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OpenGov Voices: Hack Jersey hackathon — public data solving problems

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the guest blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of the Sunlight Foundation or any employee thereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guest blog.

Tom Meagher is the co-founder of Hack Jersey and the data editor at Digital First Media's Project Thunderdome in New York City. Tom MeagherHis team builds interactive news applications, supports computer-assisted reporting projects in local newsrooms and offers training. He served as the data editor for The Star-Ledger in Newark, and he lives with his family in suburban New Jersey. Reach him at @ultracasual or @hackjersey.

Wrapped by the hanging air quotes of New York City and Philadelphia, New Jersey's history of invention and investigative reporting tends to get overlooked. Even within the state, the two disciplines haven't acknowledged each other much. In recent years, there've been hackathons at local colleges or tech groups, but the Garden State's journalists never really mingled with programmers or dipped their toes into building news applications. Until now.

This winter, Hack Jersey held the state's first news hackathon and attracted dozens of journalists and developers to learn from and compete with one another. Sponsored by the NJ News Commons, Knight-Mozilla's OpenNews and many other organizations, the hackathon revolved around a simple (and maybe obvious) idea. By bringing coders and journalists together to use public data and solve problems, we could sow the seeds for an amazing new community here.

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Technology and Hurricane Sandy Recovery

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Last month’s “superstorm” Sandy caused devastation throughout much of the mid-Atlantic, with many residents still recovering from the powerful and destructive storm. One person affected by Sandy was Sunlight’s technology adviser Micah Sifry, who lives in New York. On the website TechPresident, he wrote about how New York public radio station WNYC initiated a crowdsourcing project to keep listeners informed in the hours, days and now weeks since the storm hit the city. Here at Sunlight, we decided to take a look at the innovations created by technologists and ordinary citizens to help residents affected by the storm. In Boston, CrisisCommons organized the Sandy CrisisCamp — a series of hackathons at MIT and around the world that brought together volunteers who could contribute to Sandy relief with communication technologies. You can read more about what the technologists did and the lessons learned at the remote hackathons here.

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States of Transparency: New Jersey

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The Open Government Directive encouraged states to put valuable government data online. In this series we're reviewing each state's efforts in this direction.

This week: New Jersey

Website: www.nj.gov/transparency

               www.elec.state.nj.us

Six months after a corruption scandal that was lurid even by local standards, New Jersey's new governor boosted state transparency efforts in January with a new website. The site, www.nj.gov/transparency, publishes state spending and revenues, and although it received one of the lowest scores in the US Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG)'s recent survey of such sites, it has promise. What's more, the state also boasts an excellent campaign finance portal -- www.elec.state.nj.us.

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