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The 1st FCC Hack Day – Commentary from a Lonely “Non-hacker”

Yesterday, I was able to catch a few hours of the Federal Communications Commission’s first ever Open Source day designed to assemble software developers together to explore the FCC’s API, learn of innovative communications applications and take a stab at developing applications using the FCC’s API.  It was dubbed a “Hack Day” and a wonderful opportunity for government to collaborate with the innovative minds that are developing and capable of designing the nation’s most popular apps.

I was one of few lonely interlopers, neither a  developer nor a hacker, and was forced to participate in my capacity as common  mortal/ neutral”observer”.  When I arrived,  I signed in as representing all of my various affiliations as if I were going to get extra credit or something.

Law firm owner, The Ghatt Law Group; Board member, Minority Media & Telecommunications Council; Policy Chair,  National Association of Multicultural Digital Entrepreneurs a brand new trade group of minority software developers, content producers, application designers, content networks, and entrepneurs; columist for Politic365.com and of course, blogger for Jenebaspeaks.com.

All of that and no Extra Credit!  I did get a couple extra inches of fat from all the yummy Halloween candy the FCC fed attendees all day, but I digress.

I also noticed that there were a lot of developers and national organizations representing the disability community.  In an effort to comply with the requirements of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act that President Obama signed into law last month, the FCC is  taking the proactive steps on partnering with private industry and independent developers by inviting the disability community to participate and provide input.  Smart move as I am an avid supporter in public/private partnerships but more so on the side of thinking that the government should rely on the private sector experts to do what they do best!

I came, I saw, I tweeted, I photographed the scene and overall could appreciate the first effort and I learned a great deal to take back to my 1,001 organizations!  I even got a chance to be in the same room as the phenomenally smart genius Gina Trapani who did an excellent write up on the event on Fast Company‘s site that I am sharing below.


When you think of the Federal Communications Commission, you probably think of telco regulations, indecency fines, and net neutrality–not civic hacking. But the FCC wants to change that. On Monday, over 100 developers converged at FCC headquarters for a 9-hour collaborative hack day, with the goal of making software that employs the APIs and datasets the FCC makes available to the public.

The main meeting room, which usually has chairs lined up facing the dais for hearings, was set up with small tables equipped with power strips, Starburst and Snickers bars for Open Developer Day. There was a live video stream, and attendees and viewers were encouraged to tag their tweet #fccdevday. From the podium, Chief Data Officer Greg Elin said, “I’ve never looked out into this room and seen it filled with developers. This is a first for the FCC.”

Three new apps were created out of the event.

The first webapp uses the FCC’s Broadband Speed Test API and HTML5’s browser-based location feature. It detects where you are located in the US, and displays wireless and wireline maximum and average upload and download speed there.

READ MORE About the apps developed at Fast Company!


And Gov2.0 has an interview with  founder of Development Seed, Eric Gunderson, who has been involved in some of the most innovative mapping projects in open government over the past few years, along with the development of the platform for the new data.worldbank.org.  Check out the video below:

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