Chi Hack Night: 2016 Year In Review
Published on Dec 31, 2016 by Derek Eder
Reading out the results from the Chi Hack Night Post-election community feedback session on Nov 15, 2016
It’s the end of 2016, and time to reflect on all the amazing things we accomplished this year at Chi Hack Night.
We hit several milestones this year, including our 200th event, high profile presentations, asserting influence on government policy, launching our own YouTube channel, and much more.
Our community continues to grow, mature and diversify. We continue to play a critical role as the nexus of Chicago’s civic and technology sectors - a role that will be all the more important in coming years.
But first, let’s start with some high level stats about Chi Hack Night in 2016:
- We hosted 49 events, including our special 200th Chi Hack Night. If it’s Tuesday, it’s hack night.
- We had 33 presentations from people and organizations across the government, non-profit and journalism sectors, as well as from our own community.
- We held our 200th event celebration with lightning talks and guest blog posts.
- We circulated 2 open data pledges and got signatures from 3 political candidates, including the new Cook County State’s Attorney, Kim Foxx.
- 3 of our projects had a direct influence on government policy.
- We wrote 27 blog posts from 15 authors advocating for issues & policies, recapping presentations & events, and diving into issues regarding volunteer civic hacking.
- We recorded 58 video presentations and launched our own YouTube channel.
- We heard 26 lightning talks from members of our community shared their own story or insight about civics, society and technology.
- We started 68 breakout groups for participants to build, share and learn about civic tech.
- We spent $44,673.57 on food, video production and miscellaneous expenses to run our events for 2016.
Presentations at Chi Hack Night in 2016
This year, we had 33 presentations ranging from government innovators like Chicago Chief Data Officer Tom Schenk, Code for America founder Jennifer Pahlka, to independent journalists like Brandon Smith, to activists like the Chicago Community Bond Fund, to members of our own community who use data and technology to make positive change in our society.
Here’s the Chi Hack Night presentations from 2016:
- #186 City Haul: Investigating Chicago’s Payroll
- #187 How the Laquan McDonald video got released
- #188 Introducing Open Grid
- #190 Lobbying Chicago City Council
- #191 Transforming Technology in the State of Illinois
- #192 Understanding the Chicago Public Schools Financial Crisis
- #194 Jen Pahlka, Code for America
- #195 BallotReady
- #196 Data used by political campaigns
- #198 Heartland Alliance
- #199 City Bureau
- #202 Center for Technology and Civic Life
- #203 Personalized Bicycle Routing
- #204 Citizens Police Data Project
- #206 Greater Good Studio
- #207 Lucy Parsons Labs
- #208 HourVoice: A Workplace Transparency Platform
- #210 Open Data in Gdańsk
- #211 Chi Flack Night: City Hall Politics and Media
- #213 Cook County’s New Website
- #215 Beyond the HealthCare.gov fix: making better government software
- #216 Settling for misconduct
- #218 Demand-Driven Open Data
- #219 Faisal Khan - Investigating corruption and championing oversight
- #221 Open election data in Myanmar
- #222 The U.S. Government Accountability Office
- #223 Chi Safe Path
- #224 My Building Doesn’t Recycle: Designing for Policy Change
- #225 Chicago Community Bond Fund: Hacking Cook County Jail
- #227 Mapping CPD’s Street Stops
- #228 Cook County Board of Review - Digital Appeals Processing
- #229 Investigating CPD’s Use of Civil Asset Forfeiture
- #232 The Chicago Nursing Home Report
- #233 Computer Science For All, A Love Story With Data
200th event celebration!
Derek Eder kicks off Chi Hack Night #200
April 12th, 2016 marked our 200th Chi Hack Night! To celebrate, we held our first ever Lightning talks session with presentations from 9 members of Chi Hack Night about what they’ve done at or learned from our group.
We invited folks to share their Chi Hack Night stories, projects, learnings and congratulations in written form and got 5 submissions.
We also commissioned 200 Chi Hack Night star cookies - each one numbered 1-200 for every event we’ve had. Here’s how they turned out:
200 Star Cookies: one for every Chi Hack Night
2 open data pledges
2016 being an election this year, we saw an opportunity to advocate for open data in more offices of our local government.
With competitive races for Cook County State’s Attorney and Clerk of the Circuit court, we reached out to all candidates with a pledge to, if elected, commit their office to publish open data. We were successful in getting 3 signatures: Donna More and Kim Foxx for State’s Attorney, and Jacob Meister for Clerk of the Circuit Court.
This was a huge success for us, as Kim Foxx, who signed our pledge, won the election for State’s Attorney, and looks to be following through on her promise in her plans to create a new position of Chief Data Officer for her office. We’ll be watching closely how it takes shape in 2017!
Candidates for Cook County State's Attorney: Anita Alvarez (D), Donna More (D), Kim Foxx (D) and Christopher E. K. Pfannkuche (R)
3 civic apps that influenced government policy
This was a banner year for high impact civic technology in Chicago. Three projects from our community had a direct influence over government policy in Chicago in 2016. We influenced new ordinances, worked with environmental advocacy groups and partnered directly with the City.
Claire Micklin testifies in Health Committee in support of a stronger Chicago Recycling Ordinance on July 15, 2016 (Photo by Ald Carlos Ramirez-Rosa)
My Building Doesn’t Recycle is a app that allows Chicago residents of high-density (5 or more residential units) apartment buildings to report that their building management is not providing recycling services. The goal of the app was to get the city to strengthen and enforce the existing recycling law, which it succeeded in doing.
After being picked up by the press and getting the attention of the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation, My Building Doesn’t Recycle influenced the drafting of a stronger recycling ordinance, which was passed by Chicago City Council and will go into effect January 2017.
Claire Micklin, the project lead, presented at Chi Hack Night after the ordinance was passed. Watch her talk, My Building Doesn’t Recycle: Designing for Policy Change.
Petcokealerts.org is a text message alert system to inform residents around KCBX Terminals in Chicago’s 10th Ward that windspeed is high, and that they are therefore at increased risk of exposure to petroleum coke (‘petcoke’).
June 9, 2016, Chicago City Council passed an ordinance mandating that the piles be removed or enclosed and although KCBX tried hard to fight it, in the end they complied. By the time the piles were removed, Petcokealerts.org had nearly 400 subscribers, and had alerted them to high winds on 96 days.
For more, read Ben Wilhelm’s blog post: Petcokealerts.org: Simple tools supporting big objectives.
A slide from Rebecca Jones’ lightning talk on Predicting E. Coli Exceedances on Chicago Beaches
Chicago has three-dozen beaches that, sometimes, have high E. Coli levels. When do we need to warn the 9 million annual visitors of potentially high E. Coli levels? In 2016, members of Chi Hack Night built an improved statistical model to predict the E. coli levels at Chicago’s beaches.
Built entirely by a team of volunteers from Chicago’s civic tech community, this predictive model was officially adopted by the City of Chicago in May 2016 to help the Park District know when they should issue warnings to swimmers of potentially high levels of bacteria.
For more, read Sean Thorton’s blog post: Taking Predictive Analytics to the Beach.
27 blog posts
We wrote 27 blog posts from 15 authors advocating for issues & policies, recapping presentations & events, and diving into issues regarding volunteer civic hacking.
Here’s the Chi Hack Night blog posts from 2016:
- Freedom of Information and Laquan McDonald by Steven Vance
- Adrienne Alexander tells Chi Hack Night what she does as a union lobbyist by Steven Vance
- Chi Hack Night’s Open Data Pledge for Cook County State’s Attorney by Derek Eder
- Chi Hack Night’s Open Data Pledge for Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court by Derek Eder
- So you built an app, now what? Guerilla marketing protips for civic tech apps by Joel Inwood , Vinesh Kannan
- Chi Hack Night #200: Call for speakers and writers by Derek Eder
- #200 Celebration: Congratulations from Cook County Government! by Simona Rollinson
- #200 Celebration: Why I Come to Chi Hack Night by Emily Drevets
- #200 Celebration: Becoming a Runner-Up in a Hackathon (without writing a single line of code) by Audrey Henderson
- #200 Celebration: Why I Attend Chicago Hack Night Events by Daniel Bassill
- #200 Celebration: A place to learn and grow civic tech leadership by Christopher Whitaker
- Tales from #200 by Derek Eder
- Mysterious Disappearances by Joel Inwood
- Chi Safe Path by Steve Luker
- Taking Predictive Analytics to the Beach by Sean Thornton
- Lightning Talks Return! by Derek Eder
- Help us pass Chicago’s new recycling ordinance! by Claire Micklin
- July 19 lightning talks: empathy, inclusion and progress by Derek Eder
- Some of you do not really love women by Kristi Leach
- Petcokealerts.org: Simple tools supporting big objectives by Ben Wilhelm
- High school students are joining Chi Hack Night to train in user experience & design by Eve Tulbert
- The U.S. Government Accountability Office at Chi Hack Night by Steven Vance
- Chi Hack Night at Transparency Camp 2016 by Derek Eder
- Post-election community feedback results by Derek Eder
- Lightning Talks 3: Call for Speakers by Derek Eder
- Recap: The Holiday Party Hacktacular Lightning Talks by Derek Eder
- THIS BLOG POST by Derek Eder
58 video presentations
Scrappers Film Group records at our Chi Hack Night Holiday Party Hacktacular! on Dec 13, 2016
With the help of our sponsors, we hired Scrappers Film Group to record and edit high quality videos for our presentations and lightning talks. Our goal in this is to both share and archive the talks and work done at Chi Hack Night for ourselves and others around the world.
We recorded and posted 31 presentations, 26 lightning talks and one promotional video to our new YouTube channel. Since launching, we have logged over 7,700 views and 38,000 minutes of watch time. That’s a lot of civic tech!
26 lightning talks
Chi Hack Night Lightning Talks! Cathy Deng, Eric van Zanten, Rene Paccha, Claire Micklin, Vinesh Kannan and Ben Galewsky.
This year, we introduced a new presentation format: Lightning talks. This proved to be a really great way to hear from a variety of perspectives from our community in a short amount of time (each presenter got 2 minutes, though this was not strictly enforced).
It worked out so well, in fact, that we did it three times for a total of 26 talks. You can watch each batch here, or view all 26 on our YouTube playlist.
- Lightning talks I: 200th Event Celebration!
- Lightning talks II: Lightning Talks! Part Deux
- Lightning talks III: Holiday Party Hacktacular!
68 breakout groups using GitHub issues
Breakout groups are how we organize the civic hacking part of our events. The organization and management of these groups has evolved over time, but the premise has remained the same: anyone is free to start a breakout group and every group is self-organized.
To streamline the creation and expiration of these groups, Chi Hack Night member Ethan Hepner led a series of experiments using GitHub issues to keep track of them.
By making it easy to open up a group as a new ‘issue’ or flag it as ‘closed’ when it ends, the number of listed breakout groups has exploded: 68 new groups have been created since we started using it.
This also had the additional benefit of acting as a ‘gateway drug’ for non-developers to start using GitHub, as it is already used heavily by programmers and project managers at Chi Hack Night.
Chi Hack Night breakout groups page
We spent $44,673.57 on civic tech in 2016
As open gov and transparency advocates, it’s important that we hold ourselves to the same standards we expect of our government institutions. It is with that in mind that we have decided to publish our full budget for 2016, including itemized sponsor income and event expenses.
The final budget numbers for Chi Hack Night 2016 are in:
We ended with a net difference of $4,372.92, which we will apply towards our events in 2017.
Here’s to 2017!
We have some great things planned for 2017, many of them driven by feedback we’ve gotten directly from our community.
To all of our sponsors: Braintree, Microsoft, DataMade, Dev Bootcamp, Google, UChicago CAPP, Twilio, Metis, Carto and Mozilla Hive Chicago, thank you for supporting us.
To everyone, thank you for being a part of our community.
See you at our next Chi Hack Night: Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017!
PS: If your organization is interested in supporting Chi Hack Night, take a look at our 2017 Sponsorship Overview. Join our civic tech party!
About the author
Derek is an entrepreneur, developer and one of the leaders of the civic technology community in Chicago. He is a co-founder and partner at DataMade — a company that tells stories and builds tools with data — and is the lead organizer for Chi Hack Night.