CodeAcross 2014 with Code for Boston: Civic Hacking Our Way to a Better City

| Cathy Wissink

Photos By Dana J. Quigley © 2014 |
Photos By Dana J. Quigley © 2014 |

Saturday morning greeted us with blue skies and the warmest temperatures we’d seen in Boston in many months. And yet, at NERD, 40 intrepid people ignored the siren call of the almost-Spring weather to spend the day inside.

What was their cause? What inspired them?

code_acrossThis last Saturday (February 22nd) was CodeAcross Day. Coinciding with International Open Data Day, the goal of CodeAcross is to activate the Code for America network and inspire residents everywhere to get actively involved in their community. Across the United States and in a number of international locations, people came together to work on technical solutions to better their community.

As both a national sponsor for CodeAcross, and the location host for the Code for Boston brigade, we at NERD were thrilled to participate in this event.

The crowd at the Code for Boston event was diverse, pulling from developers, researchers, government, community activists and people just wanting to roll up their sleeves and help think through community problems and their potential solutions.

Code for Boston Brigade Captain Harlan Weber
Code for Boston Brigade Captain Harlan Weber

As Harlan Weber (@WheresHJ), Brigade Captain for Code for Boston, noted: the organization wants to work on lighthouse projects, namely those projects that both serve a real need and demonstrate how technology can help civic life. With that philosophy in mind, the team demoed some of their work to date, including Pantry Pickup, an application that helps facilitate food bank donations, and “Will they tow me?” an app that indicates where your car will be towed in times of a snow emergency. As they demoed their diverse applications, two points became clear:

  • There are an abundance of community challenges that can be helped by unlocking open data; often it’s just a matter of making that data available in an easy-to-understand format.
  • There are diverse skill sets needed in this effort; even those who don’t consider themselves developers can contribute. Beyond writing code, the brigade could use people who can help track down data, help project manage the work, and market the work completed to date.

I came away inspired by what the group had accomplished and their goals for the future. I also look forward to working with Code for Boston moving forward!

For more information, check out Code for Boston’s meetup page and follow them on Twitter.

App demo:

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Cathy Wissink

Cathy embraces what others may tend to avoid. Kale? Loves it. Bugs? Enthralled by them. A cross country bike ride? No problem for Cathy. Solving some of society’s most critical issues by working with everyone from tech leaders to politicians to community leaders? Bring it on.