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Civic hacking


In today's episode. We're talking with our special guests Sarah to talk with us about civic hacking gene. Sarah can you give a brief introduction of who you are what you do. And what your favorite happier beverages. Yeah so I'm Sarah You I'm a UI engineer. At linked in I work on the economic graph team. And I also work for like a civic hacking project which we'll talk about here and my favorite beverage is gin and tonic because tend to get flushed when I drink. And it's like the safest thing for me to drink the clear booze. Yes all right. Well let's also go around the table and given reduction of today's panelists Mars. You WanNa start it off sure. I'm Mars Julian. I'm a front end. Software engineer and thoughts are my own stacy. London I'm a senior Eh. An engineer at it lasts all thoughts of mine are Mars is actually. I'm Augusta soon. I'm a software engineer. Twitch yeah just have thoughts the young senior software engineer and Netflix. Nine Ryan Burgess. I'm soffer engineering manager at Net flicks. I don't know who owns my thoughts in in each episode of the Front End. Happy our podcast. We like to choose a keyword that if it's mentioned at all in the podcast all take a drink. What did we decide? Today's keyword is volunteering being volunteering. So we say the word volunteer volunteering. We will all take a drink. Let's jump right in. I I'm curious. What is the definition nation of civic hacking? Yeah so I mean I think there's a dictionary definition and like the what it means to me and I think the dictionary definition is just like applying applying technology to issues in the civic space. Whether or not whether it be government or nonprofits or other issues for me personally really. It's means like working on a project that you genuinely believe will make things better and that's kind of how I view it because it's a little more flexible flexible that way and does it mean you're doing it without pay. This is that kind of typical. I mean that's like definitely a tricky. It's a line. I know a lot of people well who've been able to kind of turn their projects into sort of money In various ways for me. Personally I I like volunteer in my free time. I don't get paid. I get paid perfectly fine in my job so this is something that I kinda WanNa do. You know in my life free time so that makes a lot of cheers. I didn't realize it goes. I've always thought it is is being able to kind of give up basically talent that you have and being able to apply it to whether making others lives easier better but yeah to me it comes comes down to the Nice v word. I am trying to think of another word more but it your time. You're giving up my time to to help others and I think that's I. I've always kind of thought of it is on to. I think it's interesting too that it's called well a lot of people think of it a civic hacking because it seems to me that a lot of the processes that we learn at our jobs are very applicable to this work as well. I don't know if maybe that's just hacking sounds exciting But it it definitely seems the quality of the work is just as high as at some other other places at least from what I've heard. Yeah I think hacking kind of takes a bit of the pressure off. Maybe maybe that's why people use that term because I think the expectation is that like back again. You're volunteering your time and your skills and you can like put in as much effort as you can give like to the project project. What kind of like what you said to says that? You're you're working your fulltime job at linked in this is even on top of that you have projects. You're working outside of it and I think that's that is Kinda what Mars is saying is you're taking the skill set and applying it and being able to leverage it does the hacking thing kind of maybe also indicate like maybe there's an existing thing and you're just sort of incrementally improving it and doing kind of quickly but it doesn't necessarily mean it has like all the things that you would put in place for say like incredibly strong production ready software but it's still useful more beneficial because it helps. Yeah I've found like working on this project to be really freeing honestly because yeah you have more space to have things ship and not be perfect and also you can take more risks with it and I think that was like back of an unexpected sort of outlet for me that I didn't anticipate when I started which is really nice so I was like. You're on a typical project that you're working on loved kind of hear about the project but also like what kind of projects does that entail. What is civic hacking like? What are typical projects that kind of fit in the world of civic hockey? Sure so like the project that I work on personally It's related It's called web monitoring it's part of the Environmental Data Governance Initiative and basically you what it does is it basically tracks changes made to government websites We essentially showed tiffs that analysts actually review on. I'm to see if any sort of meaningful things are happening in the administration that they're not necessarily you know surfacing to the public so we've like This project is found a lot of interesting things. One is that vote the term climate change and other related terms are sort of systematically beings removed from EPA and other websites They're sort of isolating pages. They're not necessarily deleting them but they're removing references assist to these pages so essentially they're dead but when you delete something I assume. There's like more of a connotations. This is kind of a more subtle way to make sure that the people don't necessarily find this information it's not in the primary navigation anymore. It's just like an orphan. Page xactly I guess the only way you're finding finding is probably seo or like a site crawler which suming that's kind of what you're probably using for the project to. Yeah so this also partners with like the Internet archive so yeah. Yeah so like sort of works in tandem. I don't work as much on that side. I work more on building out the UI that analysts actually used to find the pages and and basically create a packet of of Findings that they give to journalists to report on to kind of show let the public know like what is happening. What else kind of fits into a civic hacking project like is there? Is there a type of project that defines out or as we mentioned volunteering. Lean cheers not just define it. I mean I think again like so. There are a lot of different projects There there are a lot of projects that partner with local government. There are a lot of projects that partner with nonprofits but I've even seen people who've developed relationships with like say local businesses or local like You know social like organizations and like built out technology for them like on a personal basis and for me that it also includes that kind kind of work so the project I'm on like is through code for America in there like a set number of projects that are basically like hosted in that space like on Wednesdays so but there's a lot of ways to find projects so I'm curious for the rest of the panelists. Have any of you actually done any outside especially outside work. I think that's a good way to look at it too. Is that where you're giving up your time and applying your skills have you. Have you done anything like that. I don't know if this qualifies a civic hacking or not So so I did a hacker thon In Gem also did this at any cannons and it was a day to Kinda help kind of push through some of the ideas that they have to help survivors of abuse. And kind of come up with a either code to solve that problem or your help. Help get those ideas more defined wind

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