Code for San Jose Celebrates Open Data Day with Mayor Sam Liccardo

Mar 17, 2016 • Radhika Nair


Code for San Jose recently held an Open Data Jam, to coincide with the International Open Data Day on March 5, 2016 and CodeAcross events taking place throughout the Code for America network.

The Open Data Jam brought together 40 data enthusiasts, civic hackers, government staff, and a Mayor; all united in their desire to improve San Jose through technology. The Tech Museum of Innovation hosted the event while Microsoft provided food, beverages, and support.

The goal of CodeAcross is to activate the Code for America network and inspire residents everywhere to get actively involved in their community. Kalen Gallagher and Michelle Thong, co-captains of Code for San Jose, kicked off the event and then let people loose to jam away on various open data challenges.

Mayor Sam Liccardo’s guest appearance was the highlight of the afternoon. The Mayor described his goal of making San Jose’s government as innovative as San Jose’s population, attentively listened to descriptions of our projects, and provided thoughtful feedback based on the priorities and problems that his administration is tackling. With his suggestions and support, the Mayor’s participation exemplified the kind of collaboration we’d love to see more of between Code for San Jose and our municipal partners.

The City of San Jose staff, Kevin Miller, Erica Garaffo, Arti Tangri and Shireen Santosham were also present at the venue, encouraging the data jammers and asking Code for San Jose members to provide feedback on citizen engagement and city initiatives.

Here are some of the projects the teams worked on:

Visualize San Jose Building Permit Data: This is an ongoing project that started at a civic hack night at City Hall last fall. At the Open Data Jam, Clarence Leung and Jennifer Prufer continued to analyze San Jose’s permit data (which dates back to 1900!). The team reached a major milestone finishing up most of the data cleaning, adding latitude and longitude coordinates, joining it with some of the inspection documents data that the city had, and converting it all to JSON. Work is still in progress at BuildingPermitPlus.

Dashboards: This is a new project aimed at creating simple and engaging dashboards that make open data more accessible and easier to interpret, for both citizens and government. It’s inspired by the “How’s Business” dashboard app by civic hackers in Chicago. Betsy Megas identified this as a useful and relevant project for San Jose, and developer Laurie Reynolds was inspired to adopt the Chicago codebase to create the start of a collection of dashboards using San Jose data.

Affordable Housing: Many participants were very interested in the pressing issue of housing affordability in the Silicon Valley. They are hoping to develop an interactive map using the affordable housing data sets published on the San Jose Open Data portal.

Tool for Residential Garbage Pick-Up: Based on the Hauler Data published on the San Jose Open Data Portal, the team under Vivek Bansal is trying to create a more user friendly lookup tool than the one currently on the City of San Jose Website. The app would answer such questions as: “When do I need to put my garbage out?” and “Who do I need to talk to when my trash can is broken?” Work continues at Trash Pick Up Portal.

Beta Testing the Open Data Portal: The challenge was to provide a summary of user experience of the recently launched Open Data Portal. The task included but not limited to analyzing a dataset of interest by using a tool of participants’ choice, such as statistical tools, spreadsheets, or own code. The spotlight of this hack was the spot prize announced by the event organizers. The participant who files the highest number of defects on the portal would win INOX tickets for two. Along with Vivek and Jennifer Prufer, I joined this group as usability was something closer to heart. Finally I ended up being the lucky one to grab the IMAX tickets !

The hackers and attendees shared their experiment and experience with the world by posting pictures of themselves on various social media by using the hashtags #CodeAcross and #opendatajam.

Here goes the exclusive highlights of the event from the Twitter feed: