Personal Democracy Forum launches hackathon, focuses on elections, activism

Each year, Personal Democracy Forum (PDF), a New York-based, conference and forum that examines the intersection between technology and politics, holds a conference of the same name highlighting new developments and thought leadership on how society understands civic engagement. This year, the conference will include a civic hackathon designed to move PDF from the theoretical to the practical.

On June 9-10, 2012 in New York, non-profits and civic hackers will come together in a civic hackathon called PDF:Applied. Participants will be working to build applications designed to improve informational awareness and civic engagement around the theme of the 2012 conference: “Internet is the New Political Power.” CivSource spoke with Andrew Hoppin and Richard Robbins, the organizers of the hackathon about the event and their goals for maintaining the applications afterword.

Civic hackathons are gaining traction throughout the country as meetup groups, local governments and non-profits come together with civic-minded developers to improve how they distribute information and services to the networked populace. CivSource has covered many of these events from Apps for Democracy, to more sustained efforts such as Code for America.

PDF:Applied is notable for the assembly of both big IT, telecom and digital activists. The event is supported by Microsoft, AT&T, ThoughtWorks, ChallengePost, GitHub, GAFFTA and Terra FOSSIL, and will build apps with activist groups including CommonCause and Rock the Vote. Hoppin and Robbins developed the idea with PDF Publisher and technologist Andrew Rasiej, with whom they have a long standing relationship.

“We have been involved with Andrew and PDF for a long time,” Hoppin says. “We wanted to do this with PDF because the conference is one of the few places that brings together technologists and people involved with activism and politics.”

The hackathon, will focus on three areas – election participation, community engagement, and advocacy/activism. “We wanted to move the thought leaders at the conference from the theoretical to building real tools,” Robbins explains.

To that end, visitors can go to the hackathon page now and submit or vote on ideas for applications. Applications that are created during the hackathon will then be judged and the winners will give brief presentations. After the hackathon and the conference, the organizers have worked with partners to help build in sustainability plans to ensure that the applications are more than just one-offs.

“We are committed to making sure this isn’t just a one-off exercise, we want to build apps that will be maintained by everyone involved and will have a positive impact on their constituencies,” Hoppin said.

Current ideas, and a sign up for the event can be found here.