October 2015

A Civic Tech Database: Civic Graph

Civic Graph

When our technology and civic engagement team moved to New York City, we knew we had to do something different. Something special. Our main mission was to bring the world of civic tech to the forefront, and to connect some of the top teams doing work for civic good in New York City. That’s where the idea of Civic Graph came in.

Civic Graph (which you can find at civicgraph.io) is our idea of what a directory of civic technology should look like. It’s collaborative, interactive, organized, and always growing. And we’re so excited to share it with the world!

Read more about Civic Graph — and the brains behind the project — on New York Business Journal.

Recap: The Inaugural Machine Eatable

Last week, with DataKind and Civic Hall, we launched Machine Eatable, a monthly lunch conversation featuring an unpanel with local experts on social good and data science. Our first event spotlighted Cathy O’NeilMeredith Broussard and Solon Barocas in a discussion on investigating algorithms and data bias, featuring a hands-on audience and plenty of great moments on Twitter that we can’t wait to share with you.

Want to join in on the conversation? Meet us at the next Machine Eatable at Civic Hall on November 13, and sign up for the #MachineEatable mailing list here.

Livesketches of Machine Eatable via Jonny Goldstein:

Interrogating Algorithms 1

Here is our recap of our inaugural event, in tweets:


Microsoft’s First-Ever Flagship Store Opens in NYC


Today, we’re excited to announce the opening of Microsoft’s first-ever flagship store, right in the heart of the city. Our new location at Fifth Avenue is the first to extend over two stories, and features the latest in Microsoft technology: with new Surface, Lumia and Microsoft Band devices, Signature Edition PCs, XBox One, Office, and more, there’s something to explore in every corner. Plus, the flagship store is the only location to showcase Microsoft Surface Hub.

We’re celebrating the opening with plenty of activities — this morning, some of our top Microsoft fans joined us in lining up for the grand opening, where they were greeted with hot coffee, raffle prizes, and the chance to meet Pitbull. That’s right: tonight, Pitbull is joining us for a concert at Rockefeller Center® to top off our big day!

Continue the celebration with us tonight! At 9pm, we’re hosting a party for the midnight release of Halo 5: Guardians. Experience demo gameplay, meet voice actors and developers, and (of course) pick up your copy at midnight to take home with you! RSVP now.

For more information on Microsoft’s Flagship Store, head to their website here.

Civic Graph Charts the New World of Civic Tech


Civic tech is a world of its own: with technology spanning public policy, education, voter’s rights, and beyond, it has become an all-encompassing force with many branches to keep track of. That’s where we came up with the idea for Civic Graph, an interactive, crowd-sourced directory of the best resources in civic tech. Not only does the Civic Graph show who is most influential or connected within the civic tech sector, it offers first-hand insight to develop a network that will expand civic tech beyond what we’ve seen so far.

Intrigued? Read the latest spotlight on Civic Graph on govtech.com.

Why You Should Apply to the New York Tech Jobs Academy

What can you do to change society?

In today’s age of text messages, social networking, online gaming, and Skype translator, there’s no doubt that tech is taking over. So how can you be a part of it?

Tech skills are becoming more and more important not just to daily life, but for employment. And with 44% of jobs in New York’s tech ecosystem not requiring a bachelor’s degree, joining the fray just requires an introduction to these newly-necessary skills.

That’s where we come in. The new Tech Jobs Academy, a result of our partnership with the Tech Talent Pipeline and CUNY’s New York City College of Technology, is a 16-week technical training pilot program for unemployed and underemployed New Yorkers — an inside look at those skills you need to help change the world through tech.

Want to get in on the action? Applications are now open through October 23! For an accessible tuition of $0 and a beautiful campus in downtown Brooklyn, Tech Jobs Academy offers plenty of perks that are beyond appealing. We will be hosting two info sessions for those interested — one on October 17 and another on October 20 – where you can ask us your pressing questions directly.

Still on the fence as to whether you should apply? Here are three reasons you should apply to the New York Tech Jobs Academy:

1. NYC invests in tech: With new tech opportunities sprouting across the city like LMHQ, the new Cornell Tech campus, and a call for after-school focus on STEM, tech is abound, important, and coveted. And you can be a part of it.

2. Tech can be a blast: What can’t you build with technology? From an MTA bus tracker app to visualizing taxi trip data to counting, mapping, and cataloguing every tree on every block in New York City, there are opportunities for tech everywhere — and opportunities to have fun with it!

3. You can do it!: We mean it. New technology — and the skills that come with it — can seem intimidating, but it’s accessible. And we want to help you get there. The Tech Jobs Academy will walk with you every step of the way to make sure you get it. We want to help you shine!

What are you waiting for? Apply now!

The Power of Civic Technology: Highlights from CfA Summit

What can civic technology do?

In Microsoft’s Technology and Civic Engagement team, we’re not just about providing hardware or software to make things easier. We’re about using this technology to connect with the community, to make a difference, and — to follow Code for America’s mission — to transform government through innovative technology and ideologies.

Last week’s CfA Summit showed us what we as a society are capable of if we put our best foot forward, work together, and utilize technology to better ourselves. Our team was present at the summit, and together we’ve gathered some of our favorite moments from the week.

Let’s keep the spirit of Code for America Summit alive. Join us and BetaNYC tonight at 641 Avenue of the Americas, 7th Floor, to discuss CfA Summit and all NYC has to bring to the table. RSVP now: bit.ly/1GbplPM

Microsoft Technology and Civic Engagement Team

Boston Team Highlights:

  • Jen Pahlka was inspiring in kicking off the Summit, as usual.  Great message: Starting with users isn’t just about how we should be making technology; it’s about how we should be making government.  Understand users’ needs, every day.  That’s the essence of CfA.
  • Mayor of Oakland Libby Schaaf: it’s all about the people.  Her vision of technology as the of a digital bridge, connecting citizens to gov’t services that serve their needs and drive equity.  She called it “techquity”, using tech to drive equity, using the power of government to talk to the tech community and drive support for equity.
  • Harlan Weber did a great job talking about Code for Boston’s efforts to work for greater inclusiveness, including community partners in National day of Civic Hacking, having them define projects to focus on and continuing the relationship after the national day was over.
  • One of my favorite sessions was Adam Hecktman’s discussion with Holly St. Clair and Lourdes German on data visualization—it was fantastic! I also loved working the Microsoft Lounge and meeting people from all over the world.
  • Terrific panel on 21st Century transportation.  Jascha Franklin Hodge from Boston was a rock star and had the quote of the morning: I hate it when people say that government should run more like business.  Government doesn’t get to choose its customers.  It serves everyone.  Everyone on the panel was very thoughtful.  Strong emphasis on need for private companies like Lyft and Uber to be part of the transportation ecosystem, and share data with gov’t, embrace a true partnership.  If your business model depends on a well-run city, then you need to embrace the partnership and share data to make it work.

Seattle Team Highlights:

  • Watching Ryan Calo, UW professor, and Michael Mattmiller, Seattle CTO present the result of their year-long project on privacy and municipal open data to a room of engaged government officials from across the country struggling with the same problem.

New York Team Highlights:

  • Codeando Mexico has worked with the country’s federal government to design Retos públicos, a new procurement process that invites small, nimble companies to build technology for the state. They’ve had 10 challenges to date, with 330 companies and 1700 participants building 50 prototypes for 9 federal ministries. Challenges have included natural disaster response, healthy eating, and displaying the works of cultural institutions.
  • The tribute to Jake Brewer, a White House advisor and longtime leader in civic tech, who passed away tragically at the age of 34, was especially moving. Carrying on Jake’s work by taking an oath to be an engaged citizen along with 1,200 other CfA Summit attendees was a fitting way to kick off our time together.

Chicago Team Highlights:

  • Loved #CUTGroup discussion by SmartChicago. Focus on working with REAL people, in their neighborhoods, to ensure civic tech resources are truly meaningful.
  • Great partnership with Chicago Public Library, and interesting approach of giving $5 physical gift card. It’s working! Over 1,000 testers in the past year. And a documented playbook with best practices.

Washington DC Team Highlights:

  • Maggie King, Program Director for Computational Analysis and Public Policy (CAPP), University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy said, “We know the opportunity in civic tech is huge. But policy education hasn’t evolved to meet our needs.” She noted that we need to put public policy and computer science on equal footing so that neither is an afterthought to the other.
  • Via Catherine Bracy: “Something Jascha [Franklin Hodge, Boston Chief Innovation Officer] said earlier today resonated with me: Government doesn’t have the luxury that the private sector has of being able to choose their market. They have to serve everyone. Because of that, government is naturally more risk-averse. It requires them to be more responsible about their allocation of resources.”

Leading female entrepreneurs join Microsoft for dinner and conversation in conjunction with the Inc. Women’s Summit

Julia Pimsleur, CEO, Little Pim, at Microsoft hosted dinner in conjunction with Inc. Women’s  Summit.

Julia Pimsleur, CEO, Little Pim, at Microsoft hosted dinner in conjunction with Inc. Women’s Summit.

One of Microsoft’s key priorities is supporting women’s entrepreneurship in high-tech and tech-savvy businesses. We recently brought together a select group of leading female entrepreneurs for a dinner at Buddakan in conjunction with the Inc. Women’s Summit held in New York on Oct. 1. Our goal was to spark creative connections and build new relationships among innovative women, as well as to help them get better acquainted with Microsoft’s work with startups and entrepreneurs.

“When you bring great women together, the energy level, the referrals, the idea-sharing — it has a multiplier effect,” says Tereza Nemessanyi, startup evangelist and entrepreneur in residence at Microsoft. “Women are natural networkers. And when you have all of these people who are so authentically networking in service to one another, everybody’s takeaway grows by 10 times.”

Caption: Carol Roth, CNBC, at Microsoft hosted dinner in conjunction with Inc. Women’s Summit.

Carol Roth, CNBC, at Microsoft hosted dinner in conjunction with Inc. Women’s Summit.

At the dinner, entrepreneurs including Catalina Girald of Naja and Julia Pimsleur of Little Pim came together to share candid stories of their experiences and generate ideas for overcoming the challenges that women face in starting and growing their businesses. A wide-ranging conversation touched on issues such as how optimistic to be when presenting financial projections to venture capitalists, how to manage rapid growth, and how to not just navigate but drive disruption in traditional industry categories.

Microsoft supports entrepreneurs by connecting them to technology resources such as Microsoft Azure solutions, as well as fostering networking opportunities and mentorship to help businesses grow. We’re not just interested in high-tech businesses; new technology developments such as cloud computing and ever-expanding mobility are creating opportunities for real-estate agents, clothing retailers, artisans and coaches to re-architect their business operations.

Panelists at Inc. Women’s Summit.

Caption: Panelists at Inc. Women’s Summit.

“People use technology these days no matter what their business is,” says Nancie Williams, general manager of Small and Medium Business & Distribution for Microsoft’s East Region. “We want girls and women to be comfortable to fulfill their dreams, whether that be working in high tech, other industries or any entrepreneurial venture they want to pursue — they all require technology.”

Speaker at Inc. Women’s Summit.

Speaker at Inc. Women’s Summit.

The Inc. Women’s Summit was a day-long gathering of some of the world’s most influential female entrepreneurs for presentations, networking sessions, peer-to-peer education and informal connections. The event was designed to connect innovators who are changing the world of business through new retailing and infrastructure models, and to help them grow and thrive.

Audience members at Inc. Women’s Summit.

Audience members at Inc. Women’s Summit.

Women make up a rapidly growing minority within the entrepreneurial world. Williams notes that census figures show 27 percent growth in the number of women-owned businesses between 2007 and 2012, and that the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 7(a) program for small loans made 23 percent of its 2014 loans to women. She’s optimistic that women will continue to network, support one another and create disruptive innovations in a wide range of business categories.

“It always gets better and better,” Williams says. “I think the question is can we accelerate the rate of women becoming entrepreneurs? You’re seeing an increase in the number of venture capital firms that are specifically focused on women’s business, on women entrepreneurs, which is helping. I think as the support system grows and you’ve got women who’ve been in it longer, who are mentoring the younger, it helps reduce the cycle to reach equality.”

Announcing the Tech Jobs Academy

In the Digital Age, a career in tech can bring not only financial security and independence, but a sense of power and purpose as well. For far too long, such coveted jobs have been locked behind a computer science degree, accessible only to those able to spend a number of years and often hundreds of thousands of dollars on higher education. But times are changing. According to the New York City Tech Ecosystem Study, up to 44% of New York City’s tech ecosystem jobs now do not require a Bachelor’s degree. Life-altering tech careers are opening up to many New Yorkers who’ve never before had access and Microsoft is proud to be a part of this positive change.

Today, we are excited to announce that Microsoft, the Tech Talent Pipeline, and CUNY’s New York City College of Technology are partnering to launch the Tech Jobs Academy, a 16-week technical training pilot program for unemployed and underemployed New Yorkers. The curriculum and approach is inspired by the Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA), which provides valuable tech skills to exiting members of the U.S. military in the months before their return to civilian life. The Tech Jobs Academy is applying Microsoft’s approach for the benefit of those talented New Yorkers who have everything but opportunity. MSSA has successfully supplied hundreds of service members with technical and professional skills that have enabled them to take on well-paying jobs in information technology. We hope to do something similar here in New York.

“The NYC Tech Talent Pipeline is thrilled to partner with Microsoft and New York City College of Technology to deliver industry-informed training that leads to quality jobs for New Yorkers and quality talent for New York’s businesses. With Microsoft’s experience in the field and with CUNY’s demonstrated experience serving New Yorkers, the NYC Tech Jobs Academy presents a new training model with the potential to scale across institutions. We look forward to the opportunities born of this work.”

— Kristen Titus, Founding Director, NYC Tech Talent Pipeline

Starting January 4th, 2016, 25 participants will embark on a transformative experience developing their technical and interpersonal skills at the New York City College of Technology campus in downtown Brooklyn in preparation for a life-long career in technology. Applications are now open at TechJobsAcademy.com.

Through intensive, full-time study over several months, participants will gain expertise in cloud and server administration, including areas of focus such as network fundamentals, server infrastructure, and cloud integration. With participant costs funded by New York City’s Workforce One program and delivery conducted by the New York City College of Technology, the Tech Jobs Academy’s accelerated curriculum was designed by Microsoft in response to the needs of its partner companies – small and medium-sized businesses – in the Greater New York City area. These growing companies specifically identified cloud and server administration skills as the skill set they need the most, which is why participants will dive deep into this intensive, full-time program focusing on exactly that. And participants who successfully complete the program will be connected directly to job opportunities at those same area employers.

Earlier this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio formally announced the NYC Tech Talent Pipeline, a first-of-its-kind $10 million public-private partnership designed to support the growth of the city’s tech ecosystem and prepare New Yorkers for 21st century jobs. The following month, President Barack Obama announced the TechHire initiative to empower Americans with the tech skills they need and the opportunities they deserve.

Microsoft believes strongly in and enables a portfolio of programs that contribute to these goals, from helping enable computer science education in high schools to IT Academy curricula providing fundamental and advanced technology skills for the digital world.

“This partnership between the NYC Tech Talent Pipeline, Microsoft, and City Tech, represents an important example of how private industry and the public sector can work together to achieve the common objective of preparing the skilled workforce that will drive local economic growth.” 

— Russell K. Hotzler, President, New York City College of Technology

The Tech Jobs Academy reflects these ideals and aims not only to train participants, but to establish a new model for demand-driven accelerated learning that is broadly accessible. Because New York’s greatest resource is its people. We know New Yorkers have what it takes to excel in this competitive and challenging program and we’re excited to help them transform their lives through careers in tech.

U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith has a favorite piece of advice: “Just go for it.” If the Tech Jobs Academy sounds like something for you, we hope you just go for it and apply.

Recap: 2015 Code for America Summit

Code is taking over. Last week, our civic tech team headed to the 2015 Code for America Summit (CfA Summit), where tech leaders from all over the country (and the world) showed how innovation is transforming our governments — and our communities.

After three days of inspiring talks, breakout sessions, and plenty of time networking with motivated, likeminded individuals, we are sad to have left Oakland but ready to dive headfirst back into civic tech.

To reflect, here are some of our favorite moments from CfA Summit — via Twitter:

Civic Tech Events This October

NY October

We’re not sure how summer snuck away from us so quickly, but we’re ready for layers, leaves, and lots of events to keep us going through October. Fall into civic tech with us with our top events for the month:

October 1 – 2 — Code for America Summit: Our team is heading to Oakland to be inspired by some of the nation’s top leaders in civic tech, transforming government one hack at a time.

October 1 – 4 — Lesbians Who Tech (and allies) New York Summit: Lesbians Who Tech is hosting the second annual Summit in New York from October 1st -4th in New York. The Summit is an effort to bring together over 1,000 queer women in tech (and allies), a group that is rarely represented in either of the communities of which they are a part – the tech community or the LGBT community – for the most unique technology conference ever.

October 1 — Meet Link.: Cities all over the world are beginning to explore how technology can improve life for residents, workers and visitors. New York City is leading the way with LinkNYC, the largest and fastest free public Wi-Fi and smart cities network in the world, which will help bridge the digital divide and serve as a platform for civic and commercial innovation.

October 1 — Paper Prototyping Workout: You have the concept for your game but need it to be wildly addictive. You need to develop a way to quickly test versions to figure out what’s working best. You need an advanced method for rapid paper prototyping–and you need it now.Join us as Josh DeBonis, game designer for BumbleBear Games, walks us through best practices in mastering gaming mechanics through rapid paper prototyping. This will be a unique style for us as Joshua will give a full breakout of his method, facilitate a hands-on group exercise, and then leave ample time for questions.

October 4 — Data for Good Global Picnic: Grab your picnic blanket, your favorite international snack and any friends interested in enjoying a sunset in Brooklyn Bridge Park with fellow data enthusiasts from around the world.

October 6 — Selling to Government: Join the NYC Department of Small Business Services to learn how the government can become your customer.

October 6 — How to Build a Puzzle Game: Whether or not you’re a beginner, building a puzzle game can be a lot trickier than you think. Luckily, Kurt Bieg has done all the hard work for you. Just bring your laptop and your imagination and he’ll provide you with everything you need to create a fully functioning match three game.

October 6 — October 2015 NY Tech Meetup and Afterparty: Join fellow technologists for an evening of live demos from companies developing great technology in New York.

October 8 — Demo & Play Night: Rise of the Tomb Raider & Just Cause 3!: Playcrafting NYC is excited to team up with Square Enix and Microsoft for a very special edition of their monthly Demo & Play Night! Join us for live demos and playtime with 2 of the hottest titles coming to Xbox One this year. Developers from Crystal Dynamics will be on hand to showcase the all-new Rise of the Tomb Raider. And Avalanche Studios will be showing the next installment in the hit series Just Cause 3.

October 9 — Not Just Cats: Llamas, Goats, and Other Animal Memes From Around the World: Cats are regular fixtures on many national internets around the globe, but some cultures tend to focus on different animals, while others rarely engage with animals online at all. An Xiao Mina (The Civic Beat), Matt Stempeck (Microsoft), Ben Valentine (The Civic Beat), and Luis Daniel (Bloomberg) discuss the many animals featured online around the world and how they reflect the diversity of cultures online.

October 12 — Mapping for Civic Importance: For this GeoNYC we honor the bridge between NYC and San Francisco. Two cities that are doing awesome and innovative work on the geospatial spectrum. Each of our guests have done location work in NYC but the original idea, perspective and impact began in San Francisco. From the history of our cities in old photographs, to an atlas of navigating the city, to a designer perspective that captures both, we humbly acknowledge that geo in NYC is not created on its own but in a continual dialogue with other centers of the universe.

October 13 — Basics of Business for Indie Developers: Find out what it takes to start a games studio from incorporation and capital-raising to selling your game.

October 14 — 3rd Annual C4Q Tech Bash: You’re invited to what’s sure to be an unforgettable night celebrating with our growing tech community—including entrepreneurs, technologists, civic and business leaders, and community residents—at the 3rd Annual #C4QTechBash fundraiser at the MoMA PS1 Contemporary Art Museum!

October 15 — Marketing for Game Developers – Standing out on App Stores: Learn how to effectively market your game to worldwide player bases, detailing how to create branding, positioning, App Store assets, longterm PR plans, marketing content in-game, community management, and perhaps most importantly, marketing in the first user experience.

October 16 — Silicon Harlem Conference – Connected for Good!: The Silicon Harlem Annual Technology Conference gathers top innovation leaders, leading edge companies, and emerging technologies that impact communities.

October 16 – 18 — The Scientista Symposium: The Scientista Symposium is a three-day conference that aims to empower pre-professional women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by introducing you to inspirational role models and by providing you with opportunities to hone valuable skills.

October 19 — Women in Tech – Growing Your Career: Join the New York Technology Council and ChickTech for a fun, candid discussion about talent recruitment and career development for female engineers and developers.

October 20 — Game Writing Portfolio Workout: A hands-on writing class for people who want to start building their game writing portfolio.

October 22 — Playcrafting NYC Fall Expo!: Over sixty game developers will be showing off their latest games one-on-one to a crowd of 500 people. For developers, this is a great opportunity to show off their games (finished or unfinished) and get direct feedback from players. For everyone else, it’s a unique opportunity to try out the biggest collection of games made in and around NYC all in one place. Each game gets its own booth as players meet the developers and try out their games. Throw pizza into the mix and you get Playcrafting’s biggest event!

October 27 — The Subway Map: The Last 50 Years, The Next 50 Years: An event about the New York City Subway Map: A presentation on the evolution of the New York City subway map over the past 50 years, and a discussion and debate on how it should evolve over the coming 50 years.

October 27 — Legal Issues for Game Developers 101: Running your own game studio is hard enough without worrying about the host of legal needs every game developer encounters as they build their company. Come join Chris, a New York Gaming Attorney as he walks you through what every Developer should know about legal issues, but is afraid to ask.

October 29 — Level Up Your Game’s Audio: Learn how to level up your game audio with real-world strategies for finding and working with audio designers, even on a tight budget.