Civic Hack Day in Baltimore kicks off
That's Mike Brenner, above, a Baltimore web designer, kicking off Civic Hack Day in Baltimore, the first community effort to build Web-based applications with a small trove of data that the city and the mayor's office.
More than 30 people have showed up at the Emerging Technology Center on Saturday to work on various projects. Web geeks, including programmers and designers, and even journalists like yours truly, are trying to wrap their arms around the data, understand and analyze it, and see if there are any useful tools that can be built for the community.
So far, people are looking at applications -- some for the desktop Web, some for mobile phones -- that are tapping into city parking citation data, property tax data, and crime data. I hope to post links to finished (or semi-finished projects) in a day or two.
There's also a group that's using data from the social network LinkedIn to map connections between thousands of professionals in Baltimore, Annapolis and elsewhere. Their goal is to create visualizations that help people identify powerful and weak networks -- lots of potential there for understanding how people are connected to each other.
If you're interested in tapping into this industrious, entrepreneurial community of civic-minded tech geeks, check out their public discussion group on Google. Join the conversation.
Not to be a downer, but I should raise an issue that some people here have talked to me about (city officials take note.) The data that the city released was essentially a one-time data dump, though there may be more in the future. What the Baltimore hacker community is hoping for are real-time data flows from city agencies, so they can create more useful applications with live data, and not information that's months old.
But all in all, this is a good first effort. There are a few dozen independent people (citizens!) playing with "open" city data for the first time in the history of Baltimore. Some good things will probably come out of this effort -- but the future will be where it's at in Baltimore, if our city government can continue to improve data disclosure efforts.
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