Sponsored by Oregon Business

Keeping PDX a hot spot for app development

| Print |  Email
The Latest
Thursday, July 01, 2010

BY JESSICA HOCH

 

The City of Portland is using an innovative approach to improve city life. After opening up data sets to outside developers in September the city went one step further in stimulating Portland’s ambitious software developers and dreamers – it created the first annual open source design contest, CivicApps, for applications or “apps” using PDX data sets to address civic issues.

 

The city hopes the app craze will go beyond just this competition. The website used for the competition is meant to start and facilitate ongoing conversations regarding data and applications even after the prize money is handed out.

 

“Our longer term objective for the website it to become a town hall of sorts for citizens and governments to interact and create solutions to the most pressing problems,” said Rick Nixon, the city staffer who organized the contest.

 

The competition is starting to turn heads around North America. Government officials from Edmonton and San Francisco are interested, and a group of citizens in Buffalo, New York have inquired about the competition. Areas of interest range from the outcome of the contest to the source code for the website and how it’s constructed. Nixon hopes other municipalities will construct similar efforts and tailor the code to their own civic needs.

 

The competition was split up into three phases. The first phase was for gathering ideas from everyone including non-techy types and it ended on June 11. Sarah Sharp and Robb Shecter each scored $500 in prize money for their winning app ideas. selected from 70. The submissions used data about public transportation, park and building permits, among other things.

 

Shecter, who heard mumblings about the competition through local blogs, was surprised when he found an e-mail from the city announcing him a winner.  His idea, illustrated to the left, was to expand the scope of the CivicApps website to include data sets not just from local governments, but also from local community groups and non-profits who have data sets that could be used for future apps.  He used his organization, OregonLaws.org as an example.

 

"I’ve grabbed legal definitions off various Oregon sites and created one big Oregon glossary for Oregonians, so I've basically created a new data set of my own, from official government agencies that wrote the definitions," said Shecter.  "So if I can contribute my dataset back to the city then other people can take it and use it to create a new app I haven't even thought of yet."

 

Shecter said this kind of competition is something he would expect from the kind of creative culture Portland and Oregon generates: "It's just awesome and one more thing to add to the positive reinforcing cycle of ideas and innovation [in PDX]."

 

Portland's been on the map as a hub for app development since the beginning in part because of success stories like that of Raven Zachary, who quit his day job and founded Small Society, a firm that's created apps for the '08 Obama campaign and bigwig companies like Whole Foods, CLIF BAR and Starbucks.  Since then Small Society has collaborated with another Portland app firm Urban Airship to launch the new Democratic Party app for iPad and iPhones.

 

“There are a core set of citizens in Portland who are highly charged and are very interested in the continued release of more and more data and they want to build apps around some of the local Portland culture,” said Nixon.

 

Schecter's idea and 10 others selected as runners up are included in the second phase of the competition, which challenges developers to take those ideas and turn them into actual applications that can be used on smart phones, iPads and the like. Developers can select from the ideas already created or submit their own apps for the first round of the app creation phase ending on July 5th or the second round ending on August 17th.

 

Winning apps can snag one of 12 $1,000 prizes for most original, most appealing and so on, or one of two $3,000  best in show grand prizes.

 

One of the apps in development is a food cart finder that would allow users, via iPhone, to capture food cart locations, menus and special deals.

 

All of the applications created through CivicApps will be licensed under open source for anyone to download and change for their own purposes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more about Portland's app scene in the Oregon Business August 2009 feature: Kickin' Apps.

 

Jessica Hoch is an online reporter for Oregon Business.

 

Comments   

 
John
0 #1 Follow UpJohn 2010-07-29 13:14:19
Hey, you forgot to follow up on this...

http://www.portlandonline.com/mayor/?a=309898&c=49519
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

10 Twitter highlights from #OR100Best

The Latest
Friday, February 27, 2015
100bestBY OB STAFF

Oregon Business held its  22nd annual 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon celebration Thursday night in the Oregon Convention Center.


Read more...

Nuclear fingerprints

March 2015
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

At Oregon State University, a 21st century version of the bad dream — nuclear terrorism — is alive and well. This winter, the Department of Nuclear Physics and Radiation Health Physics created a new interdisciplinary graduate emphasis in nuclear forensics, a Sherlock Holmes-sounding program that aims to identify how and where confiscated nuclear and radiological materials were created.


Read more...

Epitaph for a Boondoggle

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY JOE CORTRIGHT

The CRC is a cautionary tale about how we plan for, finance and invest in transportation infrastructure.


Read more...

Photos from the 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon awards celebration

The Latest
Friday, February 27, 2015
IMG 9975cneditPHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Images from the 2015 celebration of Oregon's great workplaces.


Read more...

Green Rush: Cashing in on legal marijuana

March 2015
Friday, February 20, 2015
BY COURTNEY SHERWOOD | OB CONTRIBUTOR

Marijuana is big business in Oregon, and it’s about to get bigger.


Read more...

City announces plans for Portland summer-league baseball team

News
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
IMG 3888BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Baseball is returning to Portland and city officials are hoping economic opportunity comes with it.


Read more...

Game On

March 2015
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

The big news at Oregon Business is we’re getting a ping pong table. After reading the descriptions of the 2015 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon, a disproportionate number of which feature table tennis in the office, I decided it was time to bring our own workplace into the 21st century. It was a tough call, but it’s lonely at the top, and someone has to make the hard decisions.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS