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Recap: 2017 State of the City Addresses

This week, we were fortunate to join New York City in celebrating the current state of the city, while looking forward to future progress in NYC. With two separate addresses — the first by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and the second by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito — we recounted the successes our city has made and the steps we need to take to move forward.

We’d like to thank the city especially for spotlighting April, a graduate of our Tech Jobs Academy, as an example of how New Yorkers are seizing opportunities to build better futures.

A recap, via Twitter Moments:

National Entrepreneurship Week helps small businesses reach their big dreams

Every small business starts with a big dream. To help any company’s accomplishments mirror its ambition, Microsoft is sponsoring National Entrepreneurship Week. Five days of online and in-person events running Feb. 20‒24 are designed for entrepreneurs and business owners, including a Women in Entrepreneurship event in New York City.

Empowering business creators to thrive matters because small businesses play a crucial role in America’s economic success. They account for 55 percent of U.S. jobs, according to the Small Business Administration. And America’s 28 million small-business owners and entrepreneurs are at the forefront of innovation, fueling growth and creating jobs.

National Entrepreneurship Week will feature free workshops, content, webcasts, events and more, offered by event supporters including Dun & Bradstreet, LinkedIn, Wix and Yelp.

The Women in Entrepreneurship Panel will highlight the triumphs and tribulations faced by women from all walks of life who run small businesses. Ramon Ray of Smart Hustle Magazine will moderate as women entrepreneurs detail tips on how to get a business off the ground and growing. It takes place Thursday, Feb. 23, 6‒8 p.m. ET, at the Microsoft Store (677 5th Ave., New York, NY 10022). The event is free but seating is limited, so RSVP now.

Also live in New York (and live on Facebook), Microsoft’s Cindy Bates — who leads the Small and Midsized Business and Distribution group — will discuss how modern technology can transform your small business. She will advise on best practices for launching a brand and outline the latest affordable tech tools for connecting with customers. RSVP now for Bates’ presentation on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 6‒8 p.m. ET at the Wix Lounge (235 West 23rd St.).

Here are additional in-person and online events and content to experience throughout the week. Visit the Microsoft Small and Midsize Business Blog for details:

To boot, many National Entrepreneurship Week supporters are offering specials and discounts to boost your business productivity. For example, Microsoft is offering 10 percent off select Surface and Windows 10 Pro devices. To find out more, visit your local Microsoft Store from Feb. 20‒26.

Check Entrepreneurship Week for regular updates, resources, new content and special offers throughout the week. And join in the conversation on Twitter by following #WININBIZ.

We look forward to engaging further and learning more about how these activities help small-business owners accelerate their success.

Working Forward: Ross Dakin, Senior Advisor, Microsoft New York

From waiter to White House — it’s all about people

My first “real job” was at a local Italian restaurant in San Diego, where I bussed tables for three years during high school.

On my first night of work—having no experience—I loaded a tray full of eight water glasses, walked over to a table, and spilled them all onto a customer’s lap. I was devastated; I knew I would be fired.

Later that night, Javier (the restaurant owner) approached me in the back of the restaurant.

“What do you do when you fall off a bicycle?” he asked.

I paused, wide-eyed, then replied, “Get back on?”

With a nod, Javier walked away, and that was the end of it. To this day, he remains a mentor and one of my closest friends.

That job taught me so much about effective leadership, team dynamics, engagement with the public, and—above all—how to treat women and men working long hours in the service industry with respect and an appreciation for the distinction between “server” and “servant.”

Everyone should work in food service at least once—I’ve found no better lesson in empathy.

Technology is easy; culture is hard

Fast forward a couple decades—last year, it was my honor to serve as a White House Presidential Innovation Fellow in Washington, D.C., where again I found service and empathy to be at the heart of my job. This program (affectionately abbreviated “PIF”) was created to provide an avenue for bringing modern methodologies and best practices from the private sector into the federal government.

While there is a technology flavor to the PIF program, its greatest strength lies in the beginnings of culture change that it has brought to the federal workforce (agile development, human-centered design, an embrace of failure and an appetite for experimentation, etc.), and the key to changing that culture has been the employment of deep empathy for career federal employees. Understanding their procurement, budgetary, and security requirements helped us best facilitate the shedding of the business-as-usual mindset (“but we’ve always done it that way”) in favor of an open-minded curiosity for novel and alternative approaches.

One manifestation of this was the warming of government to modern cloud technologies despite unfamiliarity and natural skepticism. By empathizing with their encumbering bureaucratic constraints, we (and our friends in 18F, USDS, and other groups) were able to help many agencies navigate their way toward adopting cloud services for their technical needs. It’s been very encouraging to watch more and more agencies trust their missions (from food stamps to national security) to Azure and other cloud service providers.

None of that would have happened without first building trust and understanding between our group and the civil servants with whom we worked—it all starts with people.

The real heroes

As a side note, I cannot overstate how amazing career government employees are. The vast majority of everyone I met during my time in D.C. had the highest levels of work ethic, integrity, and true passion for public service. While participants in programs like PIF, 18F, and USDS perform short-term “tours of duty” to help modernize government (sometimes in highly visible ways), the career government employees of all levels who dedicate their lives to public service are very truly deserving of the highest praise and recognition.

The challenges I mention arise from the fact that our government is an enormous organization that necessarily has many regulations unique to the charter of providing for every single person in our country, often requiring stability that results in a natural isolation from the ways of the ever-evolving private sector. In this and other respects, it was very illuminating to appreciate the critical differences between running a business and running a nation.

Speaking of business

Many PIFs remain in government after their fellowships end, either as White House advisors, at other technology-focused groups like 18F or the US Digital Service, or within executive agencies in such roles as Chief Technology Officer, Chief Data Scientist, etc.

I opted to return to the private sector because I realized that it’s just as important for people with government experience to be in private companies as it is for people with private sector experience to cycle through government. When both sides of the table share experience with each other, we can begin to collaborate from a place of common understanding and accomplish much more than we could accomplish without the benefit of having gained insight beyond our respective silos.

This continues to be true for me personally, as my time as a PIF informs my current role at Microsoft a great deal: they share many attributes (both are small groups within large organizations, both are undergoing periods of reinvention) and their associated challenges and opportunities. While not public service, the Microsoft TCE team strives to generate public good in many of the same ways that I did as a PIF (identifying strategic partnerships, leveraging our unique scale, employing best-of-breed technologies, etc.), and I am grateful for both the opportunity to have served in my governmental capacity and to continue applying the learnings I gained there in the private sector.

Stronger together

Both my time as a PIF and with Microsoft TCE have opened my eyes to many astoundingly unfortunate conditions that exist in our country. The fact that 19% of American kids grow up in poverty is unacceptable. It’s 2017—we can do better.

This is why private sector programs like Microsoft’s Tech Jobs Academy, public sector initiatives like #CSForAll and TechHire, and public/private collaborations like The Opportunity Project excite me so much: the keys to economic advancement should not be the zip code you grew up in or being of a privileged demographic, but a strong work ethic and the daring to chase big dreams.

Both public and private sectors share a role to play in advancing economic opportunity, and the most progress can perhaps be made when they function together in collaboration.

Success and humanity

With the shared responsibility of generating public good comes a shared challenge: what is “success” when the goal is not simply to make money?

If we impact the lives of 10 people, have we been successful? Must we impact a thousand people to be successful? A million? What depth of impact is required to achieve success? How should we quantify the level of impact?

These are questions without right or wrong answers. They’re questions that are highly subjective in nature. When much of a technologist’s career involves black-and-white programming, these questions present an interesting gray area that must be navigated with an element of gut feeling, ethics, and intuition that a computer cannot provide.

This is the human side of technology—it’s truly all about people.

NYC Hacks Shipping at the Ports & Logistics Hackathon

This month, our team at Microsoft NY collaborated with developers, business people, designers, domain experts, and lawyers as sponsors and mentors to bring modern technology to the international shipping industry at the NYC Ports & Logistics Hackathon. The 48-hour hackathon was a collective effort between Rainmaking Innovation, Ports America, the Port Authority of NY/NJ, Mærsk Group, Microsoft, Quintiq, INTTRA, Cisco and the Red Sea Gateway Terminal. The history of international shipping has seen very little technological disruption, despite accounting for 90% of global trade. A marketplace that employs 13.5 Million people and generates $436.6 Billion in the US alone is a prime opportunity to innovate, and to this we say: Bring in the hackers.

February’s Civic Tech Events

Thanks to everyone who shared event links and invitations with us. We’re looking forward to seeing you around the city all this month. Check out some of our favorite events taking place in NYC in February:

All month

Carol Jenkins toured the new African American Museum in Washington, DC, as part of her program “Black America” on CUNY TV. You can view the hour-long show, “More Than A Building, A Dream Come True” online at cuny.tv/show/blackamerica/PR2005859.

Wednesday, February 1, 4:00pm

Databite with Jonathan Mayer

Regulatory agencies—especially the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission—have risen to prominence on technology security and privacy issues. Drawing on recent federal experience, this talk will explain why FTC, FCC, and similar agencies have assumed policy leadership roles, what legal authorities are at their disposal, and how agencies have exercised their authorities. The presentation will include case studies of both successes and failures, and it will offer suggestions on best practices and recurring challenges. The talk will also address how researchers and civil society groups can effectively engage with regulatory agencies.

Wednesday, February 1, 6:30 PM

The Business of Comedy

Join LMHQ for a fireside chat about the business of comedy, where we’ll give attendees a peek behind the curtain about what goes into making comedy work. More funny folks are experimenting with comedic mediums, more clubs are opening for standup, and comedy is being woven more effortlessly into the fabric of pop culture on a daily basis. What does it take, beyond the performance, to make comedy as a business successful?

Moderated by Taylor Moore, comedian and comedy curator at Kickstarter, in conversation with Justine Giannino, Manager of Original Programming (Current Series & Development) at IFC TV; JD Amato, Director and Executive Producer of The Chris Gethard Show; Jasmine Pierce, Writer at Reductress and Heidi Vanderlee, Publicist at Shark Party Media.

Tuesday, February 7, 7:00pm

February 2017 NY Tech Meetup and Afterparty

Join fellow technologists for an evening of live demos from companies developing great technology in New York, followed by a networking afterparty.

Wednesday, February 8, 2:00pm

Accessibility, Mobility, and Design

A conversation about the meaning of mobility and the role of design as a process that can cultivate a culture of accessibility that goes beyond accommodations. Sara Hendren (Olin College of Engineering) and April Coughlin (SUNY, New Paltz) will discuss physical, structural, social, and attitudinal barriers within and outside of the classroom, that shape access to education for students with disabilities. The discussion will be moderated by Jessica Murray (Futures Initiative Fellow, GC Doctoral Student in Human Development). You can also watch the live stream at bit.ly/FuturesED-live and follow along at #fight4edu.

Wednesday, February 8, 6:00pm

Proposition: We Can Solve The Fake News Problem

Conversations is a series of events focused on open discussions on the changing new media landscape. Our events will feature panels with insights from the most respected news organizations, the newest disruptive publishers, and tech and media thought leaders. Through conversations, let’s work to transform media together.
The role of fake news — from PizzaGate to the 2016 election — is of grave importance, and a debate is roiling in tech and media circles about its impact and what can be done to curb it going forward.

By the time we reach the next presidential election cycle, the volume of fake and machine-generated news, information, commentary and debate may explode. From algorithmically composed text to photorealistic video simulations of people and events, from conversational bots to machine-generated audio that is indiscernible from the voices of politicians, there is a high probability that discourse among citizens will take place in a universe of fictions.

This event — structured as a debate — will chart and discuss key areas of technological advance that will impact the information landscape and consider how technology companies, media, governments and academia will respond to the benefit or detriment of democracy. It will imagine potential futures, and identify developments that are key to understanding which of those futures is most likely to play out. Crucially, it will ask the audience to decide: can we solve this problem? Or is fake news an unavoidable side effect of the internet?

Wednesday, February 8, 6:00pm

Research & Understand (Discover)

For BigApps participants — In this session, we will apply a human-centered and empathic approach to design research and ethnography in order to deeply understand unmet user needs. Some of these activities will include user and subject matter expert interviews, as well as observations and secondary research. Participants will come away with an understanding of the core principles of design research.

Thursday, February 9, 3:00pm

Civic Hacker Hours

Join Civic Hall members & the Hacker Hours community for an informal coworking session to give & receive support from developers, engineers, data scientists, and other technical professionals. Open to all skill levels.

Thursday, February 9, 6:00pm

The Cooperative Platform Economy: A Conversation with Trebor Scholz and Yochai Benkler

Hear Trebor Scholz in conversation with Yochai Benkler to celebrate the publication of Trebor’s new books, Uberworked and Underpaid: How Workers are Disrupting the Digital Economy (Polity) and, co-edited with Nathan Schneider, Ours to Hack and to Own. The Rise of Platform Cooperativism, a New Vision for the Future of Work and a Fairer Internet (OR Books).

Thursday, February 9, 6:00pm

How can government agencies rethink public space to sustain lasting value?

For the second installment of the Parks Without Borders Discussion Series, NYC Parks welcomes leadership from New York City’s Public Design Commission. This discussion will delve into how government agencies can rethink guidelines, concepts, and expectations to sustain lasting value, helping to support a more seamless public realm.

Speakers:
Justin Moore, AICP Executive Director of NYC Public Design Commission
Signe Nielsen, FASLA, President for NYC Public Design Commission

Moderated by:
Nancy Prince, Deputy Chief of Design for NYC Parks

Saturday, February 11, 9:00am

Girl Develop It: Hackentine’s Day

Girl Develop It NYC is hosting its first-ever hackathon! It will be a one day event for all skill levels to work in groups on projects with the added bonus of skill-building workshops attendees can sign up for. This is a great opportunity to try out a hackathon with beginners like you, learn new skills and work on exciting projects with support from mentors and other GDI members.

Saturday, February 11, 2:00pm

Celebrating The Diaspora: Highlighting the Richness and Diversity of Black History (past, present, & future)

2017 NMACDST CHANGE MAKER AWARDS will be presented to:

Edna Simbi, Upendo Women’s Foundation
Wayne Devonish, 500 Men Making A Difference

The 2017 Youth On The Move Award will be presented to:
Jtara Clark, NAACP New York Branch’s Youth Committee

Performances by:
Broadway’s – Joaquina Kalukango, MOVE(NYC), Mfoniso Udofia, J. F. Seary & More

Please join us for – Food . Fellowship . Vendor & Exhibit from The National Black Theatre

This event is Free & Open to The Public

Monday, February 13, 6:30pm

No One Ever Said Mapping Time Was Easy.

If you’ve ever tried to map a historical database, you understand how hard it is to do all the things at once. Showing data over time presents unique issues: overlapping features, navigation through time and parallel boundaries/standards/data are just the beginning.

Well, we are going to help you get started by presenting a few projects which went all the way there. Whether through obsession or assigmnet, they’ve scraped old books and photographed old maps. They’ve digitized and georeferenced. And they’ve finally made something new from the activities of the past.

So join us for a little time-travel with maps. We look forward to seeing you in the past and future.

Wednesday, February 15, 6:30pm

Startup Cities

Entrepreneurs, economists, and urbanist thinkers join forces to discuss the actions, effects, and impacts of startup methodology for cities.

Join the conversation!

Wednesday, February 15, 6:30pm

Digital Pioneers and the Urban Environment

Across the United States, designers are using cognitive computing and data analysis to help American cities meet the needs of their diverse populations. Tiffany Chu, Code for America fellow and cofounder of the public transport data initiative Remix; Adam Cutler, distinguished designer at IBM Design; and Sarah Williams, director of MIT’s Civic Data Design Lab and cocreator of the City Digits: Local Lotto project, will discuss the promise and challenges of this important partnership with moderator Cynthia E. Smith, Curator of Socially Responsible Design. Remix and City Digits: Local Lotto are currently on view in the special exhibition By the People: Designing a Better America.

*This event has a $15 admission price. Admission is reduced to $8 for educators, seniors, and students.*

Wednesday, February 15, 7pm

Analytic Activism: Digital Listening and the New Political Strategy

Some of the most remarkable impacts of digital media on political activism lie not in the new types of speech it supports, but in the new forms of listening that it fosters among organized pressure groups. Organized advocacy groups are increasingly turning to digital analytics in order to gauge supporter interest, monitor public sentiment, experiment with new tactics, and craft strategies that resonate in the new media environment. In his new book, Analytic Activism, Dave Karpf discusses the heretofore overlooked role of analytics in organized political engagement. He explores how this new mode of activism works, how it is produced, what it is useful for, and what its limitations are. In this public talk, he’ll discuss how the themes of Analytic Activism relate to the new challenges we face in the He Who Must Not Be Named Era.

Thursday, February 16, 6:00pm

Shades of Intimacy: Women in the Time of Revolution

In her trenchant analysis of U.S. history, literary critic and Black feminist scholar Hortense Spillers considers the aftermath of the notion of partus sequitur ventrem—the “American ‘innovation’ that proclaimed that the child born of an enslaved mother would also be enslaved.” In this lecture, Spillers engages the idea of the “shadow” family to explain one of the tectonic shifts in the concept and practice of social relations in the New World from the 18th century—a period of profound contradiction and change when dangerously hegemonic definitions of race, gender, and family took hold—onward. Registration for the evening lecture is preferred but not required.

Friday, February 17, 12:00pm

Machine Eatable: The Journey from Analytics to Editorial

Journalism’s adjustment to the digital age has required a crash course in data and analytics. The editor’s hunch now sits next to realtime metrics on content performance across a dizzying array of channels.

How do leading publications like The New York Times adjust to a wide range of new competitors? How has data been introduced to newsroom staff and leadership? How has it affected newsroom decision making? What can be done to ensure that we protect the craft of investigative journalism while ensuring it finds and resonates with a meaningful audience?

Please join us for a rich, attendee-driven discussion on what data-driven journalism should look like and how it should serve a society in need. Also, sandwiches. Always sandwiches.

Tuesday, February 21, 6:00pm

For BigApps Participants — In this session, we will identify patterns across qualitative and quantitative data sets. We’ll explore open source data & reports, interpret qualitative data from our interviews and learn data visualization techniques. From there, we’ll generate insights to highlight the opportunities for initial product concept direction.

Thursday, February 23, 6:00pm

How Does Technology Enrich Urban Policy?

Sidewalk Labs is an Alphabet company that imagines, designs, tests, and builds new technologies that address big urban problems across a range of areas, from mobility to housing to government services.

Upcoming:

Saturday, March 4th, all day

Save the date: NYC School of Data

NYC School of Data 2017 – Save the Date

Saturday, Mar 4, 2017, 9:00 AM

No location yet.

106 Brigade Members Attending

The New York City School of Data is a collaborative network improving the City’s data ecosystem. This network seeks to enrich our lives and communities through technology, data, & design. This year, we will invited civic hackers and community based organizations to learn from each other and share how we can improve our communities and our data.Thi…

Check out this Meetup →

RECAP: Lightning Talks with Tech Jobs Academy

With the start of a new year, people around the world generally make resolutions to themselves [to do better things and be better people].  These resolutions can run the gamut, but the one thing they seem to all have in common is the want and desire to improve—whether it be to improve on one’s self, one’s circumstances, one’s environment etc.  

The beginning of 2017 is very significant for the Tech Jobs Academy program as we celebrate one year of the program and are still freshly excited about our second cohort, who graduated three months ago. Keeping with the spirit of new beginnings and new resolutions, last week we celebrated the new year by hosting a “Tech Jobs Academy Lightning Talk” which featured three awesome graduates from our first cohort.  

The goal of this event was very simple—provide an opportunity for the program’s two cohorts to get together and hear from some of their peers who are utilizing the skills they’ve learned in Tech Jobs Academy in their every day work. It was a chance to share, to learn, to grow, to be vulnerable and to be present. We were fortunate to have three keynote speakers who all took a different approach on sharing their experiences in Tech Jobs Academy, their paths leading up to Tech Jobs Academy and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.

Abel Chajet, Information Technology Support Specialist at The Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSG Justice Center) provided an overview of his path to Tech Jobs Academy which started off with a deep love and appreciation for technology. Despite his tech interest, he always felt barriers to building on and deepening his skill set. Abel remarked that the things he felt were missing from his different academic experiences prior to Tech Jobs Academy were great resources and peers.

He explained to the room that beyond the wonderful technical skills he acquired in Tech Jobs Academy, he learned even more about the importance of “networking with more than just Ethernet cables and switches!” In fact, his networking led him to connecting with Bradley Michelson, Director of Business Development at Idealist and friend to our team, who then was able to connect him to CSG Justice Center. For Abel, it was important to work for an organization like the CSG Justice Center because he felt “it would be fitting to serve the public good because so many public resources have been spent” building him up.

 

Makini Osson, IT Helpdesk Engineer at WCA Technologies Inc., provided encouragement to her peers to constantly talk about the work you’re doing to your network and to constantly do things that will showcase yourself and your abilities.

Through her presence both online and offline, Makini was able to land in a career path where she is able to expand on her skills using what she learned throughout the program. In fact, the president of her company told her she was primarily hired because of her training in Azure, since many of their clients, who are small businesses, were beginning to migrate to the cloud. Makini concluded her remarks by quoting Albert Einstein, “life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

David Linton, Service Desk Engineer at Dataprise, concluded the series by detailing his extremely diverse path to Tech Jobs Academy and by emphasizing the point Makini made of communicating with your network the work you’re doing.  

David opened by saying his first introduction to the New York City College of Technology (CUNY City Tech) came a number of years ago when he was enrolled as a Computer Science major studying computer engineering.  His time there, however, was cut short when he was told by a professor that computer engineering was a dying field if you weren’t on the teaching side.

From there, David entered the workforce doing various jobs including producing fashion shows, working for the radio station “Hot 97” to working as an Operations Director for a bus company. It was during this particular role that David was re-introduced to technology and his passion for it because his manager also wanted him to work as the main IT professional on staff. It was also around this time that David, drawing from his various work experiences, created his own one-man video, photography and web design consulting business called No Introductions.  

When David was laid off around the recession, he continued growing and building No Introductions. A few short years later David accepted a position as a Video Manager at a company that also wanted him to work as an IT Coordinator. It was here where his love for technology resurfaced and coincidentally it was during this role that he found out about Tech Jobs Academy.  David felt this opportunity could be his big break into strengthening his technical chops and adding to his portfolio.  

Fast forward to Tech Jobs Academy. David made it a point to utilize social media platforms to share the work he was doing in the program, and this simple yet powerful act allowed him to gain contracts for small businesses, where he could set up and manage their wi-fi connections and build servers for their network. David concluded by reiterating that no matter how long it takes, if you’re passionate, dedicated and committed things always have a way of working out.  

As someone who joined the Microsoft Tech Jobs Academy team well into the first cohort, one thing working on this program has shown me is that New York City is fortunate to have talented and passionate people with great drive and ability who are just looking for an opportunity.  Beyond that, it’s shown me that when you bring these types individuals together from it grows a supportive and nurturing community dedicated to paying it forward for generations to come.

Heat Seek Keeps the Heat On This Winter With Data, Tech & Transparency

During New York City’s annual Big Apps competition in 2014, I learned about a new civic tech solution called Heat Seek, and I’ve been a supporter ever since. I’m currently a proud member of the Board of Directors of this tech-powered non-profit that is making a real impact by using an internet of things approach to empower tenants, landlords, community organizations, and the justice system with accurate data that can make a dent in our city’s heating crisis. For many New Yorkers, heat equals health, education, and opportunity. Heat Seek uses technology to defend people’s rights to those things. Thanks to Co-Founder and CEO Noelle Francois for sitting down with us to tell the Heat Seek story.
John Paul Farmer

downloadIt’s cold in your apartment, but the heat and hot water are regulated by your landlord. The wall thermostat reads 57 degrees Fahrenheit for three days — well below the city’s mandate. When the landlord dodges your calls, you file a complaint with the city’s 311 service. Immediately before inspection, the landlord raises the heat, only to lower it back once the city’s inspector leaves. Your options are limited: continue to freeze, find a new apartment, or take action. In court, the proof you provide is your word and handwritten heat log with temperatures and timestamps you’ve recorded yourself. Oftentimes, it’s not enough to get the landlord to comply.

This is the reality for many New Yorkers. Every year, thousands of renters spend the winter in a frigid apartment, Heat Seek Executive Director Noelle Francois told Microsoft New York. Heat Seek aims to combat this struggle. Their mission is to make the city a safer, warmer place to live for all New Yorkers. The nonprofit uses tech to empower tenants, providing unbiased evidence (data) to verify heating code abuse claims in court.

Last winter, the city received more than 200,000 heat-related complaints from 37,000 different buildings, most of which were in lower-income neighborhoods throughout Upper Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn.

“What we find is that for the specific subset of tenants we work with most closely, they’re being harassed — they don’t just have inept landlords,“ Francois said.

Heat Seek installs temperature sensors in these apartment complexes, where tenants have not been able to resolve heating problems through traditional channels. The sensors, consisting of a printed circuit board, a thermistor, a Raspberry Pi, and a wireless modem, talk to each other through a mesh network. Once an hour, they collect and transmit ambient temperature data to Heat Seek’s servers. Tenants and their lawyers can access this data on a web app. This data, integrated with public 311 heating complaint information, illustrates what Heat Seek has determined is a heating crisis in New York City.

The sensors come at no cost to the tenants participating in Heat Seek’s program, and can function without Wi-Fi in the homes of elderly or lower-income tenants — those who need the data the most.

download

Credit: Heat Seek

“The idea was always that we want to be able to serve the most vulnerable tenants in the city who don’t have the means or the resources to solve this problem on their own. We didn’t want cost to be a barrier,” Francois said.

Heat Seek sensors are currently installed in about a dozen buildings, with an expectation to expand to 25 buildings by the end of the season.

“We intentionally scaled down from last year because one of the big things we found last year was that providing tenants with data is great, but it’s not enough, especially if tenants don’t have a lawyer and don’t know what to do with that data,” Francois told MSNY.

Heat Seek has begun working hand-in-hand with tenant organizers, public interest attorneys, and city officials at the Housing Preservation & Development department. Together, they look at the city’s open data — complaints, violations, court cases, change in rent-stabilized units, and other indicators that demonstrate a building might benefit from Heat Seek’s sensors. Heat sensor data is shared with the city, so inspectors can drop by unannounced to confirm a pattern in the data.

“We’re hoping that this year, with a more targeted approach, we’re able to see a higher percentage of the buildings where we have sensors actually resolve their issues,” Francois said.

They’ve already seen success. At 178 Rockaway Parkway in Brownsville, sensors were installed in partnership with the Legal Aid Society in October. Nearly a quarter of the time, the temperature hovered around 60 degrees, in violation with NYC Housing Code. In December, Heat Seek held a press conference in front of the building, and Legal Aid Society filed a case against the landlord. Before the case saw a trial, a day after the press conference, the heat came on almost 10 degrees warmer.

before-and-after-graph

A graph of the temperature inside apartments at 178 Rockaway Parkway in Brownsville, before and after Legal Aid Services took action using Heat Seek’s data. Credit: Heat Seek

“After we see more of that impact, then it’s about scaling. There’s no point in scaling for scaling sake,” Francois said of the company’s plans to expand.

Looking ahead, Heat Seek plans to focus on some of the neighborhoods that are up for rezoning as part of the mayor’s housing plans.

“We know that during rezoning and after rezoning, the cost of living in those neighborhoods goes up. Landlords can start to charge more for rent, making it difficult for a lot of the tenants. We want to at least eliminate this one harassment tactic, of refusing to heat the apartments, that’s really effective in driving tenants out,” she said.

They aim to help landlords, too, to heat their buildings more effectively while reducing costs.

“We’re trying to be a non-biased third party,” Tristan Siegel, a coder with Heat Seek since the beginning, told the New York Times. “Even though we did start with tenants in mind, we’re really trying to bridge that gap.”

Ms. Francois credited the NYCBigApps competition in helping them move from an idea to a civic tech success, as well as support from Civic Hall, Beespace, and Robinhood Labs, to name a few.

“We’re proud to be a part of the civic tech, tech for the public good, community. We’re a nonprofit, simply driven to make tech that serves the needs of the partners we work with and the tenants we work with,” she said. “That impacts every aspect of what we do, right down to the design of the sensors.”

Heat Seek works most closely with:
The Legal Aid Society
Legal Services NYC
Brooklyn Legal Services Corp A
Flatbush Tenant Coalition
St. Nick’s Alliance
– Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams
– Council Member Ben Kallos
– Council Member Ritchie Torres
Housing Preservation & Development
CASA
Make the Road

Microsoft New York Team Demo Night

Each season, we take a moment to showcase our team’s latest work, share updates to existing projects, and make key announcements. It’s an opportunity to bring our community in on key programs, as well as a forcing function to ship code! You can watch the presentations below, and check out previous demo nights and events on our YouTube channel. Thanks to everyone who joined us at the Microsoft Reactor at Grand Central Tech Friday evening!

The evening’s presentations include:

  • Matt Stempeck – Vision Zero with DataKind (at 06:35 in the video)
  • Briana Vecchione – Civic Graph (at 10:03)
  • Ross Dakin – Microsoft Translator (at 15:46)
  • Rebecca Garcia – Tech Jobs Academy (at 19:53)
  • Natasha Scantlebury – Tech Jobs Academy (at 24:53)
  • Matt Stempeck – Campaign Technology and Civic Engagement (at 35:10)
  • John Paul Farmer – State of Civic Tech (at 42:34)

Thanks to Joly MacFie of the Internet Society New York chapter for recording the event.

Some top tweets from the night:

Civic Tech Events This January in NYC

msny-events-january

Happy 2017! It’s time to shrug off the holiday lethargy and kickstart the new year the only way we know how: with the best events in civic tech NYC has to offer.

Here are our top picks for January 2017:

January 5

Brooklyn Innovation Awards

Get ready for the Brooklyn Innovation Awards 2016! It’s our 2nd annual awards ceremony where we throw a party to celebrate the nominees, the community and announce the winners.

We’ll keep the talking to a minimum and make this more about a chance to meet and connect with each other. The goal is to honor the game changers of our community.

January 10

NY Tech Meetup + Afterparty

Join fellow technologists for an evening of live demos from companies developing great technology in New York, followed by a networking afterparty.

January 11

Women in Tech Panel

Calling all women in tech!

Come out for a fun night of networking and candid discussion about women in leadership.

January 12

NYC BigApps 2017 Launch Event

We are thrilled to launch NYC BigApps 2017 with a public event at Grand Central Tech! We encourage designers, developers, entrepreneurs, students, and New Yorkers at large to participate by joining us. Come for NYCEDC’s official announcement of this year’s challenges and stay for an interactive workshop to jumpstart ideas and team formation.

January 13

Microsoft Civic Tech Fellow Demo Night

Come join Microsoft’s Technology & Civic Innovation team as we showcase our latest work and the progress we’re making in using technology for public good right here in NYC. Our team is passionate about creating and deploying useful tools and programs to support the growing civic tech movement. Come see what we’ve been up to, have a drink, and connect with other civic technologists as 2017 heats up.

You’ll hear from:

  • Rebecca Garcia and Natasha Scantlebury, Tech Jobs Academy
  • Briana Vecchione, Civic Graph
  • Ross Dakin, Microsoft Translator
  • Matt Stempeck, Campaign Technology and Civic Engagement
  • John Paul Farmer, Director of Technology and Civic Innovation at Microsoft

Doors (and the bar) will open at 6:00pm, with presentations beginning at 6:30 pm.

January 13-15

Debug Politics: 1st NYC Hackathon

The first NYC Debug Politics Hackathon will happen the weekend of Jan 13-15. You can RSVP to attend here.

Debug Politics Hackathon is also coming to LA and will happen the weekend of Feb 3-5. Details are here.

If you want a better political process for this country, and really any country, and you want to hack on that desire, then consider attending one of these events.

January 17

Machine Learning & Big Data Project Demo Day

During this event you will see some of the best machine learning and big data projects created by NYC Data Science Academy 12-week Data Science bootcamp students.

You will also have an opportunity to meet our bootcamp students and find out more about what it is like to be a student at NYC Data Science Academy and gain an overview of the program. Join us for data wrangling tips, fun facts and in-depth discussions.

January 18

How can innovative park planning create a more seamless public realm?

NYC Parks is excited to host the first discussion of the new series by welcoming park leadership from across the country for a conversation about the public realm and how innovative park planning is changing the face of cities for the better.

Speakers:

  • Kathryn Ott Lovell, Commissioner, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation
  • Jayne Miller, Superintendent, Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board
  • Jane Rudolph, Director, Department of Parks and Recreation for Arlington Virginia
  • Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, Commissioner, NYC Parks
  • Moderated by:
    Lynn B. Kelly, Executive Director, New Yorkers for Parks

January 20

Playcrafting + Microsoft 2017 Global Game Jam!

Join us for a weekend of game-making plus free talks and workshops, refreshments and prizes! Stay tuned to this page as we confirm speakers, workshops and prizes in the coming weeks! Want an idea of what’s in store? Check out this recap from last year presented by Xbox’s own Major Nelson (Larry Hyrb)!

NYC Port & Logistics Hackathon

You heard it before, software is eating the world. There is plenty of eating to do in the Ports and Logistics sectors. Ports America, the Port Authority of NY/NJ and the world’s largest shipping line, Mærsk Line, are backing a hackathon focusing on Ports and Logistics.

100+ participants with multiple backgrounds – developers, business people, designers, domain experts, and yes even lawyers – will gather for 48 hours of building prototypes, rapid fire market validation and business model invention.

The event will be hosted by the Manhattan Cruise Terminal and will take place from 5.30pm Friday January 20th to 6pm Sunday January 22nd.

January 23

Smart City Panel Discussion for Australian Trade Commission

During this panel discussion the EDC, MOTI, and GFG will talk about the current status and future of the Smart City environment in NYC, their current projects, and how the International Trade and Urban Tech divisions meet. There will be an opportunity for companies to do pitch presentations of their projects.

January 24

She Geeks Out Happy Hour Sponsored by BounceX

Join She Geeks Out and BounceX for a Happy Hour at their space in the New York Times Building! We are thrilled to return to NYC, and what better way to ring in the New Year than spending some time meeting and mingling with other geeky awesome women? Expect wonderful company, delicious food and plenty of drinks. We’re looking forward to kicking off 2017 with you!

Please note that this is a women-only event that intends an inclusive definition of women. We are welcoming and respectful of trans women and any others who identify as a woman in a way that is significant to them.

January 25

Rotary Club of Wall Street

The Rotary Club of Wall Street NY was chartered on January 23, 2010. Join them on January 25 to celebrate our 7th birthday & learn more about the club!

January 26

LMHQ Women’s Breakfast: Build Your Dream Network with Kelly Hoey

Join us at LMHQ for our first women’s breakfast of 2017 where we’ll host author, connector, and networking expert Kelly Hoey to speak about her new book, Build Your Dream Network: Forging Powerful Relationships in a Hyper-Connected World (Penguin Random House). Moderated by author, executive coach, and motivational speaker Colette Ellis, Kelly will pull back the curtain on how to “stop committing random acts of networking” and create a modern roadmap for cultivating meaningful connections.

January 27

Actualize NYC January Showcase Lunch Hour

Join Actualize for the Actualize Showcase Lunch Hour in NYC!

The Showcase is an open-house style event where our graduates present their individual Capstone projects – web apps created from scratch using our full stack of frameworks and languages. There’s also networking and, as always, hot food and cold beer!

January 30

Disruptive Technologists: Augmented Reality Experience

HoloLens, the first fully self-contained, head-mounted, holographic computer, developed and manufactured by Microsoft. . HoloLens gained popularity for being one of the first computers running the Windows Holographic platform under the Windows 10 operating system. Developer Nick Landry will present the latest along with four other AR experts.

Year in Review: 2016 in Civic Tech

msny-2016

We’ve spent our 2016 working forward in civic tech, while sharing stories of leaders in technology and civic progress right here on our blog. Thank you to everyone who has used their voice this year to help us elevate others in the New York area.

A look back at an amazing year on the Microsoft New York Blog:

January

Microsoft New York welcomes District General Manager Laura Clayton McDonnell

We welcomed the newest member of the New York Metro District team — our district general manager, Laura Clayton McDonnell. McDonnell brings a wealth of knowledge in sales management and legal experience, most recently in executive roles at Aspect Software, IBM, Sun and Apple.

IMG_20160115_113237DataViz for good: How to ethically communicate data in a visual manner: #RDFviz
Matt Stempeck

Microsoft’s Director of Civic Technology in New York City, Matt Stempeck, recaps his experience at the Responsible Data Forum, a collaborative effort to develop useful tools and strategies for dealing with the ethical, security and privacy challenges facing data-driven advocacy. Topics included non-screen data visualizations, communicating uncertainty in data and more.

February

OnyiVoices of Change — The Future of Technology and the Black Community
Onyi Nwosu, Computer Science Engineer, Black Girls Code

Diversity and inclusion are critical underpinnings to our evolving culture at Microsoft and powerful bridges to the marketplace. For Black History Month, month, we were honored to feature the voices of local leaders who represent our commitment to diversity and use their drive to help the community in which they serve. One of those people is Onyi Nwosu, a computer science engineer at Black Girls Code.

April

civic-tech-1Towards a taxonomy of civic technology

What is civic technology? It’s a question we’re asked often. As Microsoft’s team behind Technology and Civic Engagement, there’s no one “real” answer. Matt Stempeck, Director of Civic Technology, went to Barcelona for The Impacts of Civic Technology Conference (TICTeC) to help spread the word of civic tech and explain what it is exactly that we do.

May

Tech Jobs AcademyCelebrating Tech Jobs Academy
John Paul Farmer

Twenty three incredible New Yorkers and their families gathered at Civic Hall to celebrate an accomplishment that would have been impossible just a few months prior. But, like most overnight successes, this one was actually years in the making. Microsoft New York’s Director of Technology & Civic Innovation, John Paul Farmer, told the story of how Tech Jobs Academy came to be.

June

Fellow Profile: Hannah Cutler

Every year, we gain an incredible cohort of civic technology fellows who inspire us through their hard work and dedication to utilize technology in local government and community applications. With each step forward our fellows make, we help make New York City more interconnected through technology. Meet one of our fellows, Hannah Cutler.

August

Welcoming Ross Dakin to the Microsoft NY Team
Ross Dakin

Ross Dakin joined the Microsoft Technology and Civic Innovation team, where he’s excited to use data and technology for social good. He came to us with a deep understanding of civic tech via his former positions at Silicon Valley companies and as a White House Presidential Innovation Fellow.

rocinha-favelaQuadratic Voting: Civic Tech for Eminent Domain
E. Glen Weyl, Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research New York City

E. Glen Weyl, Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research New York City, wrote about a new voting system he devised, called Quadratic Voting, in which individuals can buy additional votes on an issue at an increasing cost. Beyond eminent domain, Quadratic Voting has a variety of other uses in cities and politics more broadly, allowing citizens to find compromises that allow them to have more say on the issues most important to them in exchange for letting their fellow citizens have their way on the issues more important to them.

Meet High School Intern: Sagar Punjabi

Microsoft is committed to developing junior talent and championing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related fields. Over the summer, we were thrilled to host high school students as part of our NYC Microsoft High School Summer Internship Program (HSIP). We interviewed one of our high school interns, Sagar Punjabi.

October

panorama-entrance01-low-resMicrosoft Reactor opens to spur tech innovation in New York City

Expanding on its commitment to innovation, Microsoft celebrated the grand opening of its latest Microsoft Reactor, based in New York City’s iconic Grand Central Terminal. This is the third Reactor where businesses, universities, governments and entrepreneurs can come together and access the latest Microsoft technologies and expert resources.

November

City Year New York Makes a Difference at JHS218 James P Sinnott Middle School
Donna Abrusci

City Year New York deploys 257 highly skilled AmeriCorps members to serve in 24 elementary, middle and high schools. Laura Clayton McDonnell (GM of Microsoft New York), Antuan Santana (Operations & Community Manager) and Donna Abrusci (Business Program Manager) visited the City Year New York corp member team at JHS218 James P Sinnott Middle School.

December

CoderDojo NYC students work at the Microsoft Store on 5th Ave. Photo from CoderDojo NYC. Coding Outside the Classroom: CoderDojo NYC Teaches Children Computer Science Fundamentals

Although New York announced plans to offer all students programming classes by 2025, fewer than 10 percent of city schools currently offer any form of computer science education, and only 1 percent of students are currently in CS classes. But students do have interest. Living proof is CoderDojo, a global network of programming clubs for young people.

Thank you to all who joined us in sharing the important stories that shape our community. Let’s work together for an incredible 2017.