You may be a Code for Philly long-time regular or a relative newcomer, but in either case you’re dedicated to changing Philly for the better. Civic hackers come in all varieties, and throughout 2015 we strived to demystify our work to make civic tech a welcoming, inclusive community.
While we’ve been successful in increasing the visibility of what we do and attracting a large number of non-coding professionals, the format of our programming has yet to adapt to this shift. That’s changing this year.
As of February 2016 we’re changing the format of our weekly hack night to better serve the many types of civic hackers that are part of the Code for Philly community.
Why is Hack Night Changing?
From the time the brigade started in early 2012 through the end of 2015, hack night has more or less stayed the same. In the beginning, Code for Philly consisted of a small, but committed, group of technologists passionate about using their skills to improve the city.
Over the last couple years that group of professionals and range of skill sets has grown voraciously. We’ve seen that the most successful projects come from teams with a combination of technologists, designers, community partners/subject-matter experts, project owners/maintainers, and communicators.
While it’s great to see growth in diversity and a more inclusive definition of contribution, we also can’t expect to meet the needs of all our members without making a few changes.
With this format change we hope to make is easier for newcomers to learn about Code for Philly and get involved and also preserve the space for skilled professionals to make progress on their civic apps and feel an impact from their efforts.
How is Hack Night Changing?
There are three nights that make up the Weekly Meetup program.
1) Open House
The last Tuesday of every month will be an open house for people to come and learn about the Code for Philly community and its work more generally. Open house nights are social in nature, so they will be shorter events that do not include designated time for hacking. These nights are for primarily for newcomers to get familiar with Code for Philly and its projects, for project owners to recruit for volunteers, subject-matter experts to share core issues and project ideas, and an opportunity for Code for Philly to mash up with other tech Meetups.
What to expect:
- Civic Hacking pitch
- Code for Philly project wins and call for volunteers
- Subject-matter expert project ideas/pitches
The Workshop series takes place on the first Tuesday of every month as a learning opportunity and a way for newer members to develop more familiarity with what Code for Philly is all about. These sessions are called workshops because they are intended to be a learning-by-doing opportunity, but that doesn’t mean the subjects are limited to basic concepts for people brand new to coding. Topics could be an overview of complex libraries and practices, new tools and extensions, or even “soft skills” like project management. Be sure to bring your computer on these nights!
What to expect:
- Civic Hacking 101
- Rotating Workshop Session
- 5-minute lightning talks
For the two remaining weeks between Open House nights and Workshops, hack nights are true working nights. These nights have no time slotted for introductions or overview sessions (including civic hacking 101). Getting back to basics, Hack Nights are a time and space for projects to meet and get some real hacking done. Everyone is always welcome, but we recommend newcomers attend an Open House and Workshop session before coming to a hack night.
What to expect:
- Free-form hacking
Stay tuned and check back soon for more specifics on how hack nights are changing, and as always feel free to contact us with your input.