Nat'l Day of Civic Hacking


Welcome to the 2018 National Day of Civic Hacking!

2018 Theme: Housing Assistance

The National Day of Civic Hacking (NDoCH) is envisioned as a single day, or perhaps weekend, of the year, where citizens come together to fix the broken, inefficient, or completely missing civic services of their community. Typically it has a "theme," although the expression of that theme in any particular local event can vary widely.

Hacking, in the sense of Civic Hacking, is about producing a (legal!) relatively quick "fix" to a civic issue, with modern technology. Ideally the speed of producing the solution is not reflected in the quality of the solution.

Never-the-less, the mantra behind a "civic hack" job is "done is better than perfect."

Rightly the concept of hacking these days is associated with computers. In popular media, the term "hacker" is almost exclusively associated with computer users. Ironically, in the hacker culture it is understood that A) a hacker does not need to be a computer user (one could be an astronomy hacker, for example), and B) hacking is not about doing illegal things.

Classically the NDoCH is run as a hackathon. While a traditional hackathon is a programming competition, a civic hackathon has no prize beyond sweet-sweet-karma and the appreciation of your peers and fellow citizens. This makes a civic hackathon a very collaborative event.

While the goal of a civic hackathon is to seek a solution to a civic problem presumably using modern technology, any modern developer can tell you that it takes a lot more than just programming skill to make a great solution. This is why we actively seek participation from anyone with interest in seeing the problems solved, and who can bring a broad range of skills and viewpoints to solving the problems.

Skills We Need This Year (Well... Almost Always, Really):

It takes a village, and a broad range of skills.

  • Project Managers
  • Artists
  • Designers
  • UI/UX
  • Housing Services Specialists
  • Housing Policy Specialists
  • Anyone very familiar with the services of VAHC and VHFA
  • Content Writers
  • Editors
  • Testers and QA People

Specific Tech Skills We Need:

Based on the projects, it is clear that the following tech skills in particular are going to be valuable.

  • Wordpress
  • PHP
  • Linux
  • Linux Web Servers (Apache, NGINX, etc.)
  • MySQL and MySQLi - although all RDBMs knowledge will probably be useful and transferable here
  • Data Management - especially in terms of CRM
  • DNS management (maybe)


What to bring: tools of your trade. We do not have the capacity to supply whiteboards, stickynotes, giant pads of paper, notebooks, and such. We'll do our best, but if you feel strongly about, say, using sticky notes, you may want to bring some. We will provide power strips, tables/chairs, and wifi. We have a projector and a big TV. We have some dongles/adapters, but if you bring a laptop, you should plan to bring an HDMI adapter, and a VGA adapter for it. We will also provide some website hosting in the cloud if needed.

    The Event

    This time around we are focusing on the annual theme - housing. Code for BTV has teamed with the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, and the Vermont Housing Finance Agency to identify five immediate website needs in the realm of Vermont's state-wide housing services. These two organizations have also identified some longer-term project work that could be explored either on the NDoCH or after.

    The goal is simple: to push through solutions for as many of the five websites that have needs as possible, in one standard work day. Many hands make light work! Realistically, though, we know that the website updates we prepare on the NDoCH are not likely to go live on the NDoCH... there are numerous layers of review that need to happen for such things. So we will seek to provide bundled solutions back to our clients and let them go through the final phases of deployment.

    • 9am: We will gather at 9am and we will meet our hosts and the client representatives from VAHC and VHFA. We will then break into teams of appropriate size, skill, and interest to address the website needs.
    • 9:30am: Then the teams will start work. The client representatives will meet with the groups to clarify any questions the groups may have about requirements, needs, visions, etc.
    • 12:30ish: Lunch will be provided, along with snacks, and drinks. If you have food allergies or preferences please understand we cannot address most of them. However, please at least let us know if you are vegetarian or vegan, dairy free, or deathly allergic to certain things.
    • 3pm: Code for America is broadcasting a live stream of a panel discussion on the future of civic technology. If there is interest, we will show that, although we understand some teams may be crunched for time and will have less interest.
    • 4:30pm: We will wrap up the work and plan to have each group give a five minute (or less) presentation on what they were able to accomplish. Ideally the presentation is given with a demo or slideshow.
    • 5pm: The event ends. However, at 7pm there are live music performances in the same space. So, attendees have been invited to stick around. If interested, feel free to retire to Arts Riot or other local food purveyors, grab a bite and a pint, and saunter back over to SEABA for the show.

    The event space should have adequate parking around it including the lot directly behind SEABA, the lot next to Arts Riot, and the lot across the street at the Maltex building. We would ask that if possible, park in the Maltex lot, as the lot behind the SEABA space fills easily and is ideal for those with ambulatory challenges as the accessible entrance is on the back of the SEABA building.


    The venue is wheelchair accessible via the rear entrance. There are also handicap placard spots available at the rear of the SEABA building.

    Project Descriptions

    The project descriptions for this year's event are formatted into a flyer that we will be passing around on the day of the event, as well. You can download that flyer here.

    The Google Doc is here

    Slide Show

    The slide show for the day is here.

      Saturday, August 11, 2018 - 9:00am to 5:00pm
      Code for BTV
      404 Pine St
      Burlington, VT 05401