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The Growth of Hometown Hacking

BY Nick Judd | Monday, May 23 2011

Inspired by soon-to-be-expatriate Chicagoan Christopher Groskopf, Virginia web designer S.D. Salyer now says he'll do for his native Washington County, Va., what Groskopf has begun to do for Tyler, Tex.:

Following in Christopher’s footsteps, I’m going to begin by cataloging all the local sources of data I can find. Most of this data, sadly, is in poorly digestible formats, so I’m going to have to learn some new techniques to utilize it. Web scraping may be the most pertinent, along with tools for converting PDFs to text and other data harvesting techniques. In addition, I hope to apply new programming skills I’m working to acquire as well. Namely Python and probably some jQuery too.

Salyer joins a growing community of technologists building tools for civic purposes. Code for America, Random Hacks of Kindness and Hacks/Hackers are all forming groups around purposes similar to Salyer's — but they seem to do best in big cities, places where it isn't hard to pull together a roomful of hackers. This — "hacking your hometown" as Salyer puts it — seems a little different. Groskopf's inaugural post flushed out a number of people who are doing similar work — maybe we're seeing another community of hometown hackers, whether it's been there for a while now or is just starting to form.

(See techPresident, previously and the latest from "Hacking Tyler.")