Hackathon puts heads together at Open Data Day

In case you haven’t heard, Open Data Day is October 16 (read more about that here), and the City of Asheville is a proud participant. Alongside keynote speakers from Code for America and Open Data Philly, the event will be the site of a Hackathon, a cross-discipline ad hoc on site effort to create useful tools that could assist in the Open Data Day theme of increased access to government data.

City of Asheville GIS Analyst Dave Michelson describes the concept behind the hackathon and what it could offer:

What exactly is a hackathon?

The hackathon is an intensive and highly focused group, in this case a group of citizens, who are usually techies. The group has a very specific goal of rapidly “hacking” together a technological solution to a given demand. In our case, the hackathon responds to a very specific civic issue: transparency and open municipal data. Despite the mainstream, sometimes negative perception of the word “hacking,” a hackathon it is NOT destructive nor is it a malicious attack on a computer system. Instead, it is a problem-solving effort by programmers.

Describe what it is like to be at the table during a hackathon.

The hackathon is usually festive and fun while at the same time just focused on getting the coding done. It resembles a caffeine-infused all-nighter type off feel.

What does a hackathon offer us in the way of opportunities? What can we learn that is new?

Because the hackathon is for citizens and by citizens, it aims to directly answer questions citizens have about how city government works. So as an organization, we learn how we can better interact and engage with our citizens.

How will this hackathon be organized?

Very loosely and open, as it’s based on collaboration. Usually, participants split into one or more groups, come up with a problem they want to solve, then just do it. At the end, we will vote on who wins the right of best hack at Open Data Day.

The design sounds like part of a growing collaboration between the community and the city organization. What’s the take away from that kind of collaboration?

The hackathon relies on open data or some kind of access to data provided in an open way to create highly useful “apps” for citizens by citizens. The data starts with us and ends with you.

Open Data Day will be held October 16, 2012 in the U.S. Cellular Center, Asheville, NC.  For information about attending, click here.. Tickets will be available through Oct. 12.

Follow Open Data Day on Facebook and Twitter.

For more information about Open Data Day, contact Jonathan Feldman at jfeldman@ashevillenc.gov.