Civic Apps Competition Handbook

Author: Kate Eyler-Werve and Virginia Carlson
Publisher: O'Reilly
Pages: 78
ISBN: 978-1449322649
Audience: Organizers of App contests
Rating: 4
Reviewer: Sue Gee

The idea of the Civic App Competition isn't new but it has not yet gone global - although this slim book may act as a catalyst.

 

Author: Kate Eyler-Werve and Virginia Carlson
Publisher: O'Reilly
Pages: 78
ISBN: 978-1449322649
Audience: Organizers of App contests
Rating: 4
Reviewer: Sue Gee

You might not have come across the idea of Civic Apps, let alone competitions to create them. Although it’s not a new idea, it has not as yet gone global and this slim book may act as a catalyst.

 

 

 

If you are new to this idea, start by reading the preface. Here we learn that Civic App Competitions (CACs) are to encourage developers to build innovative applications using the open government data that these days pours forth from the government agencies of every democracy.

The experience related in this book is largely from Chicago where the authors organized A4MC - Apps for Metro Chicago - but it also draws on a survey of 15 other CACs across North America, i.e. the US and Canada.

 

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Chapter1 provides some history to put A4MC, which took place in 2011, into context. The first such competition was sponsored by Washington D.C in 2008 and inspired others to follow suited due to its success. However we are soon given reason to believe that its claimed 4000% ROI - an outlay of $50,000 led to apps to the value $2.3 million being created - might be an exaggeration. It also points out that open government data is expected to promote entrepreneurship and so far the number of small businesses arising out of a CAC has been small.

Chapter 2 focuses on the potential benefits of CACs. It examines the goals outlined in Chapter 1 - increased transparency, government efficiency and innovation - in more detail using the case study of the winner of AMC4, Elizabeth Park who initiated iFinditChicago.com, a mobile app that provides information about access to food, shelter and medical care. In the next chapter the benefits are translated into specific goals and metrics that enable competition organizers to gauge their success culminating in a “Table of Robust Goals and metrics”. 

As befits a handbook, this is a highly practical book and the next two chapters examine costs, including staffing and data resources. Chapter 6 is described as “the fun part” and covers designing the competition – looking at incentives, prizes, judging and engagement tactics. Perhaps the most useful content is Chapter 7 which looks at unexpected issues that threaten to undermine the whole plan. It covers problems such as who owns the app after the competition is over, preventing public voter cheating and dealing with disgruntled participants and legal issues. The final chapter, Building on Success, looks at how to sustain interest in open government data.

This is certainly a niche book, but it will be very valuable to those caught up in the currently popular trend of organizing local competitions for using open government data. As the idea spreads outside North America, why reinvent when you can build on the experience of others?

 

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Practical Raspberry Pi

Author: Brendan Horan
Publisher: Apress
Pages: 239
ISBN: 978-1430249719
Audience: Intermediate
Rating: 3
Reviewer: Harry Fairhead

 

Practical Raspberry Pi sounds like a cooking lesson but this is about hardware rather than pastryware. For the right reader it might be just as tasty.



Make: Technology on Your Time Volume 27

Author: Mark Frauenfelder
Publisher: Make, 2011
Pages: 176
ISBN:978-1449302467
Aimed at: DIY and electronics enthusiasts
Rating: 4.5
Pros: A mix of projects and emphasis on robots
Cons: Ignores software aspects and nothing ambitious this issue
Reviewed by: Harry Fairhead

A special issue on robots. What c [ ... ]


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