Hackathons, currently the most genius practice to tap the civic-minded and voluntary inclinations of software developers in communities across the U.S., are yielding amazing results, particularly in the mobile app arena. Local governments are opening up data, then holding contests to see who can make the best apps to use that data.
Last week, the Colorado Code for Communities Hackathon took place from July 27th through the 29th. It was 36 hours of developing apps that will improve the lives of people living, working, and playing in the Denver region. The event brought together non-profits, government agencies, data providers, programmers, civic hackers, designers and anyone with an idea or stake in the future of Denver area communities.
While some hackathons find fantastic success by dropping the data-sets in the developer’s lap and firing off the starting pistol, the Colorado Code for Communities Hackathon followed a tighter structure, and it ensured participants were well fed beyond the stereotypical programmer’s diet of energy drinks and pizza.
Dan Melton, Granicus Deputy CTO, got involved in this one. He used the Granicus Search API to access the City of Denver’s public meeting video archives, developing a mobile app prototype that would give users an easy way to research and follow public debate.
Melton’s application prototype was comprised of major working functionality and some storyboard mock-up screens for added data accessibility. He provided a quick presentation of the app and all the features, which you can view here. To think that this app was done in one weekend, along with at least five other amazingly useful apps, demonstrates the power of civic hackathons.
The City of Denver and Denver Channel 8 has been on the forefront of open government and open data. They have been providing broadcast coverage of all their council meetings online with Granicus since 2006. They were even awarded for achieving more than 24,000 video hits to this content over the course of one year. It’s great to be able to partner with them to take their content one step further.
The winning app that came out of this hackathon was EndPoint, which can retrieve all relevant information about the street the user is on: crime data, median housing, demographic, etc. Second place went to RadRoutes, an app for cyclists that crowdsources the quality of bike routes. While Melton’s app wasn’t an official team entry, it connects every Denver citizen to the city council’s business and decision making process.
Ultimately, that’s what hackathons are about: connecting citizens with government data. It’s a thrill to see this developing trend in cities across the country, as they unleash the power of open data and open APIs.