Alameda County’s Second Hackathon Heads to Berkeley
Looking to hack this weekend?
We were lucky to grab a few minutes to interview Tim Dupuis, Interim Director of the IT Department and the Registrar of Voters in Alameda County, about the hackathon coming up this weekend on April 27th.
The event will be located on the Berkeley High School campus, right near the University of California at Berkeley. Alameda County has a nice collection of sponsors gathered up and has high hopes for an even bigger, more productive hackathon than its first.
Socrata is sending down Product Lead Clint Tseng to be on site. When asked about his plans for Saturday, Clint said, “I’m always excited to see all the new ways open data developers want to leverage data and technology to do amazing things. It’s a great way to catch up with the community and get feedback and fresh ideas directly back to the team.”
The following is a transcript of our interview with Dupuis. See you on Saturday!
Socrata will be on site. What are your thoughts on that?
Socrata on site is really beneficial because having somebody like Clint is going to bring a technical element to it to help promote all the different tools that are on the portal, available through Socrata. It will help people integrate that data into their app directly.
In the first apps challenge, we were finding that people were wanting to download all the data off the portal into their system to build their app. By having technical support from Chris Metcalf from Socrata we were able to explain to them, “There are APIs. There are different ways of handling the portal in order to build your apps so you can get that live data in real time rather than actually having to pull it down.”
How did the last hackathon go?
The last one exceeded our expectations wildly. We had planned for about 40-50 people to be there but had, fortunately, booked a big venue hoping it would be much larger than that. And, it ended up being 120 people that showed up.
The last one we were planning to have six apps be developed and presented and we ended up with 24. And, as it turns out, we kept in contact with people who were runners up and winners. We have at least six working apps as a byproduct of that first hackathon.
What are you looking forward to at this one?
This next one, we’re not expecting anything less. In fact, we’re shooting higher than that.
It’s a different venue. One of the things we wanted to do was to move the apps challenge around the county to promote different parts of our community. This time we’re having it at the Berkeley High School. It’s a brand new building within the high school. We’ve been working with the tech staff at the high school. They’ve assured us there is going to be plenty of wi-fi bandwith.
It’s a great setting to create something for the community at large. But, certainly, it draws some interest also from the University of California at Berkeley so we’re hoping to see some of the university students coming into play.
We’ve also got the high school itself. They’re excited about it and hoping to send in some teams.
What apps do you hope to see at this event?
In the last event, our winning app was called Bookit, which was appropriate because we were in the Castro Valley Library. When you’re shopping for books, the app would let you scan the barcode on the book to see if it was actually in the library. Then, it would use your library card to check out the book for you and give you driving directions to pick it up.
The other one was done by some high school students. It would help you find parks that meet specific needs like, if you want to walk a dog, this is a dog friendly park. Or, do you want to have a barbeque? If so, where do you want to have that? That app, again, would give you driving directions on how to get to the specific park that you are interested in.
We had another one that helped people who were on food stamps find places where they could use their food stamps to find healthy food. Because, that’s a challenge for that community. So, we had some really nice apps from that first event.
At the new one, since we’re having it in Berkeley, you might see something around disaster preparedness. The city itself, on that same day, is doing an earthquake preparedness event so we might see some stuff around safety.
Since it’s at a high school, we might see something around education. Also, being close to Cal Berkeley, we might see something that is of use to a university setting.
Will you be on site?
I will be. I am co-MCing the event with Alameda County CTO Tobin Broadhurst. Keith Carson, Supervisor District 5 will be a keynote speaker. Susan S. Muranishi, the County Administrator and Mayor Tom Bates, City of Berkeley will also be in attendance and will welcome attendees at the event.
Who would you like to encourage to join the event?
We are encouraging developers and also journalists and people with ideas. We like to say as we’re promoting it that you don’t have to be a developer to be at the event. The ideas are just as important as the skills to build the ideas.
What I like to say is that the developers that are coming to these events really enjoy coding but that doesn’t mean that they have that killer app idea. They are looking to participate with someone who is a business driver, a visionary in a certain area, so they can code to that idea. It takes a combination, I think.
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