W1: AALL Hackathon: Connecting Legal Information

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Saturday, July 18 • 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

AALL is excited to once again host a hackathon as a preconference workshop at this summer's Annual Meeting and Conference in Philadelphia. At our event, programmers will collaborate with AALL members for a full day to transform government datasets into new resources that will increase the data's accessibility and discoverability.

Click here for a brief description of the event. Chat about it here, and check back frequently as updates are posted.

Separate registration for this workshop is required for AALL members by June 22. Thanks to generous sponsorship by the following AALL special interest sections, the registration fee to AALL members is only $25.00:
Local technology gurus/Non-AALL members should register through the Eventbrite registration page.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is a hackathon?
Why is a hackathon like this important?
Will we work individually or in groups?
Why are librarians a good group to participate in a hackathon?
What kinds of skills will the technologists have?
What if we don't have someone with strong technology skills in our group?
What kinds of projects will we build?
What kinds of information will we use?
What if we do not finish our project in the allotted time?
What can we expect throughout the day?
Nervous about your first hackathon?


What is a hackathon?
A hackathon is where people with knowledge of needs and data (e.g. librarians) collaborate with computer programmers and others involved in software development in order to build a new information resource. They typically last between a day and a week, with a goal of creating usable software.
See the RIPS Law Librarian Blog post, AALL Hackathon – July 2014.

Why is a hackathon like this important?
The need for no-fee access to legal information is greater than ever before, and technology can help. This post explains it well. You can also learn about the Detroit Public Library's hackathon last year.

Will we work individually or in groups?
Groups! We want people get together with other attendees and work together to build something new. Ideally, the group will be a mixture of librarians and technologists. The first part of the hackathon will include a short meet-and-greet to help facilitate group formation.

Why are librarians a good group to participate in a hackathon?
Librarians, especially law librarians, know 1) the needs of the people when it comes to legal information, and 2) what data is available. This knowledge makes them the perfect partner for a technologist who has the skills to build the technological delivery system, but does not know what people need or where to get the information.

What kinds of skills will the technologists have?
They will vary. We are hoping for: programmers, UI designers, and any other technologists with skills that are useful in building information resources. We cannot guarantee people with a specific skill set will show up, however.

What if we don't have someone with strong technology skills in our group?
Our hope is that we will have enough technologists to help with every group. If not, we are working to build a list of tools that can be built with the basic technology skills that most librarians have. You can also plan out your project and try to locate a technologist to help you build it after the Annual Meeting.

What kinds of projects will we build?
We want you to take some kind of civil or legal information and create a resource for the public with the data. There is no set resource format. It can be a webpage, a web app, a mobile app, or something completely unexpected. Here are some recent examples:
GovTrack.us – built by civic hacker Josh Tauberer
Socrata Civic Apps – lots of apps created from open data
Massachusetts Litigation Resource App – published by Suffolk Law School
Digital Chicago – apps promoted by the City of Chicago, but made by individuals in the tech community
Code for America Apps – national group with a lot of local branches
2014 AALL Hackathon Projects – see what our groups did last year!

What kinds of information will we use?
We are working to highlight a few datasets that we think would be good to use for this project. Most will be government information that needs to be better highlighted and disseminated to the public. Of course, if you already have a dataset in mind that is freely available, we would encourage you to bring the dataset's metadata (e.g. Where is it? What format is it in?) with you to discuss with your group. Some dataset suggestions are:
AALL's State Online Legal Materials site
Data.gov – all different types of data
FDsys Bulk Data – Legal information
GovTrack.us Data – Legal information
U.S. House of Representatives Document Repository – U.S. House of Representatives information

What if we do not finish our project in the allotted time?
It is OK! Rome was not built in a day, and your project may not be either. We encourage you to get as far as possible, and then hopefully your group will feel inclined to finish the project after AALL.

What can we expect throughout the day?
A lot of group work time! Thus far, we are envisioning the day to follow this path:
  • Opening statements
  • A short meet-and-greet to form teams
  • Group work!
  • Show and tell! (Depending upon how many groups we have, around 3:30 pm or 4:00 p.m., each group will explain and show off their projects. We hope to video record all of the presentations.)
  • Feedback
Thanks to the sponsorship of GD-SIS, RIPS-SIS, and CS-SIS, we have secured a great offsite facility, and you can also expect food and beverages throughout the day.

Nervous about your first hackathon?
Read Michelle Sun's “Survival Guide to Your First Hackathon.”

It sounds great! How do I register?
AALL Members should register through the Annual Meeting registration page.
Local technology gurus/non-AALL members should use the Eventbrite registration page.
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