Chicago collaborative codeathon notes 20130715

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July 15 2013

Notes from Mike Carniello and Christopher Whitaker from Smart Chicago Collaborative.

Key takeaways that Mike noticed:

1. Stress the open-sourceness of the thing

2. Consider using github or R-focused; don't be afraid of the technical aspect

3. Mike's thought: reconciling "SAS programmers" to "Open Source Scripters" is a big hurdle


From the Conversation

How willing is the audience to go to Open source software? Community puts pieces on github. Used for experimeting - how different people solved different issues.

Open source distribution license.

Once we have some code on github site - city of chicago did something to find flu shots - boston copied modified and published.

Mandatory: need to be open source.

Everybody needs to be comfortable with the idea.

Hackathons only work if everything is exposed - different people working on different stuff.

The other thing: organize around community or projects - not so good for building products. End the event with prototypes or half-finished things, and work on it later. In terms of having an event, having a working product at the end hasn't happened.

Generally have people self-select. Sometimes, stack the deck to pair developers and non-developers. When teams are formed, one problem owner in each group. One owner - key point.

Self-selecting is a feature - collaborate with new people.

Worry: lawyers giving evil looks about opensourcing.

Anything in health care act prompting this? No.

Biggest challenge: cultural challenge of going to open-source.

He is contacting UIC to see about privacy issues. This guy is in gov't, so not a lot of similar issues.

Normally, people bring their own equipment.

It may be easier to have people download R; once you have a script, advertise to college/universiteis, show code - and encourage them to help out, improve script.

Wider community on github.

Advantage of github: upload to its own respository. Up on github, it's their own respository. protecting main/original source of data.


What is the definition of success? Of failure?

Hackathons are good for some things and terrible for others things. Hackathons are primarily for organizing either around a problem or a community. For example, Geeks Without Bounds had a hackathon in May to get more women involved in coding. We called it a success after seeing the number of women at our OpenGov Hacknights shoot up. Another example is organizing around a problem. Recently, the Chicago Police Department had a hackathon to test out the new community policing API. The goal wasn't so much to have working apps at the end of the weekend, but rather to see what could be done with the new API. We're actually taking one of the winners and funding them to help get their app to completion.


Can we make it virtual?

I've seen app campaigns be virtual (like Code for America's Great American Civic Hack) but hadn't seen a hackathon done virtually before.


How can we get laptops with SAS? w/R?

I'm not as familiar with SAS, but I know R is free and open source. So, even if you couldn't get laptops you could still provide instructions on how to download the R platform.


How to match participants with targets?

We usually make it a point to invite non-developers to the event. We're very strong proponents of having the people who wrestle with the problems on a daily basis be represented on each team in order for the apps to be able to solve real issues.


How can we get world-wide participation?

I'm not sure there's ever been a civic app event that's had world wide participation. The National Day of Civic Hacking was a nation wide event and that took about 6 months of planning with hundreds of organizers.