2017 Annual Governance Meeting

Code for Pittsburgh - Annual Governance Meeting - Minutes

January 7, 1017


8 in attendance:

  • Connor Sites-Bowen, presiding
  • Dale Sheldon-Hess
  • Coral Sheldon-Hess
  • Eleanor Tutt
  • Toby Greenwalt
  • Christian Gass
  • Matthew Lavin
  • Hollen Barmer

2016 Recap

Connor has written a year-in-review blog post, summed up here:

  • Held events every month except January (cold) and November (c4a conference).
  • Best-attended event was Bicycle Crash Data Workshop/Hack Night
    • Most-specific topic
    • Most partnering community organizations
  • Least-attended event was April’s non-themed Hack Night
  • Special Events:
    • Wikipedia Edit-a-thon
      • 10 new articles
      • 46 edited articles
    • Design + Open Data presentation to AIGI
    • Data Drinks (happy hour)
  • Police Blotter project was a huge win and is now complete
  • Membership and Communication Channels:
    • Meetup membership has almost doubled, from 225 to 502
    • Twitter follows are now >1,000
    • Recently added a Slack channel
  • Changed name from Open Pittsburgh to Code For Pittsburgh
  • CfA Summit:
    • National organization is no longer officially supporting local brigades
    • Will advise local brigades at they each try their own thing
    • So what do we do now?
    • Also, the national scene is popping off - there are a ton of amazing folks to learn from, who are trying their own experiments in their own contexts. Connecting to that network of cities is vital.

Vision for the Future


  • 4 or 5 years ago, CfA was providing money to local brigades
  • CfA is no longer giving out money - moving away from building network to other goals
    • Local brigades can continue to use branding if they use the CfA Code of Conduct
    • Brigades can pursue whatever organizational structure will work for them, such as
      • Consulting firms (LLCs)
      • Nonprofits (401c3s)
      • Loose, budget-free affiliations of individuals

So what do WE do now?

  • Proposal: We continue to exist
    • Passed by acclimation
  • Discussion about budget, goals (below)


  • Currently we have no formal budget
    • Carnegie Public Library has provided space for free
    • Connor has paid for some tech (domain names, Meetup, etc.) out of pocket
  • We could do things that cost money, but then we’d need money
    • Supporting projects with hosting/domains, etc.
    • Different food options (sponsorships by restaurants also possible)
    • Advertising, attending events that have fees
    • Possible income sources include grants, such as One Source grant for civic tech and data

So what sort of things do we want to do?

  • Do more of our most-successful events
    • Wikipedia Edit-a-thon
    • Partner with community groups; BikePgh went great; how about WalkPgh, others?
    • Tools to Speak to Power
      • Second session already has 34 signups
      • Can we build a website that teaches the same ideas?
      • That should be a project for this year

Connor Gets Ambitious:

  • This could be a good and big thing; it could be enough to support a full-time staff
  • Connor puts in ~10hr/wk, and could do 40
  • Connor has spoken with some foundation folks informally; if we build it, there is likely money available
  • Question: Connor, what would you do?
    • Plan events more than 1 month ahead
    • Plan more than 1 event per month; perhaps weekly instead of monthly
      • Panels, discussions, speakers (perhaps out-of-town)
    • Currently we often duplicate events that succeeded for other brigades; we could instead be the ones creating new, unique events
    • Publish more than tweets
    • Do the “homework” of implementing a first pass at the ideas that come up in meetings
    • Keep up with all the other tech orgs in town, “calendar awareness”
    • Writing grant applications
    • Documentation
  • There has been some success locally with “shared staffing” models; several orgs hire the same professional together, each gets them part-time
  • Having someone who can be the ground-game face of the org during business hours would be good
  • Doing consistent weekly events does take a lot of work
  • Is half-time, at least for a while, a possibility?
  • Tasks described cover many roles; could you hire someone else to do part of it while continuing your current job?

But Going Back to the Previous Questions, What Do We Want to Do?

  • Would like to do something “very Pittsburgh”
    • Like the Fish Fry or Pierogi maps
  • Take public stances
    • Without being “political”, that is, without supporting or opposing particular politicians or parties
  • Teach the skills from Tools to Speak to Power presentation, apply them and document the results
  • Identify an issue of disparity in the community, use skills and tools to help the under-served
    • What about water quality in Pittsburgh?
      • Lots of individual lead tests being done, but no one is really collating them
      • Someone on Reddit had the same idea, but not everyone is on Reddit
        • Does the person on Reddit know we exist?
      • Adopt-a-Thing (usually hydrants) is a fairly complete off-the-shelf project, a quick win * Adding to that, city reports weather emergencies; could make it auto-contact adopters after weather emergencies
  • If I miss a C4P meeting, how do I keep track of priorities and projects?
  • Add some continuity to projects, too. “This quarter, we’re focusing on …”

Organizational Roles for 2017

Required Positions:

  • Captain — Connor
  • Storyteller (Communications) — Hollen
  • Community Organizer (Recruiting) — Toby
  • Delivery Lead (Point of Contact for Projects) — Christian and Mark again; delegate more by-project

Optional Positions

Duties will be carried out by someone in a required position unless someone volunteers:

  • Training Organizer (Onboardiing) — Toby
  • Government Liaison
  • Developer Evangelist (Like delivery lead, but nice)
  • Event Organizer — Connor
  • Data Evangelist (Data Lorax)
  • Policy Evangelist
  • Website Manager - Christian & Hollen
  • Maptime - Christian Gass (w/ support from Melinda A, Eleanor Tutt, and others interested) - The Maptime org emphasizes a distributed, volunteer and step up approach. Maptime is a flag to rally around.

We discussed adding a Documentation Lead. Just as the Delivery Lead works at a high level on project delivery and also makes sure each individual project has a per-project Delivery Lead, a Documentation Lead would make sure each project has a per-project Documentation Lead and would work to make our documentation more consistent, with the goal that anything we release is repeatable. Having that as a role would also formalize our commitment to doing better documentation and being more transparent.

If the organization formalizes as a non-profit, should, or will, the Executive Director be separate from Captain?

  • Yes
    • After discussion, people feel Connor might be best as Executive Director, but should be Captain until we make this change
  • For an example of how this role-split works in practice, we discussed LITA (Library Information Technology Association) Executive Director Jenny Levine and her relationship to the board; the board sets the vision, priorities; Jenny helps wrangle volunteers and staff to make it all happen, does a great deal of between-meeting homework

Returning to Visions for the Future

More things we could do:

  • Making existing data sets available to be easily used in common art tools
  • Mapping all sorts of businesses to the policies or issues they have supported
    • Consider how this data can be used for ill
  • Building on that, how about a Data Ethics meetup?
    • What programs will you not write? Make a list now.
    • See neveragain.tech
  • We should focus on fewer projects, better documented ** We will require a Documentation Lead for projects (along with a Delivery Lead and a project plan)

  • Clean up our GitHub
    • Make it clear where items such as meeting minutes should go (in the blog)
    • A GitHub wiki is just a specially-formatted repository
    • The start of a project is messy; it’s okay to start with a private repo

Code of Conduct Review

  • The CoC is in GitHub, but it needs to be on the website
  • Needs to have contact information for group that handles potential CoC violations
  • There is a Slack contact, but that username is for the CfA Slack and needs to be removed
  • So, CoC Group
    • Members: Connor, Coral, Eleanor, Hollen, Matt - open to more volunters!
    • Group should all be reachable via a single email (safespace@…)
  • Each event should start with a mention/summary of CoC and how to identify the duty officers present for that event. Printed copies of the CoC should be made available at each physical event
  • Need some way to identify those responsible for handling potential violations a the event; a special lanyard? A button?

Next Hack Night

Thursday - Civic Hack Night - Data + Activism Redux!

February Hack Night

Fish Fry Map Data Entry-a-Thon and Pierogi Potluck

  • As close to Ash Wednesday as possible