Civic developers gather to code for America at data camps

Today in Seattle, over 50 civic developers have gathered at Socrata to work on coding applications from the city’s open data repository at data.seattle.gov. Today’s Seattle datacamp, organized by Code for America, is just one of several data camps that the new civic service is convening in host cities around the United States. Chacha Sikes, a 2011 Code for America fellow, explains what’s behind these data camps:

City governments have a lot of information which is useful to all of us. This ranges from maps of local parks to building footprints to real-time 911 calls. We all have an interest in our budget information, legislative documents and other resources that we use in collective decision-making and deliberation. Not all of this information is currently available for all cities, even though much of it is public record. The “Open Data” movement is a way to work on getting information into machine-readable formats, allowing for easy publishing, sharing, and reuse.

We’re hosting DataCamps in CfA’s cities this year to build communities around making city data more open and accessible to allow citizens to help cities work better.

DataCamp is a event focusing on skill-building and collaborative work on city data. It is an opportunity for interested parties in a city to work together, and build a network of people with shared interested in improving civic communications and information management.

Sanjay B. Hyatt, a writer at the Seattle Times, is at the data camp in the Pacific Northeast. He reported back that CTO Bill Schrier said that Seattle has 100 data sets. “Turn that data into information.”

DataCamp Seattle is using a Drupal site and a DataCamp Seattle Google group to coordinate and share notes. In the tradition of unconferences and barcamps, they’re also using a more analog method to sort out ideas and projects: sticky notes. Virtual observers can see the various projects going up, including calendars, an impact survey, an apps workshop and a “pimp my blog” to help stimulate the creation of hyperlocal blogs.

More data camps are coming soon to Seattle and Washington, D.C.

UPDATE: A day after the datacamp, a new app is available to Seattle residents. Hear Near pushes alerts about Seattle events nearby to mobile phone users using text messages.

Hear Near is available from iTunes and Android.

Hear Near was created by a team that included Amber Case (whose geolocation startup, Geoloqi, powers it), Aaron Parecki, Joe McCarthy, Jesse Kocher, Gene Homicki, Naoya Makino, Steve Ripley, Rebecca Gutterman and Jenny Frank.

Frank, a self-identified “non-techie” who attended the camp, came away with the feeling that “nothing is impossible.”

Panoramic image credits to Chris Metcalf.

About Alex Howard

Alexander B. Howard is a DC-based a technology writer and editor. Previously, he was the Washington Correspondent at O'Reilly Media, where he covered the voices, technologies and issues that matter in the intersection of government, technology and society. If you're feeling social, you can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook or circle him on Google Plus In addition to corresponding for the O’Reilly Radar, he has contributed to the Huffington Post, Govfresh, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, National Journal, The Atlantic, CBS News and Forbes. He graduated from Colby College with a bachelor's degree in biology and sociology. Currently, he is a resident of the District of Columbia, where he lives with his greyhound, wife, power tools, plants and growing collection of cast iron pans, many of which are frequently used to pursue his passion for good cooking.
  • http://ariherzog.com Ari Herzog

    CfA is doing some great stuff. I attended their Boston “camp” during which the city of Boston’s CIO talked about some innovations occurring with the Boston Public Schools that are part of the CfA investment. Of note (to me), I asked him whether he’d thought of collaborating with other communities to maximize resources — and while it’s not something he specifically thought about doing, he was not opposed to the idea either. And therein lies the power of vision.

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  • http://gumption.typepad.com Joe McCarthy

    Alex: were you at the event? I always enjoy your posts, and would have enjoyed meeting you in person. It may be worthwhile for organizers of future data camps to invite all participants to briefly introduce themselves during the opening session (I know there were 50 people, but given that more than 10 were more formally introduced, a quick go ’round would have been doable).

    Three quick notes:

    Amber Case has posted a great set of photos from the HearNear design & development process on Flickr.

    Jenny’s last name is Frankl.

    I’ve also posted some notes from Data Camp Seattle.

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