May 052013


As some of you know, I’ve been working the past two months to bring a Hack for Change event to the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  There have been moments of triumph, such as when Pepsi and Frito Lay kindly agreed to donate snacks, and there have been periods of epic frustration.  Following is a letter I reluctantly just sent to those who had been helping me with this:

Greetings Data Liberators,

After struggling to get widespread DFW buy-in for the Data Libre DFW Hackathon 2013, I have had to accept that it isn’t going to happen this year, at least not for the Hack for Change time period of June 1 to 2.  We don’t yet have the awareness and interest in DFW at large for civic coding events.  More on that in a bit.

After discussing this with Karen Siddall of Irving Public Works, I decided to scale down to a brainstorming workshop specific to the City of Irving.  To their credit, Irving is the only city out of several directly contacted that stepped up with solid interest in this sort of activity.  Fort Worth is also interested but not quite ready (they may audit the Irving workshop to get a better understanding of what this entails, for a later event).  Expected total participant limit has been reduced to about 30.

On one hand I am highly disappointed.  Other cities, including Austin and Houston, are fully onboard for the June event.  DFW is just a bit behind the curve on this sort of civic engagement.  I encountered a lack of understanding that cities generally take the lead on these events, and most don’t really need the activities explained at this point.  We have an educational challenge (opportunity) in front of us: get DFW informed and engaged for the 2014 event.  If Dallas and/or Fort Worth get behind it, other municipalities will follow suit.

To that end, I have established a Data Libre Meetup Everywhere group.  The idea is to hold meetups over the next several months geared specifically toward whipping up local enthusiasm for this movement.  I will conduct as many meetups in as many locales as I can, focusing for now on Irving since they are stepping up.  But I will need help; feel free to create a meetup listing for your area and join me in cultivating interest!  And spread the word!

Of course, kudos to Irving for taking the lead here.  I was thrilled that Karen called me back after my query.  It’s just unfortunate that several other cities blew it off.  However, we will make the most of the opportunity we have, and hopefully other cities will realize they missed out on something cool.

I have updated event listings and will refine the scope further soon.  Input welcome.

Note: we are still looking for a venue in Irving.

Thanks all!

While I’m still disappointed with the outcome of my efforts, I remain optimistic that sooner or later the Dallas-Fort Worth coding and enthusiast communities can make a large-scale civic coding event happen here.  It will take a broad coalition of people from all backgrounds, with the common interest of improving city services, public access, and lifestyle opportunities.

Let’s do it.

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