Hack for Western Mass: by the Numbers


It’s hard to quantify the impact of Hack for Western Mass. All nine challenges presented by community partners produced projects we hope will have a lasting effect. As we saw recently at our follow-up gathering, many of them are still hacking away.

Through our event surveys and other communications, we recieved many wonderful personal testimonials about the hackathon. We’ll continue to share stories and reflections about why the hackathon was successful, and what we can do even better next year.

Hack for Western Mass: What’s Next?


Thank you!
Thank you so much to everyone who made Hack for Western Mass possible. All the good stuff that came out of this weekend would not have been possible without the work you did. It was awesome to see so many people exchanging ideas and skills, building teams and friendships, and working to make our community a better place.

Submit your project for national recognition!
Submit your projects and stories to show the national Hack for Change organizers that Western Mass has world-class civic hackers. Submitting also gives you a chance to be featured on and to score an invitation to the White House in July. Did you get hooked on civic hackingthis weekend? Learn something new? What did you create, and who does it help? Stories and projects don’t have to be perfect or even finished – you can always re-submit by the end of June. But please get them in as soon as possible to make sure we’re on their radar.

Come to the follow-up event on June 26th at 7pm.
This is an opportunity to show off post-hackathon progress. We’ll gather for an informal showcase of the latest and greatest project developments. Location TBA.

We’re Germinating!


It’s only the Tuesday after Hackaton weekend, but the Hilltown Seed Saving Network virtual seed bank shows all signs of living on past the hackathon.

In the two days since it’s been live

National Priorities Project Creates A Better Budget Map


Jason Leveille wrote about his experience at Hack for Western Mass over on the National Priorities Project blog. Over the weekend, he and some teammates brainstormed about the best way for NPP to ditch Flash-based maps and provide better ways of displaying the local impact of federal spending. Jason also notes the he was a first-time civic hacker and is already looking forward to the next time around.

Great Weekend at the Hackathon


When I signed up for Hack for Western Mass, I was not entirely sure if I would be useful here. Despite not being able to do anything more complicated that trial by error html tweaks on preexisting sites, I showed up to do whatever I could to help. I loved the Seed Swap Database challenge and joined up with Rosemary, Beryl, and Lou to work on a virtual seed library for the beautiful Hilltowns of Western Massachusetts.

Noho trees


Our team of six to eight is working on a mobile device-friendly web application that could allow ordinary citizens to suggest a site for a tree planting in Northampton.  Tristan and Hilary have found a way for a smartphone user to send a geo-located pin to our map, Hannah and Buzz are developing the front-end website of, and Rob and Lilly are hammering out content. Development will continue beyond today, but hopefully we’ll have a roughed out website and boiled down “ID a spot for a tree” web application completed today.

Amazing Minds


As the one of the somewhat-more-web-literate members of the Hilltown Seed Saving Network, I was asked if it would be possible to create a Virtual Seed Library, for people throughout the Hilltown region to register what seeds they’ve saved, along with cultivation information and availability. Having designed websites, I knew it was possible, but being a designer, and not a coder, I wasn’t sure how. After setting out trying to figure out which code to learn to set this up, I realized how much I don’t know.

Hackathon Reporting


Hackathon participants are encourage to post updates and reports about their groups’ progress using our website’s blog. Users will need to register for an account and their account will need to be approved by Steve Brewer (or any of the organizers). Once your account is approved, you’ll be able to log in and author a blog post. If you tag your blog post with the challenge(s) the post is associated with, you can filter at the blog page to see just the posts for your project.

Azavea and Civic Hacking


Thanks to our great sponsors we will be able to feed everyone coming to hack this weekend. Andrew Thompson, from our sponsor Azavea, had this to say about Hack for Western Mass.

I’m excited that Azavea is a sponsor of Hacks for Western Mass! Our company focuses on building advanced geospatial analysis (GIS) web and mobile applications to promote more vibrant and sustainable communities, so the civic hacking community is a natural fit for us. Maps and geography are a huge part of visualizing and interacting with civic data, and supporting civic hackathons is a great way for us to contribute to our community.



After several weeks of outreach, we’ve solicited a great collection of hackathon challenges from local organizations. They truly represent Western Massachusetts, and they show exactly why civic hacking has value beyond the big city.

Do I Have to be a Programmer?


When I tell people about Hack for Change, a common response is, “That sounds really cool, but I’m not a programmer!”

Think of a hackathon like a movie. Actors are only one part—you also need directors, producers, screenwriters, editors, production designers, costume designers, sound engineers, and art directors. Actors alone cannot make a movie, and programmers alone cannot make a hackathon.

So what are some of the non-technical roles on a hackathon project team?