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Seattle Social Justice Hackathon - Day 2

Nov
10
 

Seattle Social Justice Hackathon - Day 2

 

If you missed it be sure to check out my report on day 1.

 

Day 2 started bright and early at 9:00 with a breakfast while working. For my team Conflicting Hacking we spent the morning getting the tech working together, there were a couple rounds of discovering we had been doing unnecessary work. The big thing is we had been setting up a server so we could install QnA Markup and use it to do our triage system, it turned out we could just embed the whole thing as html and save a ton of work.

At about noon everyone took a break for lunch and we listened to a talk by Milan Markovic talk about some of the myths of in social justice. After that we got back to work, I spent some time slapping up a temporary website to demonstrate how things would look and then got down to implementing everything my partners Jim levy and Tom Seymour had put together.

 

This is the point where we ran into some trouble, we had planned on having two 

different people creating working together to create the code, however we had a lot of issues with integrating them together. This culminated in having to amputate the final product to get something functional, a more in depth breakdown will be at the end of this article.

 

Time always seems to fly at this sort of event where you are trying to fit so much into such a short period. At 6 they had everyone submit their projects and make their way to dinner and presentations. After a few minutes of decompressing, socializing and eating we got on our way to presentations.

 

In no particular order here are the seven projects that presented and the three judges who presided.

 

Diana Singleton of the Access to Justice Institute

Brian Howe of Impact Hub Seattle

Aurora Martin of Columbia Legal Aid

 

Conflict Hacking (my group)

Conflict Hacking in a nutshell is triage for people that don’t know what sort of help they need. This is different from many of the other triage systems because it also covers some of the nonlegal solutions like conflict management and coaching.

 

         Court Whisperer

This is an app that helps people fill out court forms on their phone. This app simplifies the language and intelligently sequences the questions and propagates the data to all the appropriate sections. This then takes all that data and inserts it into the original document so there is no need for any change on the courts side.

 

         EDForward

EDForward is a program that will assemble high quality curriculum and provide it free to teachers and students. Currently the pilot program will be teaching children about how the justice system works and what their rights are.

 

         Legal GoGo

Legal GoGo is a crowdfunding platform that is designed to help people raise money to defend against criminal charges. In addition to raising money this site will also help connect attorneys to the people raising money.

 

         WAIAC Project

This is a program that is similar to others in North America that protects the authenticity on Native American Arts and Crafts in Washington. In addition to providing labeling to help distinguish authentic products it will provide services ranging from providing geolocational data of licensed vendors to helping enforce the 1935 Indian Arts and Crafts Act.

 

Social Justice League

They is a tool that makes it easy for share resources at Neighborhood Legal Clinics which might lack basic resources like printers or computers. Theirs is an application that allows the user to basically add documents to an online shopping cart and then either send them to the client or to an office to get them printed out and mailed.

 

Paid It!

Many people have been forced out of the banking system due to no being able to pay fees or meet minimum balances. Paid It aims to support these people by helping them document their transactions through taking photographs and emailing them as a form of receipt.

 

After each group had ten minutes of combined presenting and Q&A the judges retired to deliberate. One of the sponsors was Puget Sound Legal and they were kind enough to record the presentation, you can see them over on their blog.  During this time Marty Smith of MetaJure gave talk about the need for innovation in the legal sector. As he said everyone who had taken the effort to show up was obviously on board, but he did go into some finer points and used some of his experience as examples. Much of what he discussed can be found in detail in his article Lawyers and Innovation: Waiting for Einstein.

 

After this the judges came back and declare Paid It!, Social Justice League, and Court Whisperer to be the winners. The winning teams will be connected directly with sponsors and community partners to help them work on their projects, of particular note Impact Hub donated scholarships for access to their coworking space. In addition in January they will be invited to present at a demo day to the community what the have done.

 

Postmortem

Specifically concerning Conflict Hacking I think QnA Markup is a really cool tool but it needs a little more development to use it for what we were doing. In retrospect I wish I had used Twine, I haven’t personally used it but it does similar things but has a much larger user base and has more documentation and refinement.

 

Concerning the Hackathon things went very well overall, here is a short list of some of the highlights and learning experiences.

 

Highlights and Learning Experiences

Slack

Slack worked out pretty well for this event it was a handy way to disseminate information prior to the event. Once the event started we did use it, some updates came through it and we created our own chat room and used it to help coordinate things when we were off site. Onsite we were at arm’s length from each other and didn’t really use it. Afterwards it’s nice because there is still a little information coming out through it, and it makes it easy to get in contact with other people from the event.

Social Media

Everyone was on point here. Before, during, and after there was a constant good presence on social media, better than many of the large well-funded conferences I have been to.

Wireless

The biggest nuisance was the lack of reliable wireless. In my team of three people two could not connect to the wireless, one eventually managed to get online with help from one of the organizers (thanks Dan!) and the other had to physically jack into the unsecured wired network. The moral here is to mitigate anything that will hamper people trying to work, some things like parking can be hard to fully deal with but you should try.

 

Speakers

The speakers were great, I can only wish I got that level of presentation every event I attended. My only regret is I don’t think we have recordings of all of them. In particular Milan Markovic said a lot of things I’d like to go over again. The other things is I would make it clear that the talks during working time are optional and keep them short, it can be agonizing to have to leave off work for 20-30 minutes in the middle of the day.

 

Organization

My one other small complaint is that things were a bit chaotic Friday night when we were organizing teams. What happened was after each person had pitched their idea we were turned loose to mingle and find a team. The effect was it was hard to know what teams needed people and in some cases just where the team was located. An event I attended in the past was much more structured and it worked out a bit better. How that one worked is after all the ideas were pitched they took each idea and had an informal show of each person that thought they might work on that project. Since each person could vote as many times as they liked it gave a good view of what people actually wanted to do. With these numbers they determined a cutoff point and killed any projects that didn’t have enough interest. After this each project lead stood in a different physical area and then people were free to talk to them and eventually decide where they wanted to work. This has the benefit that it was easy to tell when one team is short people and another had too many. The SSJH used color coded name tags to help people it was an interesting idea that didn’t seem to make much of an impact. I’d be curious to see if a slightly different implementation of it could do more.

 

Food

We had a constant stream of good food provided over the two days. For reference here was roughly what we ate:

Friday Dinner

Spinach Dip with and without crab

Spring Rolls with peanut sauce

Sliders with cheese and caramelized onions

 

Saturday Breakfast

Food from Costco

Coffee, assorted bagels and muffins, lots of different fruits.

 

Saturday Lunch

Pizza

Veggie trays

 

Saturday Dinner

Chicken Dip

Caprese salad on little skewers

Fried eggrolls with mustard and plum sauce

Assorted meats on skewers

Pulled pork sliders

 

There were also some snacks available all day, mostly just some granola bars, chips, pretzels, and water.

 

This is clearly a meal plan that has had a little thought put into it. Here are a few things to note:

·         Hot meals in the evening are very nice but there is no real need to spend the money to get breakfast or lunch catered.

·         Pizza and veggie trays from lunch can be let out for extended periods and will keep everyone busy until dinner, alleviating the need for more snacks.

·         Costco is the most efficient way to do a good breakfast.

·         With good meal planning you do not need to invest a lot in snacks

 

A few things I think could be slightly tweaked to improve it.

·         A cooler full of drinks to have on hand, make it easy to get caffeine at any time.

·         For lunch include some of those Costco wraps or other options that aren’t as greasy as pizza.

·         Include a little more variety of options for breakfast, these isn’t much for people looking to go lighter on the carbs, consider some nontraditional items or even do the wraps for breakfast.

·         Try to keep the menus a little more cohesive. Rather than a collection of food aim to create a meal.

 

To summarize, this was a great event where lots of fun was had and good work done. A big thank you to Miguel, Daniel, and Diana for organizing this and for all of the sponsors for making this possible. I look forward to seeing what comes out of this weekend in the coming months.


 

_____

 

There were two main problems we were having with QnA Markup. The first was the fact that tabs are used for organization. Over the course of development things were rearranged a bit and having to manually add and remove tabs was a huge pain.

 

The second problem is that the goto function did not dynamically change when things were moved around. That meant when to different parts were combined, or lines were added, most of the goto functions had to be completely redone.

 

In retrospect I should have investigated using Twine. Twine is a tool for creating nonlinear stories than published to html, in addition it is open-source, under active development, and widely used. It would have probably taken a little fiddling around with CSS to get it to look nice but it would have been over all worth it.