by leah on December 12, 2013
I wrote a blog post for GSA about how I pushed my office to release its annual report as a simple HTML Bootstrap site, in addition to the PDF. I’m pretty excited about it. Check it out: Step Away from the PDFs.
by leah on October 18, 2013
On Monday, October 14th, I organized the Code for DC Shutdown Hackathon for Furloughed Feds and Friends at 1776, a local coworking space for startups. Twenty-five civic hackers from the federal government and open data communities attended. Coders, researchers, graphic designers, and digital strategists worked on a lot of different projects, including:
- ANC Brigade: Nine hackers worked on ANCBrigade.com, a Code for DC project that aims to bring attention to DC’s unique, hyper-local form of government called Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs). The hackers beta-tested the site’s document upload capabilities, added new data to the site, and planned community outreach. One hacker was an ANC transportation committee chair, and he added information about his ANC’s committees to the project.
- Code for DC’s Education project: This is a long-running Code for DC project. At the hackathon, the group made great progress on their project to display school boundaries as distinct from neighborhood boundaries on the map and they pulled data from the OpenDataDC CKAN site to a MongoDB, which they’ll eventually use as the source for all the data displayed on the site.
- Snapfresh.org: The group worked on maintenance and updates to this project, which is a Code for America Rails app that allows users to search for places near them that accepts food stamps.
- Raise the Debt Limit: This project worked on organizing and agitating to convince Congress to raise the debt limit and prevent economic disaster. They also deployed an app on GovTrak to simplify calling your representative in Congress.
- Learn more! Check out our hackpad.
Special thanks to 1776—especially Ashley Summers, Sherouk Omara, and Garret Johnson—for donating space and helping coordinate the event; Rebecca Williams and Gray Brooks for helping to organize and run the event; and our Code for DC brigade captains Justin Grimes and Matt Bailey for helping with planning.
You don’t need to be a developer to attend hackathons and Code for DC. Developers of course build the foundation of these projects, but anyone who loves the web and learning new tech is welcome. We are building databases, websites, and apps, so we need everyone who typically contributes to these projects: project managers, UX and data visualization experts, digital strategists, comms folks, etc.
by leah on August 14, 2013
It’s been almost exactly a year since I finished grad school and almost as long since I last posted on this blog. Eek. After a few months of recovery, I decided I wasn’t learning nearly enough tech on my own or at work (I manage a small fed gov’s website, social media, digital strategy, etc.). I started attending some of DC’s tech meetups, which I really love. I’ve learned a lot and met a lot of very cool people. And, I started applying some of that at work and was named open gov lead at my agency.
Some of those tech meetups:
More about Code for DC
Join us!! You are welcome. As Ben Balter blogged about recently, open source/civic coding projects need all kinds of skill sets, not just developers. At Code for DC, we’d really love to have some graphic designers, branding experts (we are not great at naming our projects, etc.), and project manager types. And you get to learn tech and improve DC.
Recently, I’ve been working on an ANC project over at ancbrigade.com. Right now, you can learn more about DC’s most local form of government and find your ANC commissioner and single member district. Our goal is to help DC residents learn more about the decisions that their ANC is making for their neighborhoods and simplify getting involved. Our next step is to start ingesting and tagging meeting info and minutes.
I have also been working on DC Community Resource Data, which is organizing/cataloging/tagging DC’s social services and social welfare organizations. The goal of the project is to build a sustainable and well tagged data layer that we can use to build search tools and apps that help improve access to the services.
A few other things
A few other groups/list serves/sites that I’ve been enjoying lately are: Github, Tumblr, Pinterest, the Sunlight Labs open gov list serve, US Government APIs list serve, Code Academy, remote Mexican beach Vines, and Preamp.fm.
by leah on October 5, 2012
I recently gave my mother, who is working to build her own web design company (woo!), some quick social media advice. She creates websites and Facebook pages for clients, but doesn’t manage online communications and engagement (yet).
She asked me, “What should I tell someone, like a realtor, if they are curious about ‘getting into’ social media?” What are some quick and easy pieces of advice? It’s so basic that it felt like a good exercise to me. Some thoughts:
- Don’t expect social media to be an “if we build it, they will come” opportunity. It’s really just a way to reach more people, as long as you put the same amount of work into it that you would put into developing in-person connections. You’re still trying to connect with people, not robots – social media just extends your reach.
- Consider what you’re looking for when you want to hire someone. You would probably start searching for basic information and references. So start simple, and build a presence on a page where your past clients can provide reviews, like Facebook and Yelp.
- On a related note: you need to be ready for your client’s opinion of your service to be (seen as) the truth. Are you comfortable with that?
- After that, if you want to do more and can commit more time, focus on showcasing your success and expertise. If you’re a realtor, share advice about home ownership/improvement and selling. Post pictures of successful sales.
Any other ideas to share? Post a comment…
by leah on June 13, 2012
As a communications consultant who focuses on web engagement (and loves to play with every shiny new web tool that comes along), I have found that creating aha! moments for colleagues is incredibly valuable. This often happens when I connect my new web tool or strategy to something funny that people have seen or experienced in their life.
I am aware that I have not said anything groundbreaking here, but I’d like to start recording/sharing more of these. My final class at Hopkins is Digital Political Strategy with Alan Rosenblatt, and he has a lot of great aha! moments to share, so here is a great one in a presentation he gave that I’m watching tonight (watch it here on C-SPAN: Here Comes Social Advocacy):
Now, I’ve heard a lot of people say that, ‘oh, Twitter is just… silly. It’s a bunch of people talking about what they had for breakfast, you can’t say anything meaningful in 140 characters. It’s just ridiculous.’ Well… how many people have ever heard of a haiku? Ok, now I have gone through several books of haikus. And I have counted, counted characters and spaces. And, I have yet to find a haiku that has more than 80 characters. And I get 140 of them in a tweet! Now, you can describe the universe in a haiku, so don’t tell me you can’t say something meaningful in 140 characters.