Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Virtual Hackjam: Emergency Hack Lab

It's almost a year. A whole year - since the day that my life changed when Hurricane Sandy came and hit my hometown of Rockaway Beach, New York. I'm pretty emotional about it, but as I always say - the best form of revenge is iteration.

Last year, when the hurricane hit, I scrambled with local hackers and friends to pull together emergency web resources. It wasn't an easy task because we had amazing constraints: no power or wifi in the Rockaways, limited ability to travel to and from the area, and little news presence (among many other things).Things that we did: created paper prototypes for forms and interactions between locals in need and volunteers, and then we made digital tools to solve the problem. We even had a hackjam a few months ago in conjunction with the National Day of Civic Hacking to start thinking about this. We made it through, and eventually emergency response turned into rebuilding and life started to kinda feel like a new normal.

Then something happened - in Oklahoma. Tornadoes.  In a funny twist of fate, I got contacted by Luke Crouch who works at Mozilla with me (although I didn't actually know him until this moment). Luke reached out to me because he was basically doing the same stuff that we were doing in Rockaway several months before him and wanted advice. Then, I was contacted about another Mozillian - Stormy Peters - from Colorado, where there were massive floods. She also wanted advice and us Rockawayites knew all about flooding so we were able to give her more info than she ever would have wanted. I'm sure that you are seeing the theme here: emergency + hackers = emergency hack lab.

This Thursday - Saturday I am going to be hosting a virtual hackjam in conjunction with the Mozilla Festival. At the Festival I am going to be running what's called a scrumboard session on designing an Emergency Hack Lab. This means that I am giving a 10 minute talk on civic hacking and I will announce the goal to create an Emergency HackLab kit for people to pick up and use when an emergency strikes in their community. Then asynchronously we have a list of subtasks that people can complete to accomplish the overall goal.

You can check out the scrum tasks here. Feel free to add to the board and/or pick up a sub-task.

Right now we will be having virtual contributions from Rockaway to Oklahoma to Nairobi - it would be really great to get some local civic hacking action going on in your community. Join us, this is going to be a global hacking party!