It’s 9:15 on Friday night, and there are about 100 people milling around the GAAFTA headquarters. Wandering around, you hear one group talking about using current and historical MUNI data to, in the words of GAFFTA’s co-founder and Chairman Peter Hirshberg, “make the bus chase you, rather than you chase the bus.”
Another group is creating an app that works with the Mayor’s office of Housing and Redevelopment to show available apartments and co-working spaces in realtime. A third group wants to crowdsource available sustainability data to compare buildings in the city.
GAFFTA’s second Summer of Smart hackathon is off and running, and it’s bringing together architects, building engineers, journalists, Android developers – pretty much anyone you can imagine who might be interested in making their city a better, more responsive and more innovative place to live.
The first SoS, held the weekend of June 24th, focused on community development and public art. Of the seven projects that hackers put together over the roughly 24-hour hackathon, about half are still being worked on a month later, a much higher percentage than most hackathons have, says GAFFTA research director Jake Levitas.
What makes SoS different? It’s by design, says Hirshberg. “We picked areas that matter to the city,” he said, “Where you would naturally get geeks and activists who cared so they would stick around and become part of the dialogue. Some hackathons are more commercial, sometimes you’ll have one that’s around social media data and everyone shows up to show off the API from their startup. But this one is pulling people from the community, and so you get this really interesting group of people who really care about this type of data who have more of a diverse background, and are interested in producing results at urban scale.”
The final SoS hackathon, focusing on public health, food and nutrition, will be held the weekend of August 19th. The best projects from the three weekends will be presented to city officials and mayoral candidates at the Commonwealth Club on October 6th.