For the past decade, I directed the technology needs and efforts of celebrated San Francisco studio Stamen Design. Together, we created new ways of mapping the world, new ways of seeing data, and balanced an abundance of commercial, artistic, and research projects. I especially valued the opportunity to support the design process through code, developing libraries and systems that supported Stamen’s creative vision in projects for ourselves and others.
Last year, I volunteered with the Obama For America tech team in Chicago and saw a new path forward for political and civic technology. OFA’s approachable, election-winning tech strategy was a blend of creative opportunism and applied experience, and I left deeply inspired. But where else could I bring my technology experience to bear on social challenges? There’s no better place than local city and county governments to try and test new approaches to civic technology. No place more in need of simple, straightforward ideas for communication and process learned from web-based experimentation. No place better prepared to teach the technology world about the dynamism of collective action.
Code for America has been an inspiration to me since I first met Jennifer Pahlka at an event introducing San Francisco’s DataSF portal to the world with Stamen’s Crimespotting application and then Mayor Gavin Newsom. At Stamen, we provided Code for America office space during their very first year (they were a staff of four then), and I’ve long kept in close touch with the growth of the organization over last few years.
Today, I have an opportunity to help directly.
As Code for America’s new Chief Technology Officer, I will be working on CfA’s core technologies, bridging the gap between rapidly-iterated applications and tools usable more broadly throughout our peer network. I’m excited to help fellows get new projects off the ground, adapt projects for long-term sustainability, and prepare their work for future generations of fellows. I’m especially excited to explore and define the points of contact between Silicon Valley’s agile approaches to development and government’s need for simplicity and reliability.
I’m proud to be stepping into this role at a cuspy moment in CfA’s history. We’ve proven that it’s possible to have a different conversation between citizens and their governments, and that in this century, technology plays a critical role in that change. Now I want to help prove that it’s a lasting change.
Questions? Comments? Hit us up @codeforamerica.