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DIY Hack Your Way to a Better Government

The local group OpenGovChicago is having a Hackathon on December 13 at Columbia College. The details are still being hammered out. To start with, “hackers” aren’t “bad guys or pirates. They’re passionate pragmatic craftspeople who relish doing interesting work and doing it with style,” writes Joe Germuska of the OpenGovChicago about the upcoming “Hackathon.

At a Hackathon people who share common interests come together to get things done. In the  open source software world, they are held to add a major new feature or finish a new release. The real-time interaction provides focus and improves relationships between folks who may know each other mostly via the internet. Being somewhere, with a bunch of other people, working on a project becomes the modern equivalent of a barn raising.

The folks at Sunlight Labs have been pushing the idea of adapting the hackathon spirit to civic technology and open government activism.

The hackathon isn’t all about computers and tech, and Germuska says that folks could write a manifesto or develop an action plan, or come to design a flyer campaign. People could collaboratively critique a government website and draft a recommendation about how it could be better. They could research grant funding opportunities, or just make time for a personal research project. Joe’s example is a visualization of  county-by-county data on a map ( of it like a rent party where you contribute ideas instead of your money.

If this sounds interesting, check out the wiki  Whether you have a project in mind, or would like to help with a project, the hackathon might be a good place to start.

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