MozFest: What the heck is a hack?

This year’s MozFest offered a session titled Jumping between Hacks and Hackers Communities, so as one of the newly appointed organizers of the Chicago Hacks Hackers I decided to attend and meet some people in the same ship.

OK, really I just wanted to ask them for some pointers since I have found it to be a challenge getting Chicagoans in consistent enough attendance to build a community. Mariano from Buenos Aires showed us a lovely time lapsed video of one of their big hackathons—even noticed a familiar beard in attendance, Mr. Dan Sinker. Then Mariano gave a presentation of Hacks Hackers beginnings and talked about some of the projects that came out of the hackathon.

We soon realized we had organizers from London, Brighton, Chile, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Buenos Aires all around one table. Each chapter is facing similar issues of building and maintaining their communities, and with varying ratios of hacks to hackers is trying to plan their activities accordingly.

This session had also inspired a random hacker to attend based upon his curiosity; he ended up being the outside perspective we all needed.

He raised the point of how nobody knows what the heck a hack is. It’s journalism jargon and definitely not a word other countries may be familiar with; so to help clarify we need to make sure we include a tagline when we can. He also asked, “What’s in it for the hackers? Why do the same thing I always do, but with journalists present?”

Buenos Aires integrated journalists into their hackathon by having them handle the data, work with hackers to solve the problem, and then having hackers build the tools.

This might require a certain kind of hacker—one who has a desire for public service perhaps and wants to use their powers for good. So what’s in it for the hackers?

Actually, quite a lot.

Thanks to programs like OpenNews Code Sprints and the Knight News Challenge, hackers can receive funding to make their prototypes, solve problems, gain notoriety, and make a great career for themselves. We need to make sure to promote the incentives to being a member of Hacks Hackers.

It was a blast to meet face to face with kindred spirits from around the globe, and brainstorm ways to better organize Hacks Hackers. We plan to work together to create a constant communication internationally, and to craft strategies to fully utilize journalists’ and hackers’ arsenals within each chapter.

About the author

Jordan Young

Operations and Project Manager, 2011-2015

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