Christopher Wink, who founded the Technical.ly network of local technology sites in Philadelphia, Brooklyn and other cities, was one of the mentors that Al Jazeera brought in for the event — which pulled together 90 participants from 37 countries, out of more than 1,600 applications. He has a blog post in which he lists some of his favorite projects, and almost all of them seem like they could help make the job of a journalist easier, or in some way expand the practice of news (there’s another good list here). [[MORE]]
On editorial teams that I’ve been a part of, two tasks not core to reporting still take up time that I think could be more automated. Both were attempted to be addressed at Canvas, the first media innovation hackathon organized by Aljazeera in Qatar this weekend.
I am proud to say I was there in Doha this week serving as one of 10 mentors for the 90 participants from 37 countries who were chosen out of 1,600 applicants (40 percent of those chosen were women). The winning projects were chosen out of 19. (Other favorites)
Civic hacking is the act of using simple technical solutions to address or better understand bigger social problems. That’s something I found myself saying in an effort to better convey why open data and digital civic engagement isn’t just a distant issue for technologists but instead the conversation of transparency for today.
I attend a lot of hackathons, considering either I’m organizing them or sponsoring them or covering them. Though I hope to slowly change that a bit, I’m no programmer.
Still, sitting around these events has led me to conceive of and, in some cases, suggest projects that never actually happen. Maybe they someday will. Here are some that have crossed my mind:
- What Neighborhood am I in? — For Philadelphia, GIS shop Azavea has a map layer for Philly neighborhoods (which are not formal political boundaries) though I’m not yet sure I completely agree with them :-). Still, that’d be a good start to a tool that could (and should) easily be brought to other cities. Give an address, intersection or your current location to find out what city neighborhood you’re in. (I’d love for this to perhaps also combine other map layers like political representative, city services including trash days, neighborhood groups and other information) **There could be a tab breaking down zip code or neighborhood-specific Census information like rental/homeownership, crime, etc. (Other ‘hood lists exist)
- Parking flow chart — I thought it might be cool to have a little yes/no web app that would help drivers to decide where they can park in given situations. The GPS tool could follow parking regulations and have yes/no functionality: “are you 25 feet from a fire hydrant,” “is a weekday,” or whatever.
- ‘Fuck You’ world map — Translations and pronunciations of ‘Fuck You’ (or, OK, perhaps a few phrases) in as many global languages as humanly possible. Helps to see different native or national languages and learn a simple phrase.
- Easy budget visualization tool — Lots of governments have PDFs or deep budget information. Some even offer some visualizations themselves, but I wonder if there could be some tool that could suck up some of that information and offer more interactive, variable and more easily updated online displays to be shared more readily.
- Neighborhood news tool — For specific-enough neighborhoods or parts of the city (i.e. “West Oak Lane” or “Southwest Philadelphia” we could create RSS feeds pulling from a variety of sources.
- School approval heat map — Erika will know this better than I do, but I’d bet there’s a map layer of school locations (or one could be created), though catchment is less available and more interesting, and the AYP or perhaps test school averages could be used to visualize the success of schools in different neighborhoods.
- Transit black holes — A visualization of SEPTA bus/train/trolley routes (and/or frequency) and display what areas are least served.