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Success and roadblocks: #Hackville draws 40 people interested in civic change

by Melissa Chipman

Louisville was one of 95 cities to participate in the National Day of Civic Hacking last weekend. Michael Schnuerle, of YourMapper, organized Saturday’s event at the iHub.

Back in February, the White House’s Code for America fellows came to Louisville and hosted a hackathon. Schnuerle’s team won for its public safety app SafetyCheck (now available in the Apple app store) which uses crime reports from the city’s open data portal.

This was Schnuerle’s way of giving back.

The event saw 30 people sign up and 40 people show up, including, briefly Mayor Greg Fischer.

At the beginning of the event, 9 different projects were proposed. The crowd voted to move forward with five of those projects and organized themselves into teams.

The teams worked through lunch and by 3:30 p.m. were ready to present their solutions.

Schnuerle recaps the successes and failures of the five projects on the event website. Perhaps what is most interesting are the roadblocks the teams encountered when it came to open data in Louisville:

Roadblocks included:

  • Council District Spending – Project stalled when team discovered official expenditure data was redundant, obtuse, and not as granular as the non-exportable LouieStat data. Tried to source data from Courier-Journal, but it was 2 years out of date and not exportable anyway. Team is drafting a letter of recommendations for open data team and revenue department.
  • Parks and Rec – The team was going to use the Park Locations and Amenities open data set, but found it lacking. Every amenity listed in a park is geolocated to the same point. So there is no way of knowing where the amenity is in the park. Also, paths and roads are not up to date in online mapping systems (Google, Open Street Map). The team will have to do this manually, which is time consuming and prone to error since they are not the data experts. The team recommends that Metro Parks updates its data set to place the amenities accurately with latitude and longitude, and use Google and Open Street Map editors to improve park details for everyone.
  • BriGenieBridges Project site does not have public feedback, daily/weekly/monthly updates and progress breakdown by category. So the problem is lack of detailed data. Without the details being released by the project weekly in a machine-readable format, the only alternative is a citizen journalism approach which is cumbersome, a large time commitment, and prone to delays.

Success Included:

  • BehRest – Great use of open crime, restaurant data from the city; the team will continue to work on the app.
  • Parks and Rec – Team will be manually locating all park amenities and editing them into Open Street Map to use through OSM routing API. They will continue to work on the project.
  • Lost Pet Finder – Team had a working version and is going to continue with the app and widget. They will need help from Metro Animal Services to understand some of the raw data.

The other projects will continue if can they overcome their open data hurdles.

Interesting Links

– People wanted the mayor to create a Louisville open data law/policy that made all public data open by default, rather than selectively. Vote for that idea here. A few other US cities and states have started doing this.

– Individuals looked at editing details in their neighborhood in the new Open Street Map iD editor.

– It would be nice to have an open data GIS portal at Lojic (like Lexington has) so people could add parcel outlines, property values, building outlines, utilites, etc to Open Street Map.

The five projects are listed in the gallery of submissions. You can review them and vote on your favorite. Public voting continues through June 6. The winner will be named on the morning of June 7.

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