Hack of a job
Can the world’s problem be solved with the right line of code?
Many hackers certainly think so, and this is how hackathons began—marathon coding events where creative thinkers brainstorm ideas and create new projects within a day or two. These events have been so successful that the U.S. government wants in on the action with programs like the Open Government Initiative. And a wave of national nonprofits like Code for America and Hack for Good have also made hacking a civic duty.
“Hacking” consists of disrupting long-standing industries, and establishing new approaches to old problems. Since the inaugural Hack4Reno in 2011, Northern Nevada’s hacking culture has taken off, infiltrating other movements like agriculture and the arts.
This year’s event will delve further into community projects.
“We’ve got an exciting spin on it this year,” says Colin Loretz, who organizes the event along with Dylan Kuhn, John Jusayan and Jesse Anderson.
Loretz is the co-founder of tech startup Cloudsnap and the founder of the Reno Collective (now housed in the newly renovated space on 100 N. Arlington Ave.). He’s passionate about building Reno’s startup culture, hosting beginner’s coding classes at the University of Nevada, Reno and Reno Collective. He also helped organize Startup Weekend Reno earlier this year, and spoke at the first TEDxUniversity of Nevada, Reno event.
The hackathon begins at 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 5, ending at 4 p.m. on Oct. 6. Participants will work in teams to come up with an idea, and then build a demo to share on the final day. Loretz estimates about 50 people will participate this year.
“We actually are seeing a decrease in quantity of participation but, as cheesy as it sounds, we’re seeing a significant increase in the talent of the participants,” says Loretz. “We saw it last year and we are seeing it even more this year. The best part is that this is not just an event for developers. We’ve had a great relationship with the [UNR] journalism school and many of the top projects over the last two years were made by student led teams from the J-school that were matched with developers on the day of the event.”
There are three “challenges” this year. The first is “Live, Work and Play,” challenging hackers to develop better ways to exchange or find social information, such as an app for restaurants. “Health & Wellness” is centered on community health outreach technology—managing and maintaining personal health issues like asthma and allergies, or a city-wide reminder for yearly vaccinations. And “Civic Minded Hackers” brings in a hardware component, encouraging hackers to rethink public machines like parking meters or traffic sensors. Each challenge offers a $1,000 prize for the winning team.
Loretz hopes the public will follow the hackathon, even if they don’t participate. “We’ll be trying to keep the Facebook and Twitter updated as often as possible during the event,” he says. People can also view the final projects on Sun., Oct. 6, 4 p.m at the Reno Collective.
While Loretz and his fellow organizers are also hackers, they’ll be working as facilitators, ensuring that teams consider the long-term implications of their projects.
“I personally have a whole bunch of ideas for what I’d like to see built,” he says. “But I’ll be moving from team to team throughout the weekend to make sure that everyone has what they need to finish their applications within the weekend and help them think about the life of their application after the Hack4Reno weekend.”