Hacking for Good

On the weekend of December 4th/5th, we saw a remarkable global movement of people come together in their communities to contribute their skills and precious free time to making the world a better place. In remarkable contrast to the controversy surrounding the WikiLeaks phenomenon, there was no controversy about what these developers, designers and storytellers were up to.

Random Hacks of Kindness and the International Open Data hackathons came together in Toronto, bringing together two global movements in one face-to-face gathering of community. There was great work by Heather Leson and the rest of the organizers of RHOKTO for creating this opportunity. Please check out the RHOK site for updates on the many projects created by this global event across 20 cities focused on helping communities mitigate and recover from the impacts of natural disasters.

I wanted to highlight a few Toronto-based projects that came out of the open data aspect of this event in Toronto. Please check out David Eaves post for a run-down of the immense success of the overall International Open Data Hackathon across 73 cities around the world. Have a look at the Toronto Open Data hackathon wiki page for a full run-down of all the project ideas.


Hackathon Winner: IsThisBikeStolen

A great app idea given life originally by John Taranu on the DataTO Google Group. This app accesses the CPIC database for stolen goods to help used bike purchasers to check whether a bike they’re looking at has been reported as stolen. By reducing the demand for stolen used bikes and improving the likelihood of recovery, this is an app that’s built to create real impact in the community.

Where Not to Rent

Find landlord baddies and bedbugs with this web app, also featuring a mobile-friendly version. Informed renters are able to make better decisions and hopefully help make deadbeat landlords more accountable.

City Budget Navigator

Still a work in progress, but I helped kick off this audacious team to do three things: 1) to liberate the city’s budget data out of its PDF report prison, 2) implement a web-service API to this data to support developers who want to provide visualization and analysis applications and 3) demonstrate some example visualizations. The power of these tools will be to enable a more informed electorate to improve understanding and community dialogue around this cornerstone of city policy and life. Many thanks to our London compatriots who inspired us with their own budget API project, which provided a great starting point.

Special thanks to sponsorship and participation of the City of Toronto CIO Dave Wallace and the City’s open data team. Also, a big thank you to GlobalNews.ca for sponsorship and for helping explain the hackathon phenomenon to a wider audience.

RHoK & the Open Data Initiative

via youtube.com Thanks for shooting this @benlucier and thanks to @heatherloney of @Globaltvnews for good questions!

Thanks for shooting this @benlucier and thanks to @heatherloney of @Globaltvnews for good questions!