Here is a brief rundown of some of the projects started, created and finished during our Hackathon. The write-up is provided curteousy of Michael Ball – many thanks!
Name “Awesomeness” Finder
The team from Open File Montreal developed an application based on a data set of family names obtained from the Institut de la statistique Quebec. The app allows you to enter your family name, and by mashing together several data sets it tells you how many people in Quebec share the same name, and how many people with your name have won the Order of Canada, or even the Stanley Cup. Craig Silverman from Open File Montreal explains that when the group was searching for hackathon ideas they came across the database and thought that since in Quebec there were very few families at the start, you could learn a lot about how demographics in the province had changed by analyzing family names. Dominique Jarry-Shore, also from Open Montreal, notes that the only other person with her name was her brother, but she does share her name with a street, parc and metro station. The app includes a name “awesomeness” rating and has the potential to tell a lot more about the story of Quebec residents as the project evolves.
Open File Montreal is a collaborative news website where anyone from the general public can pitch a story and it will be assigned to a writer. A full-time news curator manages the site, montreal.openfile.ca, and they are also on twitter, @openfilemtl.
The book search application was made possible by the release of data from the system of public libraries in Montreal and Quebec. The app allows you to search for any book and will tell you the closest library where it is available, and also the cheapest place to buy it (Amazon or Google). The app covers library databases in Montreal and Quebec. The group behind the app hopes that this facilitates Quebecers access to books and promotes reading. The project can be found here.
Montrealphotos.org is a website built by Patrice Fizet and designer Daniel Mireault. After the city released 101 historic photos, Fizet made a slide show showcasing the 19th century black and white cityscapes. The idea is for the database to grow, adding historic photo collections from all over Montreal. Visitors will be able to browse by topic, era, or even personalities such as politicians and celebrities. Mireault explains that it’s important for the team to define an ontology so that as they incorporate more and more photos to the database they will be able to organize them under a coherent system of tags. In addition to browsing photos in a slideshow, the site will eventually include a map view, where photos will be overlayed on a map of Montreal, and a timeline view, allowing users to explore the site chronologically. There will also be curated collections for special topics, such as the history of boxing in Montreal – Mireault’s grandfather, Silvio, was a featherweight champion of Canada, circa 1928-1932. The site has a potential use for tourists, looking for more history behind modern day locations.
Open Trip Planner
Open Trip Planner (opentripplanner.com) allows you to find the best routes for local transport in Montreal. As an alternative to Google Maps directions, the advantage of Open Trip Planner is that it’s open source and will improve with the collaboration of users. A team member Guillaume explains that Google doesn’t want you to cache too much, so you always have to be online to use Maps. The goal is for Open Trip Planner to eventually work on a device that’s offline. Based on Open Street Maps (a crowdsourced, ‘Wikipedia’ of maps) Open Trip Planner adds a layer on top of maps that includes public transport agency data, including soon to be released data from STM, allowing users to plan local trips seamlessly. The team hopes to include data from transport services like BIXI to make the app as complete as possible.
Kof Kof Montreal
“Kof Kof” Montreal is an automated twitter feed that sends out tweets when the level of pollutants in the air passes a certain threshold. The app is based on data from Environment Canada that is updated every hour, as well as data from the city. The team explains that once built, the app could be adapted to work with data from any city.
Ma Mairie is a website that aggregates info about municipal politicians in Montreal: how present they are at city hall, what motions they have started, how they voted, and more. Project coordinator James McKinney explains that a lot of the data related to municipal governance is difficult to access, and the goal of Ma Mairie is to make this information easily accessible to the public so that they can be more informed and engaged citizens. While the idea is to give citizens a different view than what they get in traditional media outlets, Ma Mairie will aggregate relevant Google news and include the politicians’ twitter feeds and contact information.
The site will also include an application that allows citizens to submit mock budgets, similar to budgetplateau.com. James explains that whereas at the provincial and federal level it’s all about laws, at the municipal level it’s all about services. The budget app allows citizens to have their say. Ma Mairie is not simply intended to make politicians more accountable, but also more accessible with the aim to gather direct feedback and facilitate working with their constituents.
Loisir Montreal is an application that maps the locations of public pools and skating rinks in Montreal. Adding a layer to Google maps, the app shows the location, status of the pool or rink, whether it’s open and the time it was last updated. Outdoor and indoor pools are distinguished by icons, and it even includes the water quality of the pools. The team credits in part the work done by Roberto Rocha from the Montreal Gazette who created a map public pools using data obtained from the city.
Budget Plateau extension
Budget Plateau extension is an application that gives citizens a glimpse of what it’s like to be a politician planning a budget. By playing with the budget, users see what happens each time they make decisions about when a particular service will be available, and how often. The team took on the challenge of building a sort of artificial intelligence into the app, so that the consequences of budget changes would be automatically expressed in plain language (French and English). For example, based on rules written into the code, a simple decrease in funding to a particular area might trigger a warning that “municipal workers will go on strike”.