Hack for Western Mass


Tonight is the kick off event for Hack for Western Mass. This weekend, web and software developers, designers, community organizers, and other folks from all over Western Mass will gather to tackle local challenges with technology.

Hack for Western Mass is one of 96 events happening nationwide as part of the National Day of Civic Hacking. The National Day of Civic Hacking is an event during which citizens from around the country will work together with local, state and federal governments as well as private sector organizations with the common goal of improving their community. Hack for Western Mass is also licensed under Random Hacks of Kindness.

Listen to Becky Sweger from National Priorities Project, another organizer, describe the event in an interview with Monte on 93.9.

Should you come help out?


I’ve been involved in organizing this event for the past six weeks. It’s been a great experience, and it promises to be an amazing event. We’ve collected a great array of challenges to help local organizations. For example:

  • Mapping Safety Net Service Needs: create a map for Community Action in Greenfield that compares the location of people receiving safety net services with Census demographic data that shows where the services are most needed.
  • Benefits of Banking Locally: Compare our deposits in local banks and credit unions vs national banks and create a visual way to show how banking locally benefits area residents and businesses. Lots of people know the benefits of eating locally and shopping locally, but many don’t know why banking locally makes so much sense.
  • Mapping Wells and Water Quality: Massachusetts doesn’t track the location of private wells, a problem that can lead to water contamination. A database of private wells can help planning, reduce costs, and estimate water quality.
  • Seed Swap Database: Develop an online seed library to share information about locally available seeds, strengthen food sovereignty, self-reliance, local resiliency and adaptability of crops, and empower community building.

We’ve found some great local sponsors to help feed people as they work through the weekend. If you haven’t registered to come yet, there are still a couple spots available. Sign up now!

WordPressing “The Homesnewser”

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I built this site for the a homeschool newspaper publication that needed an online presence.

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It’s built with WordPress using a responsive design to accomodate everything from phones to tablets to desktop browsers.  There are a  few interesting plugins:

The Facebook Like Box allows visitors to share the articles with their friends on Facebook.  Getting the word out to friends and subscribers is one of the key use cases for this website.  A Google Analytics plugin allows staff to evaluate how successful social media campaigns have been in driving visitors to the site.

FlexPaper, a web-based document viewer, allows visitors to browse the PDF version of newspapers without leaving the current page they are viewing.

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Plone for Social Networking


I’ve been collaborating with Chronicle Technologies, a technology consulting firm, on a number of Plone projects recently.  Much of my work has focused on developing a social networking product written in python that provides the community with ability to share content, comment on each other’s posts, and maintain a profile.

In this site for the Fisk-Vanderbilt Bridge Program, you can see some of the highlights.  The directory allows you to browse through a list of community members.  When your mouse hovers over a member’s picture, a tooltip box appears with more information about the member.  The member profiles also take advantage of some cool jQuery tools, including overlays and tabs to present information in an easily accessible, aesthetically-pleasing way.

I also integrated an actionbar into the site to provide easy access to commonly used functions such as adding a new blog post and viewing and editing your profile.

Other interesting features of the site include a social networking addon to facilitate sharing content with other social networking sites and a lightbox photo gallery.