On a sunny Saturday, well over 100 people committed their time to finding new ways to use the datasets released by City, County and State government.

IMG_1519Over 15 project groups were formed and many of these will continue throughout 2014. Among the continuing efforts were projects to correlate and analyze Oakland campaign contributions, to create a web-based tool showing the earthquake status of buildings in Oakland, especially those with ‘soft story’ garages at ground level, efforts to monitor air and water quality, and an effort to collect information on where social services are provided in Oakland and Alameda County. This last project is linked to the Hope Center at Highland Hospital and will share code with a new Code for America project to create a common database and API [application programming interface] so that all service providers can store and share changing information without duplicating the efforts of each other.

Last Saturday’s Oakland Data Day was part of the national “Code Across America” weekend organized by Code for America and also part of International Open Data Day. It was organized by Open Oakland to raise awareness of the uses of public data and also to help create products and tools for Oakland residents from that data that are “simple, beautiful, and easy to use.”

Oakland Data Day took place at the newly opened Impact HUB center on Broadway near 23rd Street. The HUB space has clusters of small tables and chairs that can be reconfigured for different size groups and was ideal for hosting so many ad hoc projects.

Sameer Siruguri said: “Oakland Data Day was awesome! The pitches were succinct, and relevant, and teams seemed to have gelled well. We had a good mix of techie and policy folks in our group.”

Sameer worked with the Social Services database project, which is a “Yelp for Social Service Resources,” and he helped link it to the ongoing Open Referral Initiative which aims is to create open, national standards for storing information about social service providers . This work is being sponsored by Code For America, and focuses on the Ohana API as a reference implementation and open-source standard. A coalition of community healthcare providers in the Bay Area, including Highland Hospital, SF General and Children’s Hospital, have put together a custom referral database and interface, and the Open Referral and Ohana groups are looking to find ways to align and integrate their work with others through the Open Referral standard.

This project was pitched and is being led by Dennis Hsieh, a resident doctor at Highland Hospital’s Emergency Department. More information on this new “Open 211” initiative for Alameda County can be found HERE.

IMG_1483“I hadn’t been to a hackathon before,” said Tara Zhang, a Poly Sci and epidemiology grad student at UC Berkeley. “I had thought it would be intimidating and I was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed the day and found the atmosphere very inviting … and I really liked the project I was working on (the Social Services database and portal)…. It was a lot of fun for me.”

Asked why she would spend the day as a volunteer, Zhang explained, “I am an Oakland resident and I have thought about contributing in some way to making Oakland better. I was drawn to (this project) because I once found it really difficult navigating all the agencies and non-profits in this space.”

Zack Hamadyk, who is a regular attendee at Open Oakland, participated in the Nonprofit Network Group. This project was pitched and led by Ari Sahagun, who is also a member of OpenOakland. That group focused primarily on creating an integrated network of nonprofit organizations (NPOs) by first having nonprofits, technologists and city staff create an open data repository to map relationships between non-profits via social network analysis and, secondly, to find ways to help NPOs who want to use this technology.

IMG_1530“The session was a lot of fun, and an great educational experience overall. We also considered broader issues such as privacy concerns and informational disclosure issues, as well as security in general – like who would host such a database of information, and how could we guarantee security of its contents?” Hamadyk said that while the group did not produce a working prototype, he expected they would continue to work on the project, probably under the sponsorship of Open Oakland.

Another project which made progress during Oakland Data Day was an effort to analyze data on so-called “soft-story” buildings that are more likely to collapse during a major earthquake. The project had acquired data from the City of Oakland, and was planning on spending the day doing manual analysis of it. But a staffer from ABAG (the Association of Bay Area Governments) attending Oakland Data Day was able to provide contacts within city government who work with that data and could partner with OpenOakland on developing the project. With the manual analysis unnecessary, most of the day was spent diving deeper into the technical and policy issues surrounding seismic safety and resiliency in Oakland.

Open Oakland formed out of the original “Code for Oakland” civic hacking event. It became on of the the first city-based Code for America brigades and has held several events over the last 2 years, including Oakland City Camp and Oakland Answers. It meets every Tuesday evening at City Hall in hearing room 3 at 6:30 pm. It has been growing and may need additional space to allow its different project groups to meet concurrently. The Open Oakland web page is HERE.

DSC09814Steve Spiker, who is co-founder and co-captain of Open Oakland with Eddie Tejeda, was very pleased with this year’s Oakland Open Data Day. “Events like Code Across are great ways to bring together staff from the city, nonprofits and technologists to collaborate and learn together,” he said. “We saw some local government staff getting excited about new mapping tools they learned to use, local tech folks getting informed by city officials who have expertise in local issues and existing civic tech projects building stronger teams.”

Spiker was also pleased with the larger than expected turnout, which was near capacity for breaking into small groups to work on projects. Less than 80 had signed up in advance but over 40 more registered at the door on Saturday.

See the complete event photo album HERE. The slides below are half of the full slide deck.

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