The Great Urban Hack Re-Cap

9:00am on a Saturday morning, groggy strangers looking for loose chairs in Gray Area, some succeeding more than others at initiating conversations surrounding occupations, communities, and the general insanity that was the Giants World Series parade (though most kept these thoughts to themselves). So began the Great Urban Hack in San Francisco.

Add a dark roast and some bagels to the situation above, and a diverse group of programmers, journalists, designers, and academics come alive and begin to collaborate. The task at hand? Go for a walking tour of San Francisco’s dynamic and much-maligned Tenderloin District, speak to people and identify issues, and find out how journalists (hacks) and programmers (hackers) can work together to address those issues.

Some version of this ordeal was going on in New York City as well. It’s worth noting how close we felt when collaborating via a projected video feed – yet another example of cyberspace making a smaller community of our expanding world. “You need a hacker? Let’s ask New York!”

At the end of the weekend, projects would be selected for exhibition at Gray Area Foundation for the Arts.

The result? Check out the project prototypes that emerged below. And stay tuned for the launch of all of these projects in one month!

Neighborizer

Location: San Francisco
Website
Brief Summary: Lets neighbors talk to others in their building, get local discounts and receive news about their block.
Members: Suzanne Yada, Luke Smith, Mark Percival, Leo Postovoit

Social Collage

Location: New York City
Website
Brief Summary: This team started by walking through the hackspace asking people about their favorite works of art, their favorite places in New York and a piece of clothing that defines them. They then set out to build thumbnail set of images to represent people. With those collages they hope to use social media to connect others with similar interests.

Buy Your Values

Location: New York City
Website
Brief Summary: Want to pick your restaurants by their political leanings? This will be your answer. This team crossed campaign contributions with the owners of restaurants to see which places are supporting which candidates. They’re still working out the details, but you can see their latest code on Github.

TenderLearn

Location: San Francisco
Website
Brief Summary: Enable community members to learn from each other and find classes in the neighborhood via text, web flier and in person.
Members: Indhira Rojas, Matt Canton, Rahmin Sarabi, Carl Tashian, Arthur Grau, Shuhei Kagawa, Aurelio Tinio, Sam Ward, Lee Hepner

TenderVille

Location: San Francisco
Website
Brief Summary: TenderVille is a game designed to build support for a grocery in the Tenderloin. Players make choices about what type of grocery or food delivery they would like to run, and in the end learn about the impact of pending legislation and the long-term benefits possible for the lives of residents.
Members: Vijay Karunamurthy

New York Schmoozer

Location: New York City
Brief Summary: In this chat room, you can talk like a New Yorker. Only. And a famous one at that. Pick a character, from Jerry to Joey to Carrie, and start typing. As you do, you’re presented a list of related phrases that character has said on stage or screen — and you pick the most appropriate (or inappropriate).
Team members were cagey about where they got all of the great phrases, which may have something to do with why the project hasn’t quite mastered its own domain (name).

Who’s My Landlord

Location: New York City
Website
Brief Summary: This project was inspired by Elizabeth Dwoskin’s article of the same name in the Village Voice, in which she describes New Yorkers as playing a “board game” to figure out who owns a given piece of property. The members of this team set out to actually make that task easier, online.
The result is an interface, built on MediaWiki, that mines information from the city and state, and allows residents to add their own knowledge to the database.

Tendermaps

Location: San Francisco
Website
Brief Summary: Tendermaps is an experiment in informal, community-based cartography. We encourage people to define their neighborhood in their own terms by creating hand-drawn maps.
Members: Zain Memon, Sha Hwang, Jen Phillips, Mike Tahani, John Weiss, Alan Rorie, Dave Baggeroer

5W Dashboard

Location: New York City
Brief Summary: This is a concept/design for a tool that would help journalists present visual information in their stories, including photos, timelines and data. It was developed by a group of non-coders who wanted to bridge the journalist-technologist gap. Next step is getting it built, and they’re looking for folks who are interested (contact me or Chrys Wu via Twitter if you are).

If NYC Were the World

Location: New York City
Website
Brief Summary: Turns out Sutton Place and the East 50s are a lot like Belgium … when you map every country’s relative wealth onto the zip codes of New York. This experiment compares aggregate New York City tax return information by zip code with World Bank economic data for the wealth of countries.

We All Need

Location: San Francisco
Website
Brief Summary: The Tenderloin’s notorious reputation leads outsiders to underestimate how much they have in common with TL residents.
Members: Joey Baker, Jeff Easter, Abe Epton, Mary Franck, Matthew Gerring, Sarah Hirsch, Jim Hovell, Jake Levitas, Wendy Norris, Zac Witte

Roachmap

Location: New York City
Website
Summary: There’s no way to track roach infestations everywhere in New York City, but Roachmap takes a swat at the problem by mapping reports of roaches from the city’s restaurant inspection data. (Eew.)

Street Pac-Man

Location: New York City
Website
Summary: “Real people, playing real Pac-Man, on real sidewalks,” is how the creators describe this game.
Here’s how it works (or will work): Sign in with your GPS-enabled phone and you’re Pac-Man. The dots you munch are lined up on the streets and avenues of Manhattan, and you need to run — literally — down those routes to “eat” them. But watch out for ghosts — other players trying to get you. Spot them by looking at your phone, which shows your location and those of the ghosts nearby.
The team said the civic purpose is exercise and community. And fun. It’s not quite done, but you can sign up to find out when it is. Wakka-wakka.

Which Hood

Location: New York City
Website
Summary: Defining boundaries of New York City’s neighborhoods can be an inexact science — which doesn’t make computer programs happy. This project attempts to crowdsource the city’s neighborhood definitions first with a quiz, and then by highlighting spots where people disagree. The end result would be an organic dataset programmers can use to feed their hyperlocal apps. Wondering if StreetEasy’s new API — released for The Great Urban Hack — could also be helpful here.

Amalgamated Taxi-Service

Location: New York City
Website
Summary: This team played with a pile of NYC taxi fare data to find new ways to look at how, when and why New Yorkers use taxis. They came up with a few fascinating visualizations and dreamed up possibilities for new tools. Their biggest challenge: how to play with 16 million records (and that’s just one month of trips).

Thumbprntr

Location: New York City
Website
Summary: This is a utility for generating thumbnails quickly with node.js to help coders “offload” creation of thumbnails from images by doing it in the browser. Check out the code on Bitbucket.