CityCampSF Open Gov Hackathon a Success!

granicus-open-d-govGranicus was proud to sponsor this weekend’s CityCampSF Hackathon. Over 20 developers, designers, and volunteers showed up, discussed, and even hacked open government data to serve the public and to help ensure ethical and responsible governance particularly related to campaign finances, environmental protection, and the overall legislative process.

The passion for open data and open government was palpable at this event. One developer, Ryan Wold, who works at Granicus and is a regular participant at CityCampSF regular hack sessions, said it best “we need to do three things: we need to promote open access, enforce standard formats, and then develop meaningful apps.” Our weekend hackathon covered all three of these critical areas—we investigated open data, discovered useful ways to use it, and put our skills to work. For this reason, it was extremely successful.

whiteboard-data-granicusWe were able to dive deep into the SF Ethics Commission database and make a formal request for a complete raw data set of the entire lobbyist database. Our developers spent a lot of time trying to organize their data since it was published in a format that wasn’t machine readable. Because of this, real work could not get done. However, we had a lot of great ideas on ways we can use these data sets to track lobbying and political donations to help protect against the influence of money and politics. This initiative was driven by Larry Bush, editor of the CitiReport. Bush is a big time ethics advocate and is passionate about making sure government data is open to the public.

The team also built a prototype of an app that enables citizens to receive real-time alerts when a topic they are interested in is up for discussion or vote at a public meeting using Granicus and Tropo APIs. Because Granicus’ solutions manage and track the policy-making process, our API provides raw data on upcoming meetings, agenda items, and legislative actions. Delivering these alerts in real-time to subscribers phones could encourage broader awareness and involvement in the policy-making process. The real power here is relevancy–if you are interested in tracking local local liquor licenses or development projects in your neighborhood, you can do this easily.


Another exciting outcome of the event was the creation of an interactive map to monitor logging and clearcutting throughout California. Javier Muniz, CTO of Granicus was the lead developer on this initiative. He used Timber Harvest Plans public land survey data to create a map visualization of where harvests are taking place. The next step is to turn this into a heat map based on the concentration of projects in specific areas and potentially to even map impacts on surrounding wildlife. This app was developed in support of Forests Forever’s mission to protect California’s wildlife and forests.

The open data movement is starting to pick-up momentum across the country; we’re hoping more states propose legislation to mandate open standards for government data. Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) is supporting this initiative by drafting legislation that requires government data be published in an open format to ensure developers can retrieve what they need to create innovative, useful apps for citizens.

All in all, we hope to support more of these events in the future to continue making progress on these apps and creating awareness around the power of government disclosing data that’s machine readable. Granicus also continues to be committed to managing data in open formats and publishing it in a user-friendly way to promote broader engagement and involvement from the community.

Next Steps

  • For more information about the results of this event check out Adriel Hampton’s recap: CityCampSF Outcomes.
  • Support the Open Data Campaign in San Francisco and California by clicking here or by texting OPENDATA to +14152374299.

View the CityCampSF Hackathon image gallery below.




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