A Philly team is organizing Al Jazeera's first hackathon - Technical.ly Philly


Sep. 22, 2014 10:29 am

A Philly team is organizing Al Jazeera’s first hackathon

The hackathon aims to attract developers from all over the world to Doha, Qatar. You can even apply for an all-expenses-paid trip.
Al Jazeera will host its first hackathon in Doha, Qatar.

Al Jazeera will host its first hackathon in Doha, Qatar.

(Photo by Flickr user Sam Agnew, used under a Creative Commons license)

Al Jazeera’s first hackathon, which hopes to draw developers from all over the world to its home city of Doha, Qatar, has its roots right here in Philly.

A five-person team from SecondMuse, which has organized large-scale hackathons like NASA’s SpaceApps and the National Day of Civic Hacking, is developing the news organization’s hackathon, scheduled for Nov. 29-Dec. 1.

The team, led by West Philly-based SecondMuse staffer Michael Brennan, is working on the project in Philly (SecondMuse staffers are scattered all across the globe but congregate in one city when they launch a project).

The Al Jazeera hackathon, called Canvas, aims to push innovation for the global news organization and help grow a local civic tech community in the Middle East.

The hackathon will mark the first time Al Jazeera will release a real-time feed, or API, of its news, Brennan said. Challenges include conducting a big-data analysis of Al Jazeera’s news coverage and building a tool that offers geographical context to news stories.

Al Jazeera wants to attract 70 to 100 hackers, half of which come from Doha and half of which come from all over the world. They’re even footing the bill to fly hackers out to Doha and put them up in the city.

Apply by Oct. 18
doha convention center

The Doha Convention Center, where the hackathon will take place. (Photo by Nick Skytland)

Why did SecondMuse choose to launch the project out of Philly?


Because of the experience and expertise of those here in the city, Brennan said.

The team working on the hackathon is made up of three full-time SecondMuse staffers and two contractors — former and current Azavea staffers Amelia Longo and Andrew Thompson.

“Philadelphia has consistently been a hub for open innovation,” Brennan said. “It’s no accident that I’m here.”

He pointed to one of his early Philadelphia projects, the first local Random Hacks of Kindness, where the team behind one of the winning projects was made up of former Chief Data Officer Mark Headd, current Chief Data Officer Tim Wisniewski and Katey Metzroth, who now works at SecondMuse. That’s not a coincidence, Brennan said.

“There’s a reason we choose to lead these projects out of Philadelphia.”


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