happen at the event, who the speakers will be, and what the agenda will be. The attendees only get to choose what presentations they want to listen to (or fall asleep in), and the presentations are generally not designed for input and feedback from attendees. Often the presentations are thinly-disguised advertisements for a the presenter's products or services, regardless of the attendees' interest in those products or services.

Unconferences often start with a self-introductions circle
BarCamps have participants. The classic format for a BarCamp is an unconference utilizing Open Space Technology. This means participants determine what topics will be discussed at the event. This also means the participants will both lead sessions and actively participate in discussion at one or more of the sessions. Another way to state this is: “NO SPECTATORS, ONLY PARTICIPANTS.”

The concept of BarCamps is that discussions which take place in hallways at conferences art the most interesting and valuable conversations of the conference. These are discussions of high interest to people at the conferences, rather than the one-way canned PowerPoint presentations by a limited number of pre-arranged speakers. Unconferences put the focus on conversations of high interest to people at the event -- BarCamp sessions should be like hallway discussions at conferences. The person leading the session (a BarCamp participant) initiates and guides the discussion, while other people really interested in the topic (BarCamp participants in the session) chime in with questions, suggestions, resources, experiences, etc. Participants are key to all discussions and sessions at BarCamps.

Group Photo of BarCamp Participants
Unconferences are participant-driven events. Participants decide what topics they want to lead a session on. Participants decide which sessions they want to be part of. Before BarCamp, they can post on the event website the sessions they want to lead or participate in. Participants can lead sessions, or they can make the session discussions more valuable by asking relevant questions or contributing useful and relevant topic information or experiences. Participants help organize the barcamp or help the organizers with logistics on the day(s) of the event. They personally invite other people to the BarCamp or promote the event on their Facebook page, Twitter account, Google + page, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn, blog or other social media they use. Participants recruit sponsors for the event.

In short, everything related to BarCamps is done by participants. There is no ‘they’ or ‘them’ at BarCamps, only ‘we’ or ‘us.’

The focus on participants at BarCamps is especially relevant to civic hacking in two ways:

  1. As a participant, you have a great opportunity to share with other creative, self-motivated people what you know about civic hacking and why you are a civic hacker. If you lead a session on some aspect of of civic hacking, you have a great opportunity to let other people know what that term means and to get lots of input on what civic hacks the other session participants would find useful or interesting.
  2. Because BarCampers are participation-focused people, they will make great civic hackers. So BarCamp Green Bay offers two opportunities to expand the NE Wisconsin civic hacking community. The first expansion opportunities is that you should invite lots of potential civic hackers to register for BarCamp Green Bay and to participate in your session. They might enjoy the event and your session so much that they want to immediately start working on their first civic hack! The second opportunity to recruit new civic hackers is that during your session and at other opportune moments during the November 7 BarCamp, you can invite BarCampers to participate in the November 17 meetup and in other NE Wisconsin civic hacking events. Suggest that people get on the NE Wisconsin Slack team, download and give feedback on the “Is it recycling week?” Android app, and take a look at the DHMN Civic Hacks blog.

My next post about BarCamp Green Bay 2015 will be on topic of ‘sessions, not presentations.’

Sign up today for BarCamp Green Bay, and reserve all day November 7th on your calendar for a good time with tech people, innovatorsmakers and entrepreneurs (the TIME community of NE Wisconsin).


Monday, October 26, 2015

November 17 -- NE Wisconsin’s Next Civic Hacker Meetup

The next NE Wisconsin civic hackers’ event will take place on Tuesday, November 17, 2015, starting at 7 PM, most likely in Appleton, Wisconsin, or one of it’s nearby Fox Valley neighbor cities. It was suggested we meet at a location which provides tasty food and beverages, so we’re asking for suggestions of good local places. (I’ll update this post to confirm location once that detail is finalized. Updated update -- We're meeting at Bazil's Pub on College Avenue in downtown Appleton.)

Time:  Official start time is 7 PM, although I’m going to show up by 6:30. If you’re new to civic hacking and want to find out what’s going with the topic in our region, show up before 7 PM, and we can talk about that. No definite end time -- we’ll go as long as people are enjoying themselves. I suspect most people will head home by 9 PM, but if the discussion is worthwhile, a few hackers may hang around much later. Check the #dhmncivichacks channel on the NE Wisconsin Slack team -- we’ll try to make sure and put a message on there when the meetup officially ends. Click here to join this Slack team if you’re not already a member.

Nov 17 Agenda:  This will be an informal, mostly social, more-yakking-than-hacking event, although I’m sure phones, tablets and laptops will show up, and lines of code may be discussed, modified or written. The Garbage Gang, a core group of coders who’ve produced NE Wisconsin’s only civic hacks, mostly related to recycle and trash pickup, suggested it would be a good idea to discuss civic hacks other than recycle/trash at the November 17 event. The goal of that discussion is to identify one or two new interesting and worthwhile civic hacks to work on next for NE Wisconsin. Trash has value, but it’s not the only important topic in NE Wisconsin.

This Nov 17 gathering will be highly valuable meetup if we can identify the next project that a group of civic hackers will work on.

Mike Putnam originally decided to build the “Is It Recycle Week?” Android app civic hack because trash pickup is something that occurs at his house every week, and he occasionally doesn’t remember if it’s a ‘recycle week.’ [Shameless Advertisement: Click here and install the Android app so you can give Mike feedback and suggest improvements for the app.] What city, county, state or national government-related issue is important enough to you that you want to work to resolve or improve the issue? Look around your community -- what isn’t being done well? What isn’t being done at all, and would make life better for you or for citizens around you?

If you want ideas of other potential civic hacks for NE Wisconsin, four blog posts to look at are “Seed Projects For Civic Hackathons,” “Civic Hacking To Help Those In Need,” “DHMN Civic Hackathon/Appleton 2015: Top 10 Hacks,” and “Ideation Session For Non-Code-Focused Civic Hackers.”

Who Should Show Up:  Everyone who’s interested in civic hacking, or thinks they might be, should come to this event. If you are not familiar with civic hacking, listen to the Catherine Bracy TED video below, “Why Good Hackers Make Good Citizens.”

If you want to read more about what civic hacking is, scan through the titles of other posts from past months on this blog for ones that are of interest to you -- see the list of titles in the right column under Blog Archive.

Coders will enjoy the fun at the civic hacking meetup, but non-coders are also encouraged to participate, as discussed in “What Are Some Non-coder Activities In Civic Hacking?” and “Do Non-Programmers Participate In Civic Hacking?” There will be at least one person who's neither coder nor designer at the Nov 17 event; you definitely don’t need to be a coder to participate in civic hacking.

If you haven’t been at a civic hacking meetup before, no worries. We’ll bring you up to speed and answer your questions about civic hacking. This is a participant-driven event, and we’d love to have YOUR participation.

What Should I Bring:  The main things to bring are (1) yourself, (2) friends or acquaintances who might enjoy civic hacking, (3) smartphone, tablet or laptop if you want to look at websites or code related to civic hacking, and (4) willingness to listen and share your two cents’ worth about which civic hacks are worthwhile and interesting to work on.

As always, if you have civic hacking questions or suggestions, email Bob Waldron at bwaldron (at) gmail [dott] com.

Hope to see you on the evening of November 17, 2015!


Monday, October 19, 2015

Day After Report -- Oct 17 Civic Hacking Meetup

This is the ‘Day After Report,’ even though it’s being published on the second day after the recent NE Wisconsin civic hacking event at the Appleton Makerspace...

Good progress was made on the recycling / trash and municipal API projects at the October 17, 2015, Saturday civic hacking meetup. It was a small group, with six people participating between the start and finish of our meetup. Mike P opened up the makerspace before 9 AM and got signs up and the space ready for hacking. Most of the civic hackers arrived by 10 AM, a couple left at various points during the day. The all-day diehards decided they reached a good stopping point around 6 PM. If we’d been in the middle of working on an interesting problem when supper time rolled around, we probably would have gotten our traditional delicious spinach deep dish pizza, but I guess that will be saved for next time.

Shane Grey was the only participant who hadn’t previously been at a civic hacking event. He’s a highly knowledgeable coder and general hacker, and he understands the general concept of civic hacking. So onboarding him consisted primarily of giving him an overview of civic hacks he might want to consider working on. We explained to Shane the recycle-trash civic hacks the group has worked on, the crime data scraping Zach Gohr did, the GTFS (General Transit Feed Specification) work Mark Nickel is doing, and some other general civic hack topics. We also discussed Citygram and similar apps that can be done either with support of your city government or as a grassroots citizen project without needing official city involvement or endorsement.

Civic Hacking Activity on October 17th

Mike Rosack led the work related to his Civic Hack API Locator (the GitHub DHMN repository for the Locator is here). He, Mike Putnam and Chris Jaure had lots of discussion about the best way to develop the municipal APIs, the API locator and the apps using the municipal APIs. Having those in-person discussions is one of the benefits of the civic hacking meetups. ‘Discussions’ occur on Slack, in IRC and through other communication channels, but there are still real world benefits from having coders in the same physical room when designing or refactoring their code that has to play
well with others. Mike R wrote this summary for his October 17 work:
I worked with Mike [P] on getting the Civic Hack locator integrated into the recycling week android app, and with Chris [J] on getting the locator integrated into the web version.  Things are looking really good, and hopefully we'll have the locator integrated into all 3 frontends (Android/Pebble/web) soon, which means we just need to keep finding more people to write APIs to provide data for more cities!
If you’re willing to poke around at the Civic Hack API Locator, Mike is interested in getting lots of feedback on it. He said, “I want to get the documentation to a point where it definitely makes sense to a technical user, and almost sorta makes sense to a non technical user. I don't think i'm close yet.” If you want to give Mike your feedback, post it in the #dhmncivichacks channel on the NE Wisc Slack team (click here to join that Slack team if you’re not a member of it yet).

Mike Putnam, the Patient Zero of NE Wisconsin civic hacking, seemed to enjoy learning new ways to look at and code his “Is it recycling week?” Android app, a la IIRW (the GitHub DHMN repository for the app is here). This is Mike P’s October 17 civic hacking meetup overview:
I worked with Mike R. on porting the "Is it recycling week?" Android app over to use the newer API Locator. This will allow the Android app to function in *ANY* municipality that joins in the fun and adheres to the API locator protocol. New additions being worked on include Greenville and Outagamie county. Chris Jaure did similar work (but his is actually done) on the "Is it recycling week?" Web app.
Chris Jaure continued developing his Is It Recycling? web app (the GitHub DHMN repository for the web app is here) and improving the interoperability for Outagamie County data with the municipal API locator. Chris also committed my first pull request for the Hacktoberfest promo -- Thanks, Chris! His report of the October 17 event is as follows:
In addition to upgrading the web app to use the api locator as Mike [P] mentioned, I also worked with Mike R on setting up the Outagamie County api server and adding it to the api locator. Next step for me is to get all the zip codes supported by the Outagamie County data I have and register it under those. Right now it's just registered under 54130.”
Mark Nickel spent some time on GTFS to better understand what can be done with the GTFS data set provided by the city of Appleton for the Valley Transit buses and with GTFS in general.

I did research on other recycle and trash pickup apps and civic hacks to list in a civic hacks directory. The recycle-trash civic hack ecosystem is my first focus for the directory I’ve written about in previous posts. In addition, I did a couple minor updates to the GitHub registry of NE Wisconsin civic hacks.

Several of the civic hackers decided to participate in Digital Ocean’s Hacktoberfest t-shirt promo. All you have to do is register for the promo, then open four pull requests on any GitHub-hosted open source project(s) of your choice by October 31st. I did two pull requests and plan to work on the other two this week. One of the civic hackers registered and did his first of four pull requests at the start of the event. He then proceeded to make a bunch of code changes during the day for which he could have submitted the remaining three requests -- but because he could commit the changes, he kept forgetting to submit the pull requests needed to fulfill the Hacktoberfest requirement. So if you want the Hacktoberfest shirt, you might consider submitting your pull requests to repositories for which you can’t commit the code!

Next Steps & Continual Improvement
  1. Identify high priority work for recycle / trash pickup civic hacks ecosystem. Known items are:
    1. Mike P has changes he want to do on Android IIRW.
    2. We need more Android phone owners to install IIRW, use it, and give feedback to Mike P for app improvements.
    3. NE Wisconsin recycle-trash civic hacks need to find an iOS developer who will do an iOS IIRW (residents of Appleton have said they'd use IIRW if there was an app for their iPhone).
    4. “Is it recycling week?” is designed as a single-purpose, very low maintenance app, so it’s worth forking IIRW or creating a second recycle-trash app with additional features like Olathe Trash Day and other ReCollect Systems recycle-trash apps.
    5. Consider getting recycle-trash pickup companies involved to discuss GPS and knowing when the pickup truck is in your neighborhood.
  2. Identify remaining work for municipal APIs.
    1. The AppletonAPI , Greenville API and Outagamie API need to be joined by APIs for other cities and counties in NE Wisconsin for maximum impact and benefit.
    2. Feedback is needed from new people, technical and non-tech, regarding the Civic Hack API Locator, so Mike R can fix bugs not obvious to him and improve the UX. Providing feedback on the Locator can be a good first 'civic hacking' activity for future first-time participants in NE Wisconsin civic hacking events.
    3. NE Wisconsin needs to reach out to other civic hackers, like those involved with Code for America or companies like Accela, to figure out how to best improve the impact of NE Wisconsin municipal APIs and the API locator. The Open Civic Data project’s US Municipal Scrapers on GitHub and a City API Discoverability ‘post’ on GitHub both point to the value of connecting with other people working on the usefulness and discoverability for municipal APIs. 
  3. Mike and Mike both felt that a good Next Step is to identify one or a couple interesting new civic hack topics to start working on at upcoming civic hacking events. There are many features or complementary apps that can be developed in the recycle-trash ecosystem, but these guys are both at a point where they’d like to work on something that’s not garbage. There’s a whole cornucopia of civic hack opportunities out there, as mentioned in “Seed Projects For Civic Hackathons,” “DHMN Civic Hackathon/Appleton 2015: Top 10 Hacks,” and other posts on this blog. Maybe they’ll come up with a
    completely new hack topic which I hadn’t previously mentioned. They, and maybe a few other civic hackers, just have to have a conversation about which hacks are feasible in NE Wisconsin and are also interesting to them. Maybe the next NE Wisconsin civic hacking meetup will lean more heavily toward the yakking side of ‘yakking and hacking.’ We’ll get some Moon Man and Great White beer, some Mountain Dew and Coke, and whatever other beverages and healthy snacks are enjoyed by the people who participate in the meetup. Then we’ll bounce ideas around to see if we can identify one or two civic hacks to put some serious brainpower and time into.

Hope to see you at the next NE Wisconsin civic hacking event!


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Civic Hacking Meetup This Saturday, Oct 17th

Calling all NE Wisconsin civic hackers and others interested in learning about or doing a bit of civic hacking! There will be a civic hacking meetup this coming Saturday, October 17, 2015, at the Appleton Makerspace in Appleton, Wisconsin, USA. It's free, it's fun, and it's for YOU!

TIME:  The meetup will start at 9 AM. If you haven’t been to a civic hacking event and can roll out of bed early enough on a Saturday, it will be good if you can show up at 9 AM. But no worries if you come later as your schedule allows. This will be an informal day of civic hacking; no agenda. No definite end time, either; we’ll go as long as people are having fun, which probably means at least until 5 PM, and maybe until midnight! You can check the #dhmncivichacks channel on the NE Wisconsin Slack website during the day to see if the event is still in progress and what the civic hackers are working on during the event. Click here to join this Slack team if you’re not already a member. You can also check out the makerspace webcams to confirm people are still present and hacking...

PARTICIPANTS:  Everyone is welcome. This is a participant-driven event, so the people who show up will be the one responsible for making the event interesting, fun and worthwhile. You don’t need to be a programmer / coder to be a civic hackers -- see “What Are Some Non-coder Activities In Civic Hacking?” and “Do Non-Programmers Participate In Civic Hacking?” for ideas of what non-coders can work on for civic hacks.

FOOD / BEVERAGES:  As far as I know, there aren’t any announced sponsors yet for food or beverages for the Oct 17 meetup. It’s an all-day event, so for those people who stay for more than an hour or two, we’ll probably do a combination of bringing food to share with the group, bring our personal morning munchies / noon lunch / supper fixin’s, pitch in money for a shared meal, like pizza from Stucs or whatever other food people are interested in. At BarCamp Milwaukee two weeks ago, most of the participants brought at least one type of food to share, both munchies and main dishes, and we had a couple tables full of food and beverages. Fun and delicious!

If you know potential sponsors for a civic-minded event like this, ask them if they’ll cover the costs for some food or various beverages. If you’ve got the time and interest, whip up a batch of cookies, brownies, healthy snacks, or main dishes. And if don’t want to totally rely on potential sponsors, participant-prepared-potstickers, or the virtues of fasting, bring along some money, and you’ll be all set.

HACKING ACTIVITIES:  We’ll start out with self-introductions to make sure all the civic hackers know each other and what people are planning to work on or want to learn on October 17. For first-time civic hackers, we’ll cover the basics, answer questions you have about civic hacking and get you up to speed with Slack, GitHub and other tools of the trade. If you don’t know what those are, no worries. You will by the end of the day! And it’s all free! What a deal… :)

We’ll be working on updates, bug fixes, and improvements to civic hacks that were worked on at past hackathon/meetups. Mike Putnam will be there leading the charge again on civic hacks related to the AppletonAPI and the “Is It Recycling Week?” Android app he wrote (IIRW). We’re hoping to also have a bunch of other people who showed up at the June 6th hackathon or the other two civic hacking meetups in July and August.

I’m hoping we’ll have one or several people working on an iOS version of IIRW. A number of NE Wisconsin residents have said they’d like to use IIRW but can’t because they have an iPhone. I couldn’t talk them into trading in their iPhone for an Android, so we’ll just have to get someone to create an iOS IIRW.

For those participants interested in it, we’ll have discussion or learning sessions for GitHub, Python data scraping, Azure, Firebase, or other civic hacking tools and techniques. The learning sessions will be led by either participants knowledgeable about the session topic or by participants willing to take advantage of the well known You-Learn-Best-By-Teaching principle.

If any participants are interested in a reason to learn about or become more active on GitHub, we can get everyone up to speed on the Digital Ocean Happy Hacktoberfest. It appears all one has to do to get this delightful pre-shrunk, tri-blend limited-edition Hacktoberfest t-shirt is open four pull requests on any GitHub-hosted open source project(s) of your choice by October 31st. If you don’t have a GitHub account, we’ll help you create one, and if you don’t have a clue what a pull request is, someone at the makerspace will help you figure that out, too! If anyone knows of other freebie / swag deals like the Digital Ocean one above, bring that info along to the Oct 17 civic hacking event. Thanks!

WHAT SHOULD I BRING:  The main things to bring are (1) yourself, (2) friends or acquaintances who might enjoy civic hacking, (3) laptop and charger (or other tools for the type of civic hacking you want to work on), and (4) willingness to either lead a civic hack project or work on someone else’s civic hack project. If you're going to stay all day, you might want to skim through “Last Minute Prep & What To Bring To Hackathon.” Check out “Day-After Report: DHMN Civic Hackathon/Appleton 2015” for some idea of what was worked on during the June 6 hackathon.

Hope to see you at the Appleton Makerspace (mini-map at this link), 121R B North Douglas St, Appleton, WI 54914, on October 17!


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

GitHub: Good Reason For Students And Teachers To Be Civic Hackers

Many, if not most, civic hackers are familiar with GitHub as the code repository of choice for civic hack projects. But GitHub is also being used for much more than just a code repository for professional coders and civic hackers.

Education is one of the areas where GitHub is making a significant impact. So in order to be familiar with and become more skilled at using GitHub, students and teachers should consider becoming civic hackers!

I’m not a coder, I'm not a teacher, and I don’t have a CS / IT degree (computer science / information technology). But it seems to me that every student interested in technology or STEAM topics (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) should be introduced to GitHub by their teachers. As it says on GitHub's website, the service provides "powerful collaboration, code review, and code management for open source and private projects."

If students who are serious coders want to use GitLab, Bitbucket or another repository for most of their code repository needs, that’s fine too, but they should at least be familiar with GitHub because it’s somewhat of a defacto standard.

In the post “Embracing Participatory Culture in Education,” Alexey Zagalsky talks about what his university research showed regarding how and why educators use GitHub. I haven’t discussed the use GitHub with teachers and don’t personally use it enough to be able to knowledgeably evaluate Alexey’s research findings. However, I do use it enough that I strongly recommend every STEAM teacher and student take the time to use GitHub and learn enough about it to be able to understand whether it has value for them.

Seriously trialing GitHub to see if it has value for you falls in the same category as making informed decisions about whether to use other 21st century digital services like Google Docs, Dropbox, Slack, Trello, Skype, and a growing list of other tools to manage and enhance our work and our personal lives.

A couple education benefits of GitHub are mentioned in Alexey’s post:
“...our study reveals extraordinary benefits to educators who used it. By using GitHub, educators can share and collaborate on course material. When a fellow educator wants to teach a similar course, all that she needs to do is fork the original course on GitHub. And if she improves it, other educators are aware of the changes and can integrate them back to their courses as well...Suddenly, the course grows beyond the classroom, allowing the exchange of ideas and knowledge among students and external people (e.g., practitioners and experts from the industry). 
Using GitHub as a submission platform also makes it easier for educators to monitor student progress, activity, and participation. GitHub has numerous features that support transparency of student activities, e.g., graphs and the news-feed that aggregates all the activity in one place... 
By using GitHub educators were able to encourage participation. In one case, the instructor used student logs as material for discussion in class. Another example was where students submitted an issue followed by a Pull-Request, mechanisms that are usually used to discuss bugs or code changes, in order to change a deadline... 
GitHub can also be used as a portfolio showcasing the student’s work. It is common for employers to evaluate candidates based on their existing projects and activity on GitHub...”
Two concepts I especially like about GitHub are (1) sharing and forking open source code / ideas and (2) the professional portfolio to showcase and store a person’s work. I’ll probably write a future post about these two aspects of GitHub because they have huge value to both individuals and to organizations.

GitHub is a strong supporter of students and the education sector, with items like the Student Developer Pack, the Classroom Guide, and Classroom For GitHub.

Now, let’s look at a few of GitHub's compelling benefits for NE Wisconsin students and teachers who are civic hackers:

  1. You will learn to use GitHub. The DHMN Civic Hacks webpage is a hub for most of the civic hacking in our area. Students and teachers in NE Wisconsin who work on civic hacks will likely spend time on GitHub. If you don’t already use GitHub or want to learn how to use it better, we’ll be happy to help you set up an account there, learn the basics and help you figure out answers to your GitHub questions.
  2. You will start developing a portfolio on GitHub. Having a portfolio makes it easy to demonstrate your past work, makes it easy for others to work with you on projects, gives you public motivation to improve your portfolio, and might help you get a job. As mentioned in “Show Your Code: Use Github to Maintain Your Code Portfolio,” “Github has been taking progressive steps to making it easier for developers to build and maintain a...code portfolio...With Github, developers can push and pull code from a central repository and also gain a visual representation of the work done on said code repository. If a contributor makes a change, it is completely transparent as to who made the change and exactly what that change was in a very clear manner. Another very cool thing that Github has made easier is contributing to another developer’s open sourced code...Github launched redesigned profile pages for developers...The idea is to provide the developer with a single area to show their development work. [In the screenshot above] we can see all of the repositories that Paul has contributed to since he became a member in 2008...Overall, it is a portfolio for Paul Irish. It’s showing a historical representation of his development work. If you’d like to dig deeper and actually look at the code he’s committed, that is all just a click away.” For more reading on this topic, look at “GitHub Is Your Resume Now,” “Why GitHub is not your CV” and a Google+ post from Gina Trapani.
  3. Your GitHub account makes it easy to work on projects and to start new projects. You won’t have to try to find where your current code base files are or try to manually manage your code versioning.
  4. You can use GitHub for projects other than coding. As mentioned in Alexey’s post, “...Early adopters use GitHub to compose music, to share recipes, and even for legal documents. For example, Stefan Wehrmeyer, a German software developer and activist has posted the German federal government’s laws and regulations to GitHub. Allowing anyone to track changes, see who made the changes, and why...Similarly, the US federal code and the French civil code have been published to GitHub as well...”

Heavy users of GitHub will be able to tell you many more benefits of using GitHub. And some of the civic hackers you’ll meet are GitHub power users. And if you want to talk or collaborate with a fellow student or a fellow teacher, Google can help you find plenty of peer GitHub users.

For more relevant background on GitHub, read my earlier post “GitHub and Civic Hacking.”

You won’t regret checking out the DHMN Civic Hacks GitHub page and coming to the next NE Wisconsin civic hacking meetup on October 24, 2015.

If you’re not already a GitHub user, consider setting up a free account and learning the basics. If you’re not a coder and would rather wait to get an account and have someone help you get started, we’ll be happy to do that on October 24.

Hope to see you in October!


Monday, September 21, 2015

Oct 17 -- Next Civic Hacking Event For NE Wisconsin

Schedule Change: The date for the next NE Wisconsin civic hacking meetup is October 17. The event will be held at the Appleton Makerspace and will run from 9 AM until we drop -- probably going until at least 5 PM, maybe running later if we're having fun and being productive!

The next NE Wisconsin civic hacking event will tentatively happen on Saturday, October 24 October 17, 2015 in Appleton at the Appleton Makerspace.

What Time:  The goal is an all-day event so people can come and hack for a few hours when it fits in their schedule. We’ll start at 9 AM. If you haven’t been to a civic hacking event and can roll out of bed early enough on a Saturday, it would probably work to your advantage if you can show up for the start so you can hear what people are going to be working on. But no worries if you come later as your schedule allows. This will be an informal day of civic hacking; no agenda. No definite end time, either; we’ll go as long as people are having fun, which probably means at least until 5 PM, and maybe until midnight! You can check the #dhmncivichacks channel on the NE Wisconsin Slack website during the day to see if the event is still in progress and what the civic hackers are working on during the event. Click here to join this Slack team if you’re not already a member.

Who Should Show Up:  Everyone who’s interested in civic hacking, or thinks they might be, should come to this event. You should definitely come if you participated in the DHMN Civic Hackathon/Appleton 2015 on June 6 or if you registered for that hackathon but couldn’t be there. Anybody interested in the concept of civic hacking should show up. Maybe Diane and Michelle can organize a crew of civic hackers from Women In Technology to participate in the October 17 festivities!

So what IS this concept of Civic Hacking??:  If you are not familiar with civic hacking, listen to the Catherine Bracy TED video below, “Why Good Hackers Make Good Citizens.”

If you want to read more about what civic hacking is, scan through the titles of other posts from past months on this blog for ones that are of interest to you -- see the list of titles in the right column under Blog Archive.

Coders will enjoy the fun at the civic hacking meetup, but non-coders are also encouraged to participate, as discussed in “What Are Some Non-coder Activities In Civic Hacking?” and “Do Non-Programmers Participate In Civic Hacking?” There will likely be at least one designer there on October 17 and at least one person who's neither coder nor designer, so you definitely don’t need to be a coder to participate in civic hacking.

What Will We Do:  Mike Putnam will be there leading the charge again on civic hacks related to the AppletonAPI and the “Is It Recycling Week?” Android app he wrote. We had lots of people working on stuff related to the AppletonAPI at the June 6th civic hackathon. Mike Rosack will be at the October 17 event and will be working on his civic hack API locator or maybe his GreenvilleAPI. Ross Larson built a recycling-related Pebble smartwatch app and will likely work on that. Chris Jaure can fill us in on his progress on Kaukauna and Outagamie County recycling-related matters. I’m hoping some of the Oshkosh crew, the De Pere / Green Bay coders, and others who worked on projects related to AppletonAPI and “Is It Recycling Week?” (IIRW) will show up on October 17 to work on recycling and garbage pickup civic hacks. Maybe this time we can get some local garbage pickup people (cities or private companies) to show up.

It would be great if we can launch, or make plans to launch, a new civic hack project on October 17. For some ideas of what other civic hacks for NE Wisconsin could be worked on at this meetup, read “Seed Projects For Civic Hackathons.”

If you weren’t at the June 6th civic hackathon in Appleton or the civic hacking meetups on July 22 and August 19, no worries. We’ll bring you up to speed and answer your questions about civic hacking, then get you connected with an existing civic hack project or help you get your own project started.

What Should I Bring:  The main things to bring are (1) yourself, (2) friends or acquaintances who might enjoy civic hacking, (3) laptop and charger (or other tools for the type of civic hacking you want to work on), and (4) willingness to either lead a civic hack project or work on someone else’s civic hack project. If you're going to stay all day, you might want to skim through “Last Minute Prep & What To Bring To Hackathon.” Check out “Day-After Report: DHMN Civic Hackathon/Appleton 2015” for some idea of what was worked on during the June 6 hackathon.

As always, if you have civic hacking questions or suggestions, email Bob Waldron at bwaldron (at) gmail [dott] com.

Hope to see you at the NE Wisconsin civic hacking meetup on October 17, 2015!