Data competition Hack Omaha returns with one-day format Oct. 13
Hack Omaha competitor Nate Benes (left) speaks with mentor and Omaha World-Herald online team leader Ben Vankat at the event in April.
Hack Omaha, a programming competition focused on the use of government data, returns Oct. 13 with a new format and cast of supporting organizations.
First held over a weekend in April, Hack Omaha is now a 12-hour hackathon pitting teams against each other to build an app using one of three government data sets. The Omaha World-Herald produced the first event, but this time around Metropolitan Community College, Sen. Heath Mello and the South Omaha Neighborhood Alliance are teaming up with the World-Herald.
The event kicks off at 9 a.m. at the Mule Barn on the campus of Metropolitan Community College. The day opens with participants pitching ideas for how to use data about county spending, building permits and city council agendas. The morning involves guest speakers, but the rest of the day is dedicated to hacking. Closing presentations begin at 8 p.m., and apps will be judged on revelation, completion, creativity and wow factor.
Registration, which includes food and beverage during the event, costs $5 and can be completed on the Hack Omaha eventbrite page.
To learn more about Hack Omaha, we recently conducted an email interview with its lead organizer, Matt Wynn (below), a World-Herald reporter.
Silicon Prairie News: What's the goal of the next Hack Omaha?
Matt Wynn: One of the main inspirations for this version of Hack Omaha is an interim study in the Legislature looking into government transparency. We've picked three data sets, each of which makes a very different statement: Spending, building permits and the council agenda. Spending data is important because people can identify with it, and it's likely to be one of the first areas that has the heft of the law behind it. Building permits are valuable to business, and are an area where even slight improvements in information sharing could have a big, measurable impact. The council agendas, meanwhile, give us an opportunity to show the difference between bureaucratic publicness and transparency – just because they're published doesn't mean they're useful, and we can demonstrate that difference. The goal, I guess, is twofold. First, we want to show that if public data was available, people would use it. Second, we want to show that openness can make government more useful, and I hope these three datasets get us there.
SPN: What do you hope attendees get out of the experience?
MW: Above all I hope attendees enjoy themselves. Selfishly, I'd like to see greater interest in this sort of work, because I think it's important and makes Omaha better. If an attendee were to call me up a week or so after the fact and ask for help crating a records request, I'd consider it a wild success.
SPN: What do you hope the Omaha World-Herald gets out of putting it on?
MW: We like useful code, and I hope we get either ideas or solutions to some common problems. But really, this is just a no-brainer for us. Government openness, public information, making our government better – that's the stuff a news organization is built of.
For more about Hack Omaha, see our recap of the first event: "Food Fight gamifies restaurant ratings, wins Hack Omaha".
Note: Silicon Prairie News is a media sponsor of Hack Omaha.
Credits: Photo by Danny Schreiber. Headshot courtesy of Matt Wynn.