Saturday, May 16, 2015

Civic Hacking In The News: May 16, 2015

Here's your May 16 update on recent news about civic hacking.

Proposals Submitted To Knight Prototype Fund!!

At least two NE Wisconsin project proposals were submitted to the Knight Prototype Fund by the May 15 deadline!!

In my May 6 post "Appleton Challenge: Submit Civic Hack Idea To Knight Prototype Fund By May 15" I called on NE Wisconsin residents to submit their ideas for projects that "create new pathways for information that is essential for communities." Winning proposals will receive $35,000 grants along with project support from a data science team. Let me know if you submitted a Knight Prototype Fund proposal. If you're interested in civic hacking, please consider doing research on the Knight Prototype Fund so you can submit a proposal for the next quarterly round of funding. The application deadline for that round will likely be August 15, 2015.

More Open Data

Here's a resource that may be helpful before or on June 6, 2015. The May 14 article "This Handbook Can Help Governments Open Data" reviews the just-released version of the Open Knowledge Foundation's Open Data Handbook. One of the potential activities at the "DHMN Civic Hackathon/Appleton 2015" on June 6 is a discussion about what city or county data should be made available in an easily usable format. People who want to take part in that discussion should consider reading Open Data Handbook before June 6.
"Seeking to offer further guidance about what data governments and other entities should open to the public, and how that information can be best used, the Open Knowledge Foundation on Wednesday released an updated version of its Open Data Handbook...the online resource features a guide geared toward people with limited knowledge about the jargon and issues associated with open data, as well as other resources, such as case studies and a library of articles, videos and presentations. Sections of the guide have titles like “What Is Open Data?” and “So I’ve Opened Up Some Data, Now What?” There is also an appendix that delves into the nuances of file formats, such as JSON and XML. And a glossary with definitions for terms like “Share-alike License.” Of particular interest to governments or agencies getting ready to make datasets publicly available might be recommendations in the “How To Open Up Data” section."
US White House Support For National Day of Civic Hacking

In the May 12 blog post "Save the Date…the National Day of Civic Hacking is Coming June 6!," the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy encouraged interested people to be civic hackers on June 6. The post also highlighted the six themes of this year's National Day of Civic Hacking.
"It brings together thousands of technologists, entrepreneurs, developers, designers, makers, organizers, scientists, and other citizens to improve their communities and the governments that represent them...This year’s National Day of Civic Hacking is focused on making government work more effectively for everyone using Code for America’s Principles for 21st Century Government. There are six core themes:
  • Climate. Bringing together extensive open data and design to develop data-driven planning and resilience tools for local communities. 
  • Disaster response. Leveraging government data and digital networks in support of disaster response and relief. 
  • Economic Development. Redesigning how workers, entrepreneurs, and businesses interacting with local government can foster the kind of growth that a whole community can participate in. 
  • Health. Building technology that puts the user first to make it easier and more affordable to feed, shelter, and treat those in need. 
  • Oceans. Providing real-time information to work smarter and more safely as we commit to address the challenges facing our oceans. 
  • Safety and Justice. Getting the right information to the right person at the right time in the right way to make our communities safer and more just."
Leveraging Civic Hacks From Other Cities

Code for America recently published "A Step-by-Step Guide to Redeploying Civic Tech in Your Community," a post about how to use civic hacks developed in other cities to avoid reinventing the wheel. If you're not a coder, don't even bother reading this post -- it has lots of tech details that you won't care about. A short summary of it is that it provides good ideas on re-using code developed for civic hacks in other communities. Code for the open source hacks is usually stored in a repository like GitHub. And it's easy to use the GitHub code for other civic hacks to create a version of those hacks for your city, county or state.
"We live in a golden age of software openness. That’s particularly true in civic technology. Many, many successful projects freely distribute everything you’d need to bring that project to your community. That means much less work for us and we get to build off what someone has done before us. For our project, we found an awesome project the folks at Open Oakland put together: that link leads to Github which is a massive collection of all sorts of coding projects that anyone can contribute to or adopt for their own purposes. All the stuff Early Oakland is built from is completely available to us...we decided to automate pulling info directly from the website. We turned to a toolset normally used to test websites called Selenium. Selenium lets you write code to simulate a person interacting with a website but can be easily leveraged to pull information as well...Using Selenium is not the greatest integration method. If the search tool got updated (e.g. a button moves to the other side of the page) Selenium wouldn’t necessarily know how to adapt. This makes our data gathering process incredibly brittle. The good news is if all we’re trying to do is get enough data to validate our ideas about this project, having the process work exactly once is all we need. Once we have that validation we would look to better (but perhaps more development-intensive) methods of collecting information."
Open Data From Counties

Many counties around the US are making open data available. The article "L.A. County launches open data website" gives a few details about the new open data from Los Angeles County, per the excerpt below. For our June 6 civic hackathon, it would be great if a few hackers were interested in working on open data from Outagamie County or one of the other counties in our region because the counties have data relevant to area citizens that cities don't have. If you are strongly interested in county open data, consider recruiting a couple county people to participate in the civic hackathon.
"Los Angeles County unveiled an open data website last week that provides public access to millions of county records. The county is the latest municipality to join an open data movement to make government records easily accessible to the public online...The county data include Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department crime statistics, county employee salary and benefits information, restaurant inspections and budget and election data. The single biggest data set is the county’s property tax rolls that contain assessment information on 2.3 million properties within the county’s 4,000 square miles...Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas called for countywide Open Data Task Force to seek input from the public and identify additional data sets that can be added to the website."
If you haven't yet signed up to participate in the DHMN Civic Hackathon/Appleton 2015, REGISTER TODAY!! It's free, and you'll meet a great group of like-minded people.


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