Call for Code – IBM’s $200,000 Software Competition for Disaster Relief!

Back in 2010, a colleague and I started working on a project that would later become a startup called Geoloqi, a low power GPS solution that focused on privacy and control over your data. GPS wasn’t even available on iOS or Android devices yet, so we used Boost Mobile phones and Palm devices.

When we built our API, we realized that the best way to test it would be to take it on the road – so we did. We brought our API to hackathon after hackathon. We thought that if we could use our technology to build solutions good enough to win hackathon prizes, then we might have something that we could scale. It was during the hackathon process that we learned the most. Even if we didn’t take home a prize, we practiced working together in better ways, and we came up with ideas we wouldn’t have if we didn’t rise to the challenge of time-constrained work.


Our favorite hackathons were in the disaster relief space. Open Government, emergency preparedness and civic responsibility organizations were an incredible way of bringing data to life with location. A year later, we were a larger, seed-funded company, and in 2012, we were acquired by mapping giant Esri, a company known for providing governments and citizens with crucial mapping for disaster planning.

This is why I was so excited to hear about the Call for Code initiative. This is the kind of hackathon we dreamt of when we worked on our startup. And the prize is $200,000 USD! That would’ve been enough seed funding for a year of our startup (we raised 175K for our first product).

80,000 people per day TWITTER

2017 was one of the worst years on record for #naturaldisasters. There a many ways to use technology to better handle response, translation, prediction and management of #weather events to reduce risk, loss, and damage when they happen.

The Call for Code Global Initiative is the largest and most ambitious effort to bring startup, academic, and enterprise developers together and inspiring them to solve one of the most pressing societal issues of our time: Preventing, responding to, and recovering from the chaos caused by natural disasters.


Who and how can you participate in Call for Code?

All developers, designers and entrepreneurs who are over the age of 18 can participate. Developers can register as individuals and submit an application later as part of a team of up to five members. Projects can be entered between June 18, 2018 and August 31, 2018.

Will you answer the call for code_ accepting submissions FACEBOOK LINKEDIN

Thirty semi-finalists will be selected in September. A prominent jury including some of the most iconic technologists in the world will choose the winning solution from three finalists.

The winner will be announced in October 2018 during a live-streamed, all-star benefit concert coordinated by the David Clark Cause.Call for Code participants can use IBM Cloud, Watson, Blockchain and IoT technologies, along with open source IBM Code Patterns – curated reusable packages of documentation, architecture diagrams, process flows, and access to underlying code on GitHub – to innovate and build submissions.

Click here for more information and register your participation, and contact Anders Quitzau for any further questions!

I’m Joining MIT Media Lab’s Center for Civic Media!

I’m very excited to announce that I am joining The Center for Civic Media at MIT Media Lab this month! I’ll be working on a number of civic initiatives, including teaching people basic HTML and how to code a static website through The Web 1.0 Conference. I also hope to bring CyborgCamp to MIT Media Lab once more! I’m most excited to help with existing and future initiatives by members in the group.

About Civic Media

civic-media-logo-mit-media-lab The MIT Center for Civic Media works hand in hand with diverse communities to collaboratively create, design, deploy, and assess civic media tools and practices.

The group is a partnership between the MIT Media Lab and Comparative Media Studies at MIT. Together, they work to understand new ecosystems and to build tools and systems that help communities collect, share and act on information. Civic Media focuses on tools that can help amplify the voices of communities often excluded from the digital public sphere and connect them with new audiences, as well as on systems that help foster digital inclusion. You can read more at Civic Media’s home page.

The group is run by the fantastic and fascinating Ethan Zuckerman, who has been a tremendous inspiration and positive force behind a lot of my recent thoughts.

About the Media Lab

mit-media-lab Known around the world as a center for cutting-edge research, the Media Lab develops new technologies that will, sooner rather than later, be a part of our daily lives. A place where the future is lived, not imagined, the Lab blurs traditional boundaries between disciplines, designing technologies that empower people to express themselves and understand the world in new ways.

Lab researchers are dedicated to inventing a better future, creating machines and technologies that not only augment human capabilities, but also relate to people on more “human” terms. You can read more at

What’s next?

mit-media-lab-logo I’m looking forward to doing much more in the Civic Media group in the year ahead, especially along the lines of the Web 1.0 Conference, a gathering that celebrates long lasting static websites and the ability to create them.

Thank you to everyone at Civic Media, especially Ethan, for their encouragement for joining this program. And thanks most of all to Willow Brugh, the person that encouraged me to apply to Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center and introduced me to Ethan Zuckerman two years ago when we brought CyborgCamp to MIT!

CyborgCamp Seattle is this weekend on September 8, 2012!

Want to attend an unconference on the future of humans and technology? CyborgCamp is back and it’s happening twice this year!

CyborgCamp Portland is already sold out, but there is still some room at CyborgCamp Seattle if you’d like to attend!

CyborgCamp Seattle 2012

What is CyborgCamp?

CyborgCamp is an unconference about the future of the relationship between humans and technology. We’ll discuss topics such as social media, design, code, inventions, web 2.0, twitter, the future of communication, cyborg technology, anthropology, psychology, and philosophy.

Who Will Be Speaking?

Come see Kyle Drake talk on the history and future of cryptocurrencies, K. Mikey M. on Cybernetic Management, and compete for the DIY Cyborg Prize! I’ll also be speaking about Geoloqi and publish/subscribe applications for reality.

Tickets available now!

Get them at

Date and Time

CyborgCamp Seattle 2012
September 8th, 2012 from 10:00am to 21:00pm.

Jigsaw Renaissance
815 Seattle Blvd S.
Seattle, King, WA 98134 (map)

CyborgCamp Portland 2012

Conference Hashtag

#cyborgcamp, and @cyborgcampsea.

Want to start a mobile/tech company in Portland? Apply to PIE!

Great News!

PIE is seeking eight to ten brand-collaborative startups to join our space for 2011 and work with Wieden+Kennedy, Target, Coca-Cola, Nike, PIE alumni, and other startup mentors. We’re really hoping that’s you and your team.


PIE’s first class will officially kick off September 1. And applications are due August 1st! If you want to apply, act quickly! We promise that it will be worth your time.

What is PIE?

Simply put, PIE helps accelerate companies. How? Well, in its first year, PIE helped host, accelerate, and mentor a number of successful startups. You might think of PIE as the epicenter of the Portland tech ecosystem. PIE location, connections and people make it easier to succeed as a startup. But don’t just take my word for it. During the first 18 months of PIE, three of our companies were funded, two of our companies were acquired, and one company published a book on launching startups. Below is a list of companies that PIE has helped.

BankSimple (funded)
COLOURlovers (funded)
Geoloqi (funded)
PHP Fog (funded)
Urban Airship (funded)
Bac’n (acquired)
Bass Masta (acquired)
Here File, File
Paleo Plan
Refresh Media
Silicon Florist
Subscription Tools
Uncorked Studios

What will you get with your PIE?

Startups selected for PIE will receive $6,000 per founder, up to three (3) founders (maximum of $18,000). In exchange for the your participation in the next version of PIE–including the seed funding, advice, mentorship, connections and other benefits–PIE 2.0 will receive a 6% common stock (i.e., “founders stock”) equity stake in your new company. This will place PIE 2.0 on par with you with respect to risk. And, we ask for no board seats or other types of control.

Applications close August 1st!

Sound good? Ready to go? Excited to succeed? What are you waiting for? Apply to PIE Now! We can’t wait to work with you! (Geoloqi will be a peer mentor for the September 2011 class).

CivicApps for Education Hackathon: A Recap

On Sunday, May 22nd we held a CivicApps Hackathon at the Portland Incubator Experiment in partnership with the City of Portland, the Mayor’s Office, and Webvisions.

The hackathon was dedicated exclusively to making mobile applications for education There was time in the morning for presentations from educators involved with the city, and brainstorming sessions and hacking in the afternoon.

The event attracted those with an interest in changing education through technology. This included educators, concerned citizens, mobile developers, graphic and UX designers, and students. Teams presented their projects at 6:30pm and were judged by members of the City of Portland, the education district and local tech leaders. The winning project will be awarded a Webvisionary award for technology in education.

Morning Q+A

The morning Q+A consisted of a panel and a presentation by four members of the education and communication community.

Q+A with Kali Ladd – Mayor’s Manager for educational policy. How can we make education apps better?

Q: What works right now in the Portland Education System?
A: Cross sector collaboration – private, public, faith, non-profits – cradle to career. Success is measured if youth are able to get into a profitable career. Change is that now based on outcome based goals. Challenge is they don’t have a way of collecting valid statistics, and may not know what questions to ask.

Q: How do you see the future of education and technology?
A: A more systemic approach. More broadband access/better providing access to technology in low income communities
Example: Use of iPads increasing achievement.

Q: What could we work on today that would make the most impact right now?
A: I think there’s great opportunity outside of the classroom. For instance, a central place to get information on activities youth can participate in. Portland has lots of events, but no single place to see what youth can do with their time, especially during the summer. This will help prevent gang activity and crime, as well as hopefully providing some immediate educations goals in a fun way.

Q. What buckets would people be interested in
A. Mainly targeting highschool, older. Something that lets kids find their own stuff. Mainly targeted at underprivaleged youth. City provides 100 youth, but 800 left unserved.

Sarah Singer, Project Director – Highschool Inititives

Q: What works in education today?
A: Look at how much instructional time a student has over a year, it’s only 17% of their time at school – probably high. Target what students do with the rest of their time, and target anything that makes them college or career ready. There are lots of resources in Portland, but how to connect them with the students. List opportunities available. grade/age range, what they need help with or are interested in, specfic area drill down. Resource directory of other apps that are helpful.

Karen Fisher Gray, Parkrose School District Superintendant

Q: What not working in education right now?
A: While there’s a strong desire to help education out, only 85% of people don’t have kids in school. A System that is working across the districs and the county, is the professional learning community. It is a kind of scientific recipie for teaching kids. Data collection, benchmarks, interventions for kids, kid by kids asking four questions. The other piece is getting much more embedded with technology, instead of it just being a side thing. Canby has ipads for each child.

Q: What’s working right now? What can we do to help?
A: Talk to the teachers, technology coordinateors, and most especially the kids. Kahn Academy is sweeping the nation. Many kids get help with their math homework from the site. Another thing we need is continuing education apps for teachers.
Apps like Qwikie, and it tells you everything it knows about it. wiki with voice/video.

Matt, 211 Communications Director

Q: What do you want to see today?
A: Location based services to see what is around you in terms of education resources. Kids say they want to be challenged on a daily basis. Homework reminders. Allow teachers to remind kids of homework and lists of homework. Maybe by SMS so it is more accessible.

Q: What is 211 info and what does it offer?
A: Dial 211 and it gives you a call center specialist who will try to help find resources to solve your issue. Also an online database of different needs and services. Normal search, by agency, or drill down. Curated manually with portal for providers to enter/mod their information.

Idea Session

After the presentation and panel, we worked as a group to narrow down the ideas into projects we could work on for the rest of the day. Here’s what we came up with.

1) A student/teacher social network accessible via text. Allowing teachers to send homework reminders via SMS. Allowing one way Q+A with the teacher. Possible Moodle integration via a serverside plugin or subscription service.

2) A Calagator-like calendar for educational/summer opportunities and job fairs/hiring opportunities. Community powered event entry with calendar import.

3) A database of volunteer teachers, tutors, students and volunteers for advanced or remedial students in need of educational support and tutoring. Based on

4) A Kindle or tablet-based curriculum guide with educational material of interest sorted by grade level.

5) A private and anonymous social network for students in need/crises.

After writing the ideas up on the board, the majority of the participants split up into two groups to work on items 1 and 2.

Teams had just 6 hours to build fully working websites or applications. The clock was ticking fast!


The following projects were built during the hackathon. One (MySchool) was modified during the hackathon to be more of a framework.


TheStreamPDX provides a single resource for jobs and events targeted at young adults within the Portland area. The goal of the project is to provide a central repository that anyone can use within the Portland area.

TheStreamPDX aggregates events so that users can visit a single source to discover interesting activities. Event organizers and participants share events with others through The Stream PDX. Event planners use The Stream PDX to check for possible scheduling conflicts, allowing them to make smarter decisions. Many people check the site regularly to find out what events they can attend each day.


MySchoolList provides an easy way to manage & view the school supply list provided by the local schools. In addition it can be used to create a custom shopping list.

Created by Amit Jain and Teena Jain. They modified part of their existing application to fit the needs of schools in a customized way.


Quinn is aimed at low-income youth in underfunded school districts.

Quinn makes it easy for teachers to set up networks with students and share announcements and homework assignments with them from a private number separate from their cell number.

Created by Jill Burrows, Aaron Parecki and David Stewart (student at Clark college).


The winner of the CivicApps Hackathon for education was TheStreamPDX!

Congratulations to the entire team!

    *Dave Shanley
    *Kristin Wolff
    *Kyle Drake
    *Lokkju Brennr
    *Patrick Arlt
    *Roy Martin

Their application is based on the Calagator sourcecode, and is open source.

Judging Criteria

Impact to education

Could the application have an effect on education system?

Originality of idea

How unique is this idea? has it been done before? If so, how is this implementation better?

Best use of technology

Does this application use the mobile platform well? Would you use it on a mobile phone?

Ease of use

How easy is this app to use? Do you get it? Do you see students using it? Would you use it?

Visual quality

Does this app look good? Is is visually acceptable?

Overall value

How valuable do you think this app is?

Also, the Mayor stopped by!

Thanks so much, everyone!

Thank you to Rick Nixon and Skip Newberry of CivicApps for Greater Portland.

Rick Turoczy of Silicon Florist who helped us with the event.
The department of education and all of our great speakers and judges.

Brad Smith of HotPepper Studios and Webvisions, and the Webvisionary Award.

Thanks to Widmer for the Beer, Stumptown for the Coffee and Kettleman’s for the Bagels.

The City of Portland and CivicApps for the HotLipsPizza.

Thanks to all of you for coming!