Come out to our opening reception in the new First Round Capital offices to brainstorm ideas, and then show up at 9am on Saturday, Dec. 1. Pick one of the dozens of available social impact problem definitions - or come up with your own - and see what you can make by Sunday afternoon. The best projects will be featured across the globe.
RHoK works by bringing together experts in development and volunteers with a broad set of skills in software development and design. The goal is to produce practical open source solutions to development problems.
The interface between domain experts and technical experts is the unique realm of Random Hacks of Kindness – bringing both sides of the conversation to the table. As RHoK has happened live around us, it has been fascinating to see what these events have in common and what uniquely characterized the local challenges.
Six project areas emerged in RHoK Philadelphia this weekend:
1. A platform to verify local ground weather data in Bolivia with NASA satellite data
2. A program to provide nearby sources of healthy food for low-income citizens in Philadelphia via SMS along with a ‘healthy living tip’ (PhillySNAP)
3. A usable, searchable interface to details of Philadelphia City Council legislation
4. A response to the Tor relay challenge (www.eff.org/torchallenge)
5. A site to match non-profit organizations to citizens looking to help or donate (Splash)
6. A search engine for data on local community hazards in Philadelphia
The diversity of these project topics was pleasantly surprising: climate change, food sources, government transparency, web anonymity, non-profit visibility, and environmental hazard awareness. It was also exciting to see projects that scoured everything from local Philadelphia zip codes to the huge amount of climatological data that NASA archives on a daily basis.
We are excited to see this commitment to local relevance happening in RHoK. The tech community here in Philadelphia is particularly civic-minded, which lines up with RHoK’s mission to make a serious social impact through technology.
"I think it's interesting that it seems RHOK Philly had a much more local bent than most of the other locations. Philadelphia has this really vibrant, growing civic-oriented technology community. We find that the developers and designers who are here are here because they want to be, so there's a great interest in making it a better place to live. The Philly tech scene has a big focus on making Philly a better place, but the inspiration, motivation and mission of RHOK is still there," noted Christopher Wink, co-founder of Technically Philly, a site covering technology, startups, and venture capital in Philadelphia.
The partnership of Technically Philly (http://technicallyphilly.com/) and Drexel University brought developers and subject matter experts particularly aware of local needs and issues, as well as a number of entrepreneurs and ”idea-types” - while RHoK partners NASA and World Bank brought global data and concerns. The projects were created at the intersection of these values – and the tools developed should be transferable far beyond Philadelphia.
RHoK brings people together around one key premise: to 'help humanity' through the use of knowledge and application of technology. The World Bank is positioned to understand the issues in the developing world and to bring that data and experience to share at RHoK, and their mandate to promote trade and investment in the developing world includes knowledge and technology. On behalf of the RHoK partners, they particularly appreciate the contributions of the global volunteer community to understand and effectively address complex local and global issues.
NASA has also long been aware of this vital global-local connection. Projects like NASA @ Home and City track the effects of space exploration into your daily life (http://www.nasa.gov/externalflash/nasacity/index2.htm). Many of these RHoK projects will start in daily life… and potentially could end up connected to exploration, or poverty, or open government. These tools reflect the shift in how we live, how our networked society works, and how citizens can engage the world around them to make it better.
We just went around and recapped all the current problem definitions and solutions at RHoK Philadelphia. Getting everyone in the same place for twenty minutes to take a break from coding and share projects with each other was very interesting and helpful. There are six major problems being worked on in Philly and here are three of them:
The Tor Relay Challenge (Anonymity & Circumvention)
The EFF currently has a list of Tor relays that users have submitted (in random order). Our goal is to re-imagine the list into a more useful form:- Show the status of the relays (whether it is up, down, stable)- Filterable display- Bandwidth (and latency?) that relays can handle.
The Tor Project is an anonymity and circumvention tool that allows people to communicate safely and anonymously. This is vital to those who coordinate relief efforts in human rights disaster areas, especially under hostile regimes where those relief organizations may be unwelcome or under attack. This tool allows volunteers for the Tor network to better track the status of relays in the network to help the system run smoothly and effectively.
Philadelphia City Council Legislative Data (Local Open Data Initiative)
Data coming from City Council (minutes, bill proposals, etc.) are distributed as a bunch of PDFs, hindering citizen access and analysis. This has potentially disastrous effects on the population of Philadelphia. What if you want to find out what legislators have supported climate change initiatives in council meetings? What about the content of disaster relief related bills in Philadelphia? By providing citizens better access to this information we can improve the transparency and quality of local government which improves the lives of citizens.
All-Hazard Search (Local Open Data Initiative)
Citizens typically are unaware of all the hazards where they live, work or play. They need a simple online search to get a map of all the hazards at a certain location as well as a written description of each. Emergency Management can then provide information on how the citizen can mitigate those hazards and reduce their risk.
The All-Hazard Search presents this information, which is normally available on many different sources that are often hard to find, in one convenient place. Individuals can put in an address and find out the hazards that are present in their area.
Technically Philly, a news site catering to Philadelphia's technical community, thinks about a few potential problems that Random Hacks of Kindness hackers in Philadelphia might address this weekend. Read more here, and encourage the organizations you know to submit disaster risk management and climate change problem definitions for RHoK #3.
In addition to explaining the basis for RHoK, Chris announces the RHoK Philadelphia reception event which will be held at WHYY, our region's local NPR station and home of Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Join us at the reception at 150 N. 6th Street at Race at 6pm on Friday, June 3rd. There will be beer, wine and light refreshments. And it's free, of course.