Code for America

Raleigh Code for America brigade launches Adopt-A-Shelter web application

From the folks that brought you CityCamp Raleigh…

Citizens interested in maintaining and monitoring their favorite City of Raleigh bus shelter now have a helping hand: the Adopt-A-Shelter interactive web application. Adopt-A-Shelter instantly displays the adoption status of all city bus shelters. Code for Raleigh, a recently formed Code for America brigade in Raleigh that includes volunteers from CityCamp Raleigh, deployed the application for use in Raleigh.

Code for Raleigh advocates for existing applications and technology created by Code for America, a national non-profit focused on improving government through technology. Code for Raleigh has recently deployed an Adopt-A-Shelter application at adoptashelter.raleighnc.gov highlighting 184 shelters available for adoption in Raleigh. Citizens can easily sign up for a one-year commitment to help keep Raleigh bus shelters clean for Capital Area Transit (CAT) riders.

“It’s an interactive way for residents to see which bus shelters have been adopted,” said David Eatman, the City’s transit administrator. “We are delighted that citizens from Code for Raleigh have stepped up to offer this technical resource to encourage participation in this City program.”

Code for Raleigh recently entered their Adopt-A-Shelter application in a Code for America Race for Reuse campaign. Only five weeks remain to promote the project and increase the adoption rate. Code for Raleigh hopes to have 20 new shelters adopted by December 6, 2012 to meet their success criteria.

“We think we can double the existing adoption rate from twenty to forty adopters during the campaign,” said Jason Hibbets, a Code for Raleigh brigade captain. “Over the next five weeks, we hope to drive awareness about the bus shelter adoption program and host a civic-athon on December 1 to sign-up new users, add new features, and create Triangle Wiki pages about each adopted shelter.”

There are a few key dates and milestones to be aware of during the Race for Reuse campaign. Code for America brigades across the United States will set campaign goals by Friday November 16. An “engagement day” and civic-athon scheduled for Saturday, December 1 would foster new users and address bug and feature requests to the application. Raleighites can sign-up to attend the event.

The campaign ends on Thursday, December 6, and the Raleigh brigade aims to have the existing twenty adopters included in the new online program and add at least twenty more adopters by the campaign deadline.

About the Adopt-A-Shelter Program

The City’s shelter adoption program began in September.  Adoption requires maintaining the shelter. Those wishing to participate in the initiative can assist in removing trash in and around the shelter area on a monthly basis. City of Raleigh staff will provide adopters with trash bags, disposable gloves and safety vests to assist in the trash removal around adopted shelters. These volunteers also are asked to notify City of Raleigh staff of any special maintenance needs and report vandalism or suspicious activity.

About Code for Raleigh

Code for Raleigh is a Code for America brigade whose mission is to deploy, maintain, and sustain civic technology and open data infrastructure in Raleigh. The brigade is a volunteer group that is part of a national network of civic advocates. Code for Raleigh aims to bring citizens, city government, and businesses together to openly innovate and improve our quality of life through technology. Existing projects include Triangle Wiki, a free, openly-editable, community-centric website for local history, media, and interesting characters. The brigade was formed in October 2012 by CityCamp Raleigh volunteers.

About Code for America

Code for America helps governments work better for everyone with the people and the power of the web. Founded in 2009, Code for America held its inaugural fellowship in 2011 with 19 fellows and three cities. Through the fellowship program, Code for America provides an opportunity for the web generation to give back by connecting developers and designers with cities to work together to innovate. Code for America has grown, and now connects 26 fellows and eight cities. The Code for America Accelerator, launched April 2012, will support disruptive civic startups, and The Code for America Brigade helps organize hackers locally to reuse and deploy civic software. Code for America is reimagining government for the 21st century.

LocalWiki project spawns open source communities

Originally posted on opensource.com. Triangle Wiki is an open source project influenced by CityCamp Raleigh.

Who says open source is all about code and hackathons have to stick to computer hacking? Code Across America is a different kind of open source community, and it came together on February 25, 2012. This effort was part of civic innovation week (February 24-March 4), where over a dozen cities in the United States had citizens organize to improve their cities and communities. Simultaneous events included hackathons, unconferences, meet-ups, and Code for America ’brigades’ deploying existing open source applications. This is a story about building community knowledge the open source way, using the open source platform LocalWiki.

Triangle Wiki Day is an open source success in community building

On Triangle Wiki Day, around 50 people collaborated at Red Hat headquarters in Raleigh, NC. The event was a soft launch of trianglewiki.org, an effort to document information about the Triangle region and increase collaboration and knowledge-sharing across the area. The wiki uses open source software, LocalWiki, as a content management platform. It includes wiki pages, images, and mapping.

The day started off with a brief presentation [PDF] on how the Triangle Wiki project has roots in CityCamp Raleigh. It’s also part of the larger open government movement and part of the Code Across America civic innovation week.

Raleigh At-large City Councilor Mary Ann Baldwin gave a keynote at the event. She spoke briefly on the importance of collaborating on a project like Triangle Wiki and how events like this continue to be an authentic part of Raleigh’s open source philosophy and open-minded communities. At-large City Councilor Russ Stephenson and Raleigh Planning Director Mitchell Silver were also in attendance.

Reid Serozi, Triangle Wiki project lead, provided the background on LocalWiki, showing a video from Philip Neustrom. Neustrom is one of the LocalWiki co-founders and worked extensively with daviswiki.org. Serozi walked the attendees through wiki 101—teaching them how to register an account, create new pages, and edit existing pages. After that, the edit party began.

Right away, people started creating pages, collaborating with each other, and helping one another with wiki best practices, formatting, mapping, and more. The group made a lot of progress.

I spoke with Councilor Baldwin at the end of the day. She was a little intimidated at the start, but is now comfortable making contributions on her own. She created several pages, practicing with a page about the Cotton Mill before contributing several pages mapping assets for Raleigh.

Serozi was pleased with the turnout and participation. His reaction on the day:

As I was setting up for the Triangle Wiki Day event, there were so many unknowns. As the event started, I was pleasantly surprised to see all the seats taken, power strips full with dozens of laptops ready to partake in an open content edit party. During the event and afterwards, it became pretty clear the efforts produced from Triangle Wiki Day will have a ripple effect within our community.

What did this community accomplish? Here are a few of the results from Triangle Wiki Day:

  • 633 page edits
  • 100 maps
  • 138 new photos added

Neustrom was watching from afar. He knows the wiki software he works on is just an enabler. “I think the Triangle Wiki day was a spectacular success,” he said. “It really shows the true potential of this new form of collaborative local media.”

The next step for the Triangle Wiki is to capitalize on this event. “The challenge for everyone involved at this point is to continue the momentum and reach 1,000 pages by the March 14 public launch,” said Serozi.

More about LocalWiki from their co-founder

Neustrom wants LocalWiki to be more than a collaborative open source project. He feels that the freedom that this platform offers will be a key to getting people to share information and knowledge in the future:

Right now we’re at point where it’s unclear how people in our local communities will get and share information in the future.  And, more critically, many large corporations would like to be the gatekeeper of this local information. The LocalWiki movement represents a truly open alternative to an increasingly consolidated, closed-off local information ecology.

The civic world has focused a lot on the problem of open data–and open data is really important.  But open data alone won’t satiate our communities’ information needs. We need tools and organizations that can really pull everything together and provide context, provide a more qualitative take on local information. And I think LocalWiki is really well-positioned to help in this respect.

Conclusion

The power of open source and collaboration were evident at Triangle Wiki Day. This project is about creating a community anyone with local knowledge can contribute to. It brings together people with different skillsets—ranging from tech-savvy know-how to photography, local history to hackers, and much more. You don’t have to code or contribute upstream to add your knowledge to the wiki, you just need to click the edit button. After that, you’re part of an open source community and a philosophy that is changing the world.

Project information

Pictures

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Code Across America: A Week of Civic Innovation

Originally posted on codeforamerica.org

From February 24 through March 4, passionate citizens around the country will come together to “Code Across America” — to make their cities even better. In over a dozen cities, there will be hackathons to build civic apps, “brigades” to deploy existing apps, unconferences to plan for the year ahead, and meetups to strengthen the community. Five of these cities are CityCamp cities. Check out details of what’s going on and where it’s happening below.

Details

When: Simultaneous event, February 25; Ongoing, February 24 – March 4
What: Activities ranging from hackathons and app deployments to unconference sessions
Who: Urbanists, Civic Hackers, City Reps, Developers, Designers, etc — anyone with the passion to make their city better
How: Bring together the city government with a supporting community group, organization, or business, and reach out to a broad range of participants with diverse backgrounds and skills

FAQ

What’s a “Brigade” event? This year, Code for America is launching the CfA Brigade to bring together groups of civic hackers in cities across the country, focused on customizing and deploying civic apps locally. These Brigade events will be the kick off: each city will identify an app to focus on, customizing it for their needs, standing it up, and getting it in the hands of users by the end of the day.

How do I participate? Find your city on the map above or the list to the right and join the event there. If you don’t see your city, then host your own event using our guide, and if you can’t make it happen on February 25, don’t worry, Code Across America events are happening all week long, February 24 – March 4. Contact us if you need some help or want more information.

CityCamp Council & Code Across America

CityCamp Council

This coming Tuesday we’re having a kickoff meeting of organizers for the world CityCamp Council planned for this year. I’m stoked that we’ll have 12 participants that include representatives from all 4 countries where there have been CityCamps: US, UK, Russia, and Canada. Three members of the org team are from government.

Code Across America

From 24 February through 4 March CityCampers, Open Gov-ers, Code for America fellows, and other civic-minded hackers will participate in a national week of civic innovation. We’ll deploy apps, liberate data, and share the skills we need to build a civic web.

Look for an event near you:

View Code Across America in a larger map

CityCamp Honolulu recap: Restoring trust in government

Originally posted at opensource.com.

The theme that emerged from the first CityCamp Honolulu, held on December 3 (the 17th CityCamp held worldwide), was restoring citizen confidence in their government. In a very collaborative and participatory atmosphere, organizers looked to citizens to generate ideas for the City of Honolulu’s upcoming Code for America project and to harness the power of design thinking to rapidly prototype ten topics generated during the unconference. Continue reading

A PICNIC in Amsterdam

Once a year Amsterdam plays host to the creators of urban design, technology, art, and science for the annual 3-day PICNIC festival. I just returned from this amazing festival.

A few months ago Bonnie from  iStrategy Labs invited  me to speak at PICNIC, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I was excited. It would be my first time attending the festival, and my first time in Amsterdam. I’d heard rave reviews from former festival-goers — it was the most exciting conference they’d ever gone to — so I knew I would be in for a treat.

My introduction to the festival-goers began in the shuttle ride from Schiphol to the hotel where we all would be staying. On my shuttle was Jeff Hull, a situational designer and founder of Nonchalance, and Aaron Wolf Baum, a physicist growing algae for NASA. Off-hand it didn’t seem like there would be much overlap between our work worlds, but when I attended their panels I realized that we all held the mutual goal of solving the long-term problems that plague our planet. Though the methods we choose to go about it, and the nuances we focus our efforts on vary drastically the end result remains the same: do important work.

Jeff Hull’s panel, We Tell Stories By Any Means Necessary, discussed aspects of storytelling through individual’s interactions with cities and city governments. This, of course, falls right in-line with the we’re doing at Code for America.

On Jeff’s panel was Euro Beinat, a professor of location and context awareness, who presented real-time data visualizations of people interacting with their cities via tweets, Facebook updates, and transit rides.

Euro believes the challenge cities have utilizing data is due to the cities lack of a value system. Without an established value system, cities aren’t able to respond or process the new information. We’re seeing this on a wide-scale as cities attempt to make outdated data-driven decisions instead of prioritizing the practical usage of new data for citizen benefit.

How then do we revamp value systems for our cities? Enter storytelling. Euro argues that value systems are created through emotional responses and we must tell our stories to create emotional responses to the new information. I love this!

The work of the other panelists like Jeff, is exactly what we need to tell the stories that create and sustain up-to-date value systems for our cities.

Redesigning the Biology of Cities was a panel facilitated by Aaron Wolf Baum about the use of polyculture, algae, and other biology to make our cities sustainable. Aaron’s working with NASA in an attempt figure out how in 30 plus years from now, when we (hopefully) aren’t as reliant on fossil fuels, to use algae as jet fuel. I was impressed by Aaron’s work, not only because it has the potential to positively impact our environment, but because it’s a forward-thinking plan with a trajectory beyond 2040.

The panel I spoke on, Community Outsourcing, was a conversation about how to empower and engage residents in their communities; in turn making our communities better. We talked a lot about CityCamp and the importance of addressing local issues with local residents and government. CityCamp is a great example of bringing together a pretty diverse group of people, that have common goals, together to talk, plan and act.

In the spirit of outsourcing, we invited the audience to participate in our panel, and were joined by Kim Li Ti Oeij, who’s created an online site for addicts and homeless to access services in Amsterdam. Kim is an example of community outsourcing at its best. He takes information from various government sites and puts it in one place for easy and comprehensive access. Later we were joined by Frank Kresin who added that to be successful with community outsourcing we need to stay local, at the city level.

Some of the words that were repeated throughout the festival that I think are worth remembering: Action, Make, Now, Generation, Open, Storytelling, and Experiment.

Check out PICNIC 2011 photos on flickr. All photos included in this blog post provided by PICNIC Network.

CityCamp 2.0

It started almost a year ago with a few tweets. That’s when Jennifer Pahlka and I decided to organize a barcamp dedicated to Gov 2.0 at the local level. With absolutely zero forethought we decided that the time had come to take all of this talk about open data, participatory media, and “government as platform” to the places where citizens intersect government most directly and often:  the places in which we live.

Over the weekend of January 23 & 24, 115-or-so people came from across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. to have earnest conversations about how to make municipal governments more open and user friendly. We wanted to show local governments how to leverage the Web as a platform for building smarter local governments. We wanted to understand the obstacles that stand in the way of this goal.

CityCamp Chicago was that inaugural event and it was a success beyond our expectations.  As we concluded the first CityCamp, we had no plans or expectations to carry on. Our hope was that people would just copy what we did and have their own CityCamps. In fact, Washington, D.C. did just that. But as time went on, I started getting calls and emails: “Hey, when are you going to do a CityCamp in my city?” Or, “We’re thinking about doing a CityCamp. Can you help us out?” That’s when I realized what had to be done.

Today I am thrilled, and admittedly a bit nervous, as we launch this online hub for CityCamp along with a CityCamp ‘World Tour.’

Learn how you can start a CityCamp where you live.