Q&A with Sarah Rigdon


Q&A with Sarah RigdonSarah Rigdon is a former Delivery Lead for Code for DC, and she joined Open Houston a few months ago. We”re really happy that she”s here! Check out our Q&A with Sarah, and be sure to come by the civic hack night tonight to meet in person!

How did you first get involved in civic hacking?

My first hackathon was the Sanitation Hackathon, a Random Hacks of Kindness event held in December 2012 in Washington, DC. I was inspired by people with a range of different backgrounds and skill sets who devoted their weekend to hacking together solutions to real problems. It was fun, and it”s fun to see the looks on peoples” faces when I wear that event”s t-shirt.

In 2013, I was fortunate to join the Open Innovation Program at NASA, and helped launch the second annual International Space Apps Challenge. Space Apps is civic hacking on a global scale, from the Earth satellite data to the mass collaboration of over 9,000 volunteers that year, and yes, I”m biased, but everyone should be a part of it. It”s usually in April–mark your calendars. Sometimes astronauts show up.

These one-off events are inspiring and educational, and the solutions produced in even a weekend are impressive. But then, I started attending Code for DC last August, and I found a community. When you can keep coming back to a hack night every month or six weeks, you start seeing progress on longer-term projects and ways of thinking about problems in your area, and how those problems show up in other cities and what they”re doing about them. There”s a lot of magical civic geekery to that.

Code for DC has a pretty sophisticated civic hacking community. What are your impressions of Houston so far?

Code for DC has an important ingredient in common with Houston: passionate people who want to help their communities. If you have that, you”re golden, and I think every place does. It”s just a matter of connecting those people to the projects they casino online love.

The difference is it”s easy for civic hackers in DC to find each other and their overlapping interests in other Meetups, but in Houston, like many other things and just by nature of the city”s geography, all of those great sub-communities are spread out. But I”m looking forward to connecting with them.

What are some of your favorite projects that you”ve worked on?

ANC Finder is a way for DC residents to learn about their most local form of government, and a good model for civic hackers in other communities who want to build a resource-finder for their local communities.

Another project I loved working on is the TechLady Hackathon, one of the only all-women hackathons in the U.S. Houston ladies, if you”re interested we can definitely start one here, too.

What are the projects that you want to tackle next?

Houston is America”s fourth largest city, and most people drive themselves to work. I”m interested in anything related to addressing that problem.

And as one of the many newcomers to Houston who wants to get to know the city, I”d like to help with cultural discovery projects like the Mural Arts Program Strategy.

Anything else you”d like to add?

Let”s do it, Houstonians! Feel free to reach out with any questions or project ideas.

Sample Projects for Civic Hack Night


Sample Projects for Civic Hack NightOur next civic hack night is Tuesday, July 29 (TOMORROW!) at Bouncing Pixel. If you have a civic project you”re working on, or you want to join one in progress, please join us! Here are some sample projects you might find interesting:

Open Data Survey
Publish candidates’ statements about open data and Houston. Project needs:

  • Data gathering of candidate info, contact info, district, etc.
  • Messaging/marketing copy about project, goals, purpose
  • Website design/development
  • Ongoing correspondence with candidates/staffers about the project
  • Experts who are willing to educate candidates/staffers about open data

#SLGT Application
Work with the Department of Neighborhoods to build a mobile app that delivers local business and event results.

Foodborne
Configure an instance of Foodborne for Houston.

Councilmatic
Redeploy Councilmatic, an app that delivers alerts about relevant City Council actions.

Houston Wiki
Deploy and configure a platform for a Houston Wiki, similar to Oakland’s (or a million other examples). We can use this platform for writeathons and other events.

EarlyHouston
Redeploy EarlyOakland, a site that connects parents with early learning services, with Houston data.

Kinder Institute on Twitter
Would it be possible to break down the Kinder Institute survey into a Twitter scraper that gives a real time answer?

Mural Arts Program Strategy
Develop a strategy to create a Houston Mural Arts Program. The program should have an operating budget used to fund murals, and an outreach component used to locate mural sites. Project could have a civic crowdfunding component.

Open Houston Planning
These are projects that help Open Houston grow. We need:

  • Planning for the next civic writeathon (tent. October)
  • Planning for the next civic hackathon
  • Plan a CityCamp
  • Planning for growing our community (technology, marketing, education, etc.)
  • Editorial calendar for content & more contributors
  • Ideas for meetups, events, etc.
  • “Care for Open Houston” = social media, website, member surveys, etc.
  • Projects documenting the use of open data in the media

Civic hack night is back! Pick a project or bring your own.


Civic hack night is back! Pick a project or bring your own.

If you”ve ever wanted to work on a civic project, here”s your chance: we”re bringing back a monthly Civic Hack Night! Be sure to RSVP here. We”ll post a list of projects in progress shortly.

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