Combating duplication with open government

Originally posted on

The second CityCamp Colorado started off with two speakers from the City of Denver setting the stage for the day’s theme: enhancing access to government. Held at the Jefferson County Administration and Courts Facility on October 28, 2011, more than 70 people gathered to participate, learn, and advance the open government movement. After Tom Downey, talked about the power shift in open government, Deputy Chief of Staff Stephanie O’Malley for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock explained the importance for citizens of knowing how to find government information. Continue reading

CityCamp Minnesota: Where web 2.0 meets all things local

UPDATE: Check out the CityCampMN Quick Review

By Emily Kampa, originally posted on CC-BY-SA.

Picture this: A six hour coffee break with over 100 social media and open source enthusiasts from government, community organizations, technology start-ups, and the community at-large. Ahead of you in line at the coffee pot are software developers, social media experts, open government advocates, and students. What’s that? It sounds too good to be true?

Think again! Continue reading

CityCamp Colorado Keynote with Tom Downey

The second CityCamp Colorado started off with Tom Downey and Stephanie O’Malley from the City of Denver setting the stage for the day’s theme: enhancing access to government. Held at the Jefferson County Administration and Courts Facility on October 28, 2011, more than 70 people gathered to participate, learn, and advance the open government movement. 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.

Things I learned from CityCamp

This article first appeared on

By Jonathan Minter / June 28th, 2011 /

I feel very fortunate to have been part of the planning group for CityCamp Raleigh.  Although I work for the City of Raleigh, I was part of the team as an average joe – not an “official city representative” – which allowed me to do things that have nothing to do with my day-to-day job responsibilities.  Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the everyday routine and shop for post-it notes and markers instead.

Here are some things I learned from the weekend and the planning that went into it.

  • I finally learned the value of Twitter.  I have been a Twitter voyeur for some time now and just set up an account a couple months ago.  Watching the real-time conversation from the audience about what was going on throughout the weekend made it a much more immersive experience.
  • I learned that there is a passionate group of citizens who are willing to not just talk about the problems our city faces – but are also willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work solving them.
  • I learned that the quality and availability of government data in standard formats is a foundation to lots of great things – namely an enabler to all those tech-savvy citizens who are willing to use that data to solve problems.
  • I learned that personal interaction between citizens and city employees can help city employees get exposure to the folks that ultimately consume our services.  As IT folks, sometimes we’re supporting the folks who support the folks who are on the front lines serving the citizens.  It always helps to be able to draw a line from where you stand to the people who will eventually be served by your organization.
  • Finally, I got a glimpse of what teamwork the open source way is all about.  There were no formal leaders, job descriptions, or top-down direction – just dedicated people who brought their skills to the project and jumped in wherever they could bring the most value.  We used technology tools based on their goodness of fit and experienced the freedom that comes from internet-based tools that interoperate with one another.

I’m looking forward to more interaction throughout the coming year and then another CityCamp Raleigh 2012!


CityCamp in Action: SF Fire App Data

Granicus co-founder Javier Muniz shows his day of work on the SF Fire App at CityCampSF.

Granicus co-founder Javier Muniz shows his day of work on the SF Fire App at CityCampSF.

The fourth of CityCamp’s four goals is:

Create outcomes that participants will act upon after the event is over

In the case of CityCamp San Francisco, participants created outcomes during the event by curating data describing AED locations throughout the city. AEDs are automated external difibrillators, those devices you see in airports that can be used by just about anyone to stabilize cardiac arrest victims. AED locations are important data that can save lives, particularly if they are open and portable. Curating this data is non-trivial, however. Collecting AED locations is labor intensive. Mistakes in data can cost lives. Data provided by the City of San Francisco is a decade old in some cases. Some places you’d expect to find an AED don’t have one.

So the challenge arises: how do we fix this?

Thanks to smart folks who came to CityCampSF, that question is being answered.

CityCamp Raleigh Is On June 3-5, 2011!

Raleigh citizens creating solutions for open government

CityCamp Raleigh is three days of open sourced talks, workshops, and hands-on  problem solving, to re-imagine the way the web, applications, technology, and participation will shape the future of Raleigh.

CityCamp brings together government, business, neighborhood, non-profit, and academic communities to work toward next generation solutions for Raleigh. You don’t need to be technical either–we need ideas from a variety of participants to help create solutions.

The purpose is to highlight the power of participation, promote open source in local government, and explore how technology is used to increase government transparency. CityCamp Raleigh will foster communities of practice and create outcomes for participants both during, and after the event.

We’ll be hearing inside views of the city from local leaders and getting inspiration from experts on social innovation and open data, before a participatory barcamp to discuss problems and new ideas, and finally ,a work day to see what solutions we can create.

We want to collaborate and create the next generation of government using community-based solutions. CityCamp Raleigh is how open government, “Gov 2.0,” goes local–and you can join the movement.

Get involved here.


Sponsor CityCamp

I’m glad to report that we’ve rolled out means to direct financial and in-kind support to local organizers. Thanks (again) to, CityCamp now has a registered 501.3 (c), not-for-profit, fiscal agent. The recently published Sponsor Prospectus provides overview and details for how individuals, companies, and non-profits can make tax-deductible contributions through direct payments and sponsorship packages. The purpose of this action is to create a modest fund that will be used to boot-strap CityCamp activities world wide.

Most funds will be distributed to CityCamps in the form of grants to local organizers who agree to host a CityCamp and meet the expected criteria. Some funds will be used for coordination and collaboration activies for all CityCamps, including the CityCamp web site(s), the forum, administration, and special events.

Our approach is to provide just enough structure and support to grow and sustain CityCamp and not a bit more.  We want to make it easier for CityCamps to happen by helping to raise the funds and other resources necessary. Local organizers aren’t required to use this sponsorship program.  CityCamp is still an “open source brand.” Anyone is free to use the Sponsor Prospectus for their own CityCamp fundraising.  The only requirements for using the CityCamp Sponsor Prospectus are to 1) agree to the “Start-A-Camp” criteria and 2) reference the  source prospectus URL.

I hope that you, dear reader, will do what you can to support CityCamp.

For more information email Kevin Curry.

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