June 4 – the Nashville Day of Civic Hacking
Written by: Alex Curtis | Posted Jun 3, 2016

The Nashville Day of Civic Hacking is on June 4, 2016 at the Nashville Software School. We asked Hack Day organizer Nicholas Lorenson of Code for Nashville to tell us more about the event.

Q: What is the National Day of Civic Hacking?

The National Day of Civic Hacking is an event “template” created by Code for America, a non profit that operates nation wide to promote and organize civic minded, volunteer based software and tech work. 

Q: How does that tie back to Nashville’s Day of Civic Hacking?

The Nashville Day of Civic Hacking is our local instance of the National template.

We, Code for Nashville, are the local Code for America brigade. We operate under the umbrella of the CfA branding and try to adhere to their guiding principles.

As Code for Nashville, we’re organizing the event to bring disparate groups of people from various professions, communities, and interests together with the common goal of working to improve the Nashville city government’s ability to serve its citizens. That’s the idea, anyway. It’s a short event and software takes time.  

With that in mind, the event is positioned to connect people with different experiences and skills in that context. By bringing people together and starting conversations and projects, we hope to foment the alchemy of innovation and empower people with a new perspective on what small groups of motivated people can do the affect change.

Q: Who makes up Code for Nashville?

All kinds of folks, largely drawn from the developer community here in Nashville. We’ve also got project managers, data scientists, PHD students, education professionals, UX/UI designers, content creators, etc. Our membership comes from all walks of life, from students and novice coders to veterans in their respective industries. Increasingly we’re diversifying along racial and gender lines, too, and are working to spur similar growth in the wider developer community.

Q: This year’s program is hosted at the new home of the Nashville Software School — what role will new programmers / developers play on Saturday?

That’s a great question. The short answer is “whatever role they feel most comfortable in”. 

We’re crafting an event that’s friendly to people of all skill levels, and are working to ensure that nobody feels disconnected or left out. For new people, attending NDoCH will be an opportunity to mix it up with working professionals, to get good experience “building something real” beyond what you typically find in tutorials or structured learning exercises.  I know that being able to work with people far more experienced that I am has been a huge benefit to my craft and confidence. In large part, NDoCH is about providing that opportunity to our attendees.

Q: What data sets are publicly available in Nashville for people to hack on?

The Nashville Open Data portal is a big one. We’ll also be working with data from the Codes Department, from the federally maintained Recreation.Gov API. 

The Nashville Open Data portal is of particular note, as there are tons of different data sets on it, and the list grows all the time.  We want to expose as many fresh pairs of eyes to the portal as we can. The hackathon is, of course, geared to produce prototypes and products that day (hopefully!), but we also want to see conversations start about our project proposals that evolve beyond the context of the hackathon and become full fledged projects on their own. 

Q: What are some examples of problems developers have addressed at NDoCH? What challenges will people be tackling this year?

Two examples of our past work come to mind. One is the ESL Map, which provides an easy to reference directory of ESL (English as a second language) classes available in Nashville. It’s built on Google Maps, so a user can zero in on their neighborhood to find classes nearby.

The other is Inclucivics, a reporting tool that surfaces demographic information about the various departments of Nashville’s government in an easy to consume and configure format.  It breaks down racial demographics by income and shows their change over time, and it allows users to build straightforward custom reports based on their choice of department and either the race or gender demographic.


Thanks Nicholas for taking the time. Please check out the Nashville Day of Civic Hacking June 4!