Civic hacking to fuel Unconferenz on Saturday
On Saturday, the 9th annual Unconferenz will be held at the Neil Blaisdell Center. While the grassroots vibe and dynamic, open program of the very first one in 2008 still makes up the event’s core, there are a lot of bold new ideas taking shape this year.
Yes, the Unconferenz still resists the worst, dullest part of a typical conference, asking attendees to be active participants, and favoring productive conversations over unilateral presentations. There will still be the traditional sticker vote, where the day’s grid of topical sessions will be decided first thing in the morning. And it wouldn’t be an Unconferenz with a colorful mix of attendees, from software developers to artists, from scientists to politicians, and everything in between.
But 2016 has brought Unconferenz founder Burt Lum an unprecedented army of organizers and volunteers, thanks in part to the recently rejuvenated Code for Hawaii group, which has greatly expanded the program. And for the first time, the event is free to attend, thanks to a sponsorship from the City & County of Honolulu’s Office of Economic Development, as well as like-minded organizations Dev League, the HTDC, the Hawaii Institute for Public Affairs, and Socrata.
Unconferenz 2016 coincides with the fifth annual CodeAcross, a national day of civic hacking spearheaded by Code for America, which in turn coincides with International Open Data Day. So while the Unconferenz has always featured a “hacking for good” component, this year collaboration between the tech community and the public sector will be front and center. One pre-set session on the agenda will be a CodeAcross panel, featuring Hawaii state CIO Todd Nacapuy, state librarian Stacey Aldrich, Honolulu County CIO Mark Wong, and HIPA President Jeanne Schultz.
Government stakeholders will also be on hand to make “reverse pitches,” basically presenting challenges in the community that designers, developers, and civic thinkers will then try to solve during the course of the day in a parallel hackathon.
The Unconferenz has a track record of being a catalyst for ideas that grow into full-fledged local movements, from citizen journalism to cryptocurrencies, makerspaces and coworking spaces, as well as building a voice for the tech industry in government policy. And with no cap on attendance and free registration, there’s now no excuse to miss it.