2016 was a year of transitions. It was a year of establishing new patterns, new rhythms.
The year opened with a change in leadership team, prefigured by the launch of the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center in October 2015. Brigade Captain Bob Gradeck stepped down, and Connor Sites-Bowen & Christian Gass stepped in and took the role.
The organization changed names in August, from OpenPittsburgh to Code for Pittsburgh, due to a name-space collision with a once-defunct prior organization.
November provided a huge shift in context, from a cooperative and future-focused federal government to … an open question. The national organization has been quite vocal in its calls for a renewed and redoubled local effort, as the brigades work with local and state governments, those who provided the most direct government services.
2016 saw the rise and fall of a number of projects, some more formalized than others. This is not a complete list, rather some highlights:
- Mark Howe’s Police Blotter was the greatest success of the year. After 18+ months of careful stewardship, the public presence of the Blotter (and other factors) led to the Police Department working with the WPRDC and releasing crime data directly. The blotter was retired in November 2016.
- Co-Captain Christian Gass re-started MaptimePGH, a quarterly meeting devoted to introducing folks to digital mapping.
- Bicycle crash data was an ongoing theme, and multiple events coalesced around the release of five years of Crash Data from the county. Ultimately, Bike Pittsburgh released a thorough report (pdf link) on the trends found in the data, and CMU’s Metro21 has launched a series of transport-themed events, including Transportation Camp in November 2016.
- The Fish Fry Map was a project which Storyteller Hollen Barmer had already been working on for two years prior. Code for Pittsburgh members were able to give the project a big technical boost, moving it from Google Maps to a Mapbox-driven map with toggles for Lunch, Alcohol, Pirogies, and other metrics. The project will continue for the 2017 lenten season.
Meetings & Events
After a rocky start in January, regular monthly meetings continued through the year, except for a November hiatus as the brigade captains spent the early part of that month attending the Code for America Summit.
There were also monthly outposts with Code and Supply, and a few one-off events.
Civic Hack Night Topics and Attendance
|February||Police Blotter, Fish Fry Map||13|
|March||Work Night (Public Herald)||10|
|April||Civic Hack Night (no Theme)||4 (low)|
|May||Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership Commuter Survey Data||12|
|June||Bicycle Crash Data Workshop and Hack Night||40+ (high)|
|July||Carnegie Library Summer Reading Data||15|
|August||Show and Tell Pizza Party||12|
|September||Civic Idea Speed Dating||8|
|December||Data + Activism||20|
Our lightest attendance was the unthemed hack night in April. Our heaviest attendance was at the Bicycle Crash Data Workshop + Hack Night, which was also the hack night for which we had the most partners and press.
Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon, March 5 2016 (CodeAcross)
This CodeAcross event was done in collaboration with Art+Feminism, the University of Pittsburgh Library System, the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, BOOM Concepts, and others.
The event saw 80 participants, 10 articles created, and 61 articles improved.
You can read a full report here (pdf link).
Endless thanks to Alexandra Oliver & Vicky Clark for hosting - Code for Pittsburgh (OpenPGH at the time) was able to provide logistical support and day-of staffing, but it was very much their event, and they did a fabulous job.
The leadership team will be contacting Alex & Vicky shortly to find out the status of a 2017 Edit-a-Thon.
Design + Open Data, August 30
This presentation was a collaboration with the local chapter of the AIGA, the professional organization for graphic and web designers. It was the first time the current leadership team had done an outreach presentation, and it generated significant interest.
It also sparked the September and October Civic Hack Night themes - the speed dating and the pitch night.
Code & Supply Outposts
Our friends at Code & Supply have graciously allowed up to host informal outposts at their Build Night events. These have been great outreach opportunities.
Leadership Team: "Also, a structured time to catch up on emails & tweets!!!" 😉
Expect this partnership to continue and deepen, especially as Code & Supply moves into their new space in Friendship/East Liberty.
Events Hosted by Others
There were many wonderful Civic Tech events this year, many of which were cross-posted on Code for Pittsburgh, attended by CfP members, or which had CfP leadership as presenters, table hosts, or otherwise affiliated.
- Data Day, hosted by the Carnegie Library Pittsburgh & UCSUR, October 22nd
- Data Drinks, hosted by Ellie Newman, with the county, November 17th.
Special mention to Carnegie Mellon’s Students for Urban Data Systems (SUDS), which hosted more than a dozen events and hack nights, all of which were open to the public.
How Has Membership Grown?
Code for Pittsburgh has a very open notion of membership. There are no dues, and no email list. The most “official” status a person can make is to join the Meetup group. That group grew almost double in 2016, from
277 members to
502. Here are the join rates, by month:
New Members, by Month.
|Month||New Members on Meetup|
|Total for 2016||
Twitter has seen steady engagement, especially during and after the Code for America Summit.
We seem to have graduated out of the Google Group - it hasn’t seen new emails in months. Most of that activity has moved to Twitter or Slack.
We launched Slack on November 20th, and have 35 slack members, 15 of whom are active (as of this writing).
1267 twitter followers right now. This is a significant increase from the under-1000 followers we had at the beginning of the year. This saw a jump in both follower-count and interaction after the Code for America Summit, where many twitter-friendships became real-life ones.
Hat Tips & Shoutouts
We had so many wonderful community partners this year! Here is a (non-exhaustive) list:
- Bike Pittsburgh, especially Scott and Eric, and CMU’s Traffic21, especially Courtney Ehrlichman, for the many-month collaboration on bicycle data mapping.
- The Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at CMU, especially Golan and Tom, for providing event space and event support for more Civic Tech events than we can name.
- Code & Supply, for their monthly Build Nights, and for blazing a trail of direct community engagement within the tech world. They are one of Code for Pittsburgh’s cooler older siblings, and are really making the city better every day.
- AIGA, especially Anastasia Lanz, for exposing a wider audience to Civic Data.
- As always, our four long-term community partners, the City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and the Western Pennsyvania Regional Data Center, for their ongoing and consistant support, and their tireless work to make more data more accessable to more citizens. It’s a great ecosystem to be in!
2017 is shaping up to be a year of action, the start of a longer journey.
We have a lot of exciting plans, from new events to new data, and new ways of serving the community. We hope you’ll join us on that journey.
Connor Sites-Bowen, Brigade Captain, and the rest of the leadership team at Code for Pittsburgh