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WNY Civic Hackathon, October 10 & 11

In light of the hubbub about Ahmed, his clock, all the national attention to this blog – and in the spirit of actually encouraging inventiveness and returning to a local focus here – it was perfect timing that this press release crossed my desk. I felt compelled to share, this sounds like a really cool event!

The WNY Civic Hackathon is coming up on October 10 & 11. It’ll be a gathering of local inventors, makers and tech enthusiasts who will form teams and tackle civic-minded problems like housing blight, transportation, and advocacy using technological solutions. $3500 in prizes are up for grabs at this free event – but if you’re interested in participating, make sure to register by October 5th, there’s a 200 participant limit. Visit the website at or read the whole press release below for details:


AT&T, United Way of Buffalo & Erie County, University at Buffalo, dig Buffalo, InfoTech WNY and Buffalo Open Data partner to host a civic hackathon challenging teams to create innovative software and/or hardware solutions that will serve the community

BUFFALO, N.Y.  – WNY Civic Hackathon powered by AT&T, the first ever daylong hackathon dedicated to solving local civic issues in the region, will challenge teams to face off to deliver the best civic technological solution in a 13 hour period for the following local issues; Housing/Property Blight, Transportation, and Advocacy/Public Policy. Cash prizes totaling $3,500 will be awarded, with a grand prize of $2,000, followed by a second place prize of $1,000 and $500 for third place.

The WNY Civic Hackathon will take place on Saturday, October 10, 2015, 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., at dig Buffalo, 640 Ellicott Street, Buffalo, NY. Demoing, judging and awards will take place at dig from 9 a.m.-noon on Sunday, October 11th.  Partnering to put on the Hackathon are: AT&T, United Way of Buffalo & Erie County, University at Buffalo’s Association for Computing Machinery (AMC) andOffice of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR) , dig Buffalo, WNY Innovation Hot Spot, InfoTech WNY and Buffalo Open Data. The event builds off the success of the AT&T WNY Civic App Challenge in 2014, a two-month “virtual hackathon” in which developers were encouraged to “Solve Local” by building smartphone apps that serve the community.

During the hackathon, teams of local developers, makers, innovative thinkers, entrepreneurs, technologists, and community activists will compete to create intuitive and novel apps or hardware that address and provide solutions for social and civic issues in the Western New York region.

All submissions will be judged on their potential to impact on one of the three topics facing Western New York, the quality of execution, and creativity or novelty. A panel of judges made up of local tech experts, community leaders and elected officials will judge the submissions and determine the winners on Sunday, October 11th. Mentors from the regional tech and advocacy community will also be available throughout the day to provide advice and guidance to the hackathon teams.  Subject matter experts on housing/property blight, transportation, and advocacy/public policy will also be in attendance to discuss the issues and provide available data that can be used.

The WNY Civic Hackathon follows the same principals of National Day of Hacking, an annual event that brings together urbanists, civic hackers, government staff, developers, designers, community organizers and anyone with the passion to make their region better through technology.  Similar to National Day of Hacking the event provides opportunities to get people involved in civic hacking, a new form of civic engagement, and many of the activities are based on proven models provided by Code for America, Random Hacks of Kindness and Innovation Endeavors. Teams will collaboratively build new solutions using publicly-released data, technology, and design processes to improve our community and the governments that serve them.

The WNY Civic Hackathon is free and open to all interested participants across the region of all skills and levels of expertise who are ages 18 and over, but preregistration for the event is required by October 5, 2015 at Evenbrite ( There is a 200 participant cap on the event, so early registration is recommended. Meals and snacks will be provided throughout the day.  For more information regarding the WNY Civic Hackathon visit,

The Great Digital Delay

23181544This morning, in an unanimous vote, the U.S. Senate has agreed to delay the government mandated digital television transition. The target has been moved from the original February 17th date to June 12th.

(Updated: The bill has been voted down in the house. More info at the bottom.)

Media reports have been all over the map, with sources suggesting anywhere from 5 million to 20 million US households are unprepared for the transition.  There have also been reports of as many as 2.5 million on the FCC’s waiting list for their converter box coupon program.  13.5 million coupons have been passed out, but it’s estimated that roughly half have not been used.  The coupons carry a 90 day expiration, and as the unused coupons expire those on the waiting list will get a shot at one.

President Obama has called for an additional $850 million as part of his stimulus package to provide additional funding to the FCC coupon program.

The FCC has of course already auctioned off and collected it’s nearly $20 billion dollars to re-license the wireless spectrum that would have been freed in just 3 weeks.  (Why again, does the FCC need another $850 million of taxpayer’s dollars to cover the coupon shortfall? Anyway…)

Major players AT&T and Verizon will have to wait until June to begin using their newly acquired slice of the airwaves, though this morning’s bill includes a 116 day extension to the end of their original licenses as compensation.

(Shameless plug warning: who needs OTA anyway, when you’ve got Artvoice TV?)

Update, Wednesday Jan 28: Despite the unanimous vote and the support from President Obama, it turns out this bill was not a shoo-in after all. Because the bill had been fast-tracked in the House, it required 2/3rds votet here before reaching the President’s desk; however, this morning it was shot down by a 256 to 168 vote. So it’s not over yet folks. The House may vote next week for a second time on the issue. In the mean time, we can say the great digital delay… has been delayed.