One of more than 50 Code for America brigades in the country, Code for Philly is a volunteer group of coders, organizers and developers working within the Philadelphia area to help with personal and government projects. The group meets weekly and has become a hub for the energy in Philadelphia around civic hacking, the idea of using open data and software culture to make society more transparent and efficient.
Founded in January 2011, the group has crossed 100 meetups and is taking the lead in civic-minded hackathons this year. In June, Code for Philly is hosting a transportation hackathon, a version of which was first held in fall 2011.
Coming up in late March, the group is hosting an “Apps for Philly Democracy” hackathon.
The Code for Philly brigade captain is Chris Alfano, one of the founders of Northern Liberties web dev firm Jarvus Innovations, which gets many of its employees to take part in civic hacking events. The goal of Code for Philly is achieved through creating data visualizations, reviewing open data sources and looking over official records. After reviewing the information, the group provides it to the public in a readable format.
“We’re trying to do things that make it more transparent around how the city operates,” said Chris Kunkel, a group organizer for Code for Philly and another Jarvus team member.
Though the group organizes other events, like hackathons, and gets involved in other issues — it’s a partner on Technical.ly’s upcoming Mayoral Forum, for instance — the bedrock of the Code for Philly community is the weekly meetups. The events range in size — one in October had only a handful and one in December had more than 30 — but the group wants more people to know you don’t have to be a developer to join in, said Kunkel.
Along with a desire for more government transparency, the group also works to develop apps and software that help other nonprofits and local companies better visualize raw data and information.