Considering civic issues at Hack for Connecticut in New Haven

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Connecticut had events in New Haven and Hartford for the National Day of Civic Hacking this past weekend. There were other similar hack days in hundreds of cities across the country.

About 20 programmers, data enthusiasts and community organizers got together to collaborate on projects.

“I hesitate to use the phrase ‘hackathon’ because this isn’t a competition; there will be no prizes. It’s a hack day,” said Zack Beatty, an engineer at SeeClickFix, who helped organize the two-day event, during the introduction.

Connecticut State Comptroller Kevin Lembo speaking to the Hack Day participants.

Connecticut State Comptroller Kevin Lembo speaking to the Connecticut Hack Day participants.

“It’s like everyone gets a trophy,” quipped State Comptroller Kevin Lembo, who stopped by to pitch some state datasets for participants to dig into.

Groups formed around ideas and local datasets. Participants had the option to work on national or local issues. One team considered working on a national challenge to help the Federal Trade Commission predict and prevent robocalls, but they got a note saying the data wasn’t good enough to proceed.

One group looked into opportunities for women in STEM fields in Connecticut, particularly in places where there are inequalities.

Alvin Chang convinces Anton Backer, Patrick O'Henry, and Alan Visocheck to dive into traffic stop data.

Alvin Chang convinces Anton Backer, Patrick O'Henry, and Alan Visocheck to dive into traffic stop data.

Another tried to make sense of one of the toughest datasets on the Connecticut Open Data Portal: traffic stops. Town names and statute infractions were inconsistent from department to department, and Anton Backer took on the task of cleaning the 620,000 rows of data with Open Refine. They were one of the groups that stayed behind after the listed stop time on Saturday.

“It’s already 8?” Alan Visocheck said.

“Time flies when you’re parsing municipality data,” Backer said.

On Sunday, groups came back to finish as much as they could before 4 p.m.

Matt Zagaja, one of the organizers, came up with an app to look up a state legislator based on geolocation. Visocheck and Backer worked well after the scheduled stopping point again on Sunday, working on their traffic stop analysis. They created a site that lets you look up the types of traffic stops given per officer by looking up cop’s badge number.

The meetup in New Haven was sponsored by TrendCT and hosted by SeeClickFix.

Participants in Connecticut got snacks, coffee, pizza and burritos.

Interestingly enough, Code for Miami participants each got trophies.

What do you think?

  • This article wins. Especially for the tweet at the end.

  • Greg

    I will take burritos over trophies any day.