***Join me and CivicPlus in Joplin, MO on April 27-29th to participate in the City of Joplin hackathon where teams will compete to redesign the city website to be released the week before the 1-year anniversary of the tornado. Teams must RSVP by this Friday, April 6th.**
This is a wild guess but I bet prior to 2009, there had been under 5 government-related hackathons ever held. These days they are all the rage. They can range from city-related hackathons like NYC.gov’s redesign hackathon to federally related hackathons like USA.gov’s url shortener hackathon to more broader civic hackathons like this month’s Hack the Change
At the end of the month, I’m excited to be a judge at the City of Joplin hackathon hosted by City of Joplin & CivicPlus. The goal is to rebuild the city website and create a new “digital town hall” for the City to be released 1-year after the tornado.
As I’ve been preparing for the event, I thought I’d put together 5 tips on hackathons based on my experience.
1) Define Your Goal – If you are a government agency, be realistic about your goal. In a hackathon, you are going to get some great new ideas, some great prototypes, and build relationships. Scope your expectations for success
2) Make the Ask Specific – This may be controversial but I like hackathons that are focused (like the NYC.gov redesign). By having focus, it allows teams to work on the same problem and get farther down the problem-solving path
3) Have Experts Helping Out– Having experts on the topic circulate is necessary at hackathons. This can range from subject matter experts (citizens familiar with the website, the current city website owner, etc) to tech specialist (specialize in certain APIs, UI designers). Having experts help out the teams is a great way to get teams past problems and towards clear solutions
4) Plan Ahead – To host a hackathon, takes a decent amount of work. Make sure you plan ahead to ensure you clearly define the goal and have enough time to do outreach. Marketing and outreach is often the hardest part – whether it is reaching out to developer community, local schools, other government departments, and more.
5) Just Do It– This one is for both participants and hosts. It’s easy to talk and read about hackathons but there’s nothing like rolling up your sleeves and doing it. So if you are at least remotely interested encouraged, I’d encourage you to sign up and participate in one – you’ll learn a ton and
That’s my 5 tips…hope to see you attend a hackathon near you (or join me in Joplin)