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Open Software

We are excited about exploring existing open source technologies and tools, and examining how they can be used to address local needs. We collaborate to improve and support open source civic technology projects. Here are a few ways you can start engaging with open software:

Scraping

Civic tech projects exist for many reasons: to solve existing problems, to make existing processes better, to empower people with new knowledge or to answer questions people have around how our society can serve its people. Often we will need to gather data to make our projects successful. Sometimes the data we need or want is already available to us in a format that’s easy to access, analyze and use. Often it is not.

Scraping is one way to capture data from websites in an automated way so that we don’t have to manually copy and paste it. Most languages have at least one scraping library that allows you to automate data collection.

Pitch in on an existing open source project

There are local, national and global civic tech projects that need your help! You have talents that will make existing projects better, even if writing code is not one of them. And if there are talents you want to get or grow, open source is a wonderful place for you. Projects need people like you with:

  • Real-world knowledge about how the systems and institutions we’re trying to change/help work
  • Understanding of where to find the data, the input and the people to make the project have impact
  • Passion for creating and improving documentation that explains how to use and participate in a project
  • The desire to test software and see if it works how it should
  • The ability to prioritize work and coordinate resources
  • The drive to learn things you may not know how to do yet

If you want to help out on an existing open source project, here are some places to start looking...

Create/support a local civic tech tool/project

There are also a handful of local civic tech tools/projects that you can hack on. Or, start trying to build something new! Before you build, just make sure to do a little bit of background to make sure the thing you're interested in doesn't already exist yet. Feel free to use the group (during a meetup, or on Slack) as a sounding board to try to find out if there are existing tools/templates you can use before starting entirely from scratch.

And remember: an app doesn't have to be complex to be useful! Start as small as possible before building out a full-blow full-stack application. Consider things like a basic single-page app, a lean API services, or a simple text messaging service/interface to test your concepts.