Tonight is World Book Night, so some nice folks gave us these books on the Walnut Street Bridge.
We tried to explain that there were those who needed books more than us, but they insisted. Jason’s looking forward to Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Seems they had our number after all.

Tonight is World Book Night, so some nice folks gave us these books on the Walnut Street Bridge.

We tried to explain that there were those who needed books more than us, but they insisted. Jason’s looking forward to Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Seems they had our number after all.

Developing out in the open

“Open by default” can mean different things when applied to data, computer code or legislation. For our team’s apps it most certainly means working on the code in public from the start, using a public GitHub repository. We invite you to come take a look, ask any questions or raise any issues, or even make some code contributions.


Repo: https://github.com/codeforamerica/rentfax-api

Meetin’ & Greetin’

Some inspiration for your day! An interview with the amazing Seun Erinle. Seun is a graphic designer and front-end web developer; she’s also the founder of BlerdNation, an online community for Black Nerds (Blerds), and A.I.R. Labs, an after school code program for kids. Chattanooga is lucky to have her!

  • Giselle: How did you get into graphic design and front-end web development? Was there a defining point in your career?
  • Seun: My family has always had computers in the house…since the mid to late 80s. I knew when I was applying to university that I wanted to do something with computers. I signed up for Computer Science (software programming), but I wasn’t fully satisfied with it. After graduating I went to design school and that’s where everything came together…coding and design. Creating User Interfaces and graphics complemented what I had learned in my first degree. As of now, my whole career is a defining point. I feel like the most life-changing moments are happening right now; and it’s extremely exciting.
  • Giselle: If you could change one thing about your career to date, what would it be?
  • Seun: I’m going to cheat and name three things, but they all fall under the category of being tenacious. I wish that I was more organized in the beginning of my career, more outspoken, and more persistent in finding a mentor. But all of these things have slowly come to fruition, except for the mentor part. I am a lot more organized and I have come out of my shell. I surprise myself all the time, especially when it comes to public speaking and meeting new people.
  • Giselle: Along with designing and coding, you’re also involved in CodeXX, teaching kids to code, and founding BlerdNation. Do you view one project as an extension of the others, or are they, to you, entirely different beasts? What sorts of challenges does each pose?
  • Seun: CodeXX and teaching code are a kind of an extension of each other. BlerdNation is an entirely different universe. But I’m passionate about all of it, though. It’s fun and challenging. The main challenge is balancing each project and giving them the time they deserve.
  • Giselle: Your energy and passion makes a lot of your projects seem effortless – to what extent is that true?
  • Seun: I would say that that statement is quite true. It doesn’t mean that the projects that I work on aren’t hard work, because they are. But when you’re passionate about something you’ll be persistent about them and things seem to work out for the best at the end of the day.
  • Giselle: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • Seun: In 5 years I would hope that the many projects that I am working on (there are more that aren’t mentioned here) are successful and sustaining.
  • Giselle: Outside of design and coding, what sorts of things inspire and influence your work?
  • Seun: Minimalism. Minimalism of anything inspires my work. Whether it’s architecture, or product design, or other people’s art. I am a minimalist at heart and I believe it reflects in my work.
  • Giselle: How would you define success? Do you think you’ve found it yet?
  • Seun: Success is being persistent (Have you seen a pattern? Persistence is my word!). Success is something that you should continuously strive for. There is no stopping or winning point. It is ongoing. I have found it in small nuggets here and there but I will always chase success in all areas of my life, personally and professionally.
  • Giselle: And finally, what tips would you give to anybody who is looking to get started?
  • Seun: Just start! A lot of people contemplate getting started…they wonder what will happen…if it’s worth their time…what if they don’t succeed. All of these worries are valid to some point, but if you never actually start, you won’t be able to prove yourself right or wrong. And if you start something and it doesn’t work out, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again or pick something else to start. Failure does not mean that you never try anything again. It just means you should reassess your situation and train of thought. Just start.
We’re Throwing a Party!
You’re invited, when we work out all the details…
We wanted to expand our thinking about one of our project themes: the tenant/landlord relationship. To mix things up, we used an exercise Cyd suggested.
As a team, we imagined one potential product idea as a party, and wrote some invitations. We still have a lot of open questions after the sketching session, but one thing is clear, our tenant ‘dish some dirt’ would be one rowdy party! 

We’re Throwing a Party!

You’re invited, when we work out all the details…

We wanted to expand our thinking about one of our project themes: the tenant/landlord relationship. To mix things up, we used an exercise Cyd suggested.

As a team, we imagined one potential product idea as a party, and wrote some invitations. We still have a lot of open questions after the sketching session, but one thing is clear, our tenant ‘dish some dirt’ would be one rowdy party! 

Make Tracks…Jacket

When I first learned of Code for America, I thought: What a great way to bring tech innovation to local governments! But those matching track jackets…

If I won a fellowship would I have to wear one? If you’re an Olympian, sure, rock that ugly sweater. You can ski ninety five miles per hour, wear whatever you want! But a group of technologist? 

I joined Code for America two years later. I hadn’t seen a track jacket in awhile, maybe the organization had left them behind? Nope, as I began our training a huge stack of track jackets arrived. I took mine home and didn’t wear it much.

On my first day in City Hall at my residency in Chattanooga, I was faced with a choice, suit up or zip up. The track jacket started seeming more appealing. Then, as the temperature dropped in Chattanooga, I started wearing it around town to keep warm. As I did, I started to appreciate the amazing things a dorky track jacket makes possible:

  1. People come up and ask, “What’s Code for America?” (Translation: I’m curious because it must be something worth being proud of if you’d want to show off by traveling in a pack wearing funny matching jackets. It is!)
  2. People covet the jackets. I can’t count the number of folks who ask, “What do I have to do to get a jacket?” or say with a wink “I’m a small, write that down, so you’ll know what size to get me.”
  3. Like a sports team all suited up to play, the track jackets make three fellows, recently strangers, now tasked with a big goal, feel like a team.
  4. And most obviously, but lost on me till I started my residency in Chattanooga, they’re a genius media play. At a recent conference we were pulled out of the crowd for a TV interview. Why? Certainly because we’re up to cool stuff, but also because we’re wearing big blue billboards.

The track jackets are geeky but now I wear mine with pride. After all, it’s a special jacket that says: cities can work better for everyone - and you can join the team.

Progress and Post-its

Over grits and greens at the The Farmers DaughterAlan encouraged us to document our process. In gratitude for the visit, advice, and delicious breakfast, here’s the story of how we’re narrowing our project focus.

Over the course of February we talked to community members, both inside and outside of government. We learned about the challenges they face, and recorded what we heard. We used Trello to capture each problem on a separate ‘index card.’

At the end of February, we used the collection on Trello as a jumping off point for a synthesis meeting, where we wrote each problem statement on a post-it note, added a few, and grouped them under themes.

image

Rather than frame the themes in the negative, we tried to flip them to reflect the positive impact we could make if we solved the problems grouped underneath. So a group of concerns, voiced to us, like these:

“Neighborhood association leadership is aging.”

“Young residents don’t connect with their neighborhood leadership.”

“When I moved to my neighborhood I didn’t know anyone.”

were grouped under an impact statement like this:

image

We ended up with six possible project themes, and one bucket filled with partnership opportunities. We voted and chose two focus areas. The next day we came back and swapped one vote winner out for another theme, because as a group, we agreed our depth of research was better on that one.

The two we ended up with are the one pictured above and this one.

image

Next up: more research into these two area, and coming up with ideas of possible solutions to test.

Also, a dark horse! (More on the new third theme later).

Camping Out for Conversation

We’ve been hosting a weekly ‘coffee hour’ Thursday afternoons from 4-6PM at The Camp House. It’s given us a chance to chat with Chattanooga’s creatives, techies, neighbors, and coffee lovers. We hope to see you there. Thursday, February 27th, will be our last afternoon at The Camp House till we return to town (hopefully as soon as April). Come say hello, your drink is on us!

Around these parts, things move at gigabit speeds and Open Chattanooga is no exception! Just a few days after CodeAcross, Chattanooga now has a brand, spanking new wiki up and live for everybody to contribute to living at https://chawiki.org

Thanks to everybody who came to the library this past Saturday, and a particularly large hug to Lindsey Frost ClearyTim MorelandJenny Park and Dan Ryan for putting together such an amazing event. It was inspiring to see over 50 members of the community coming together to make Chattanooga a better place for those who live here!

An Old Tractor, Shiitakes, and a Rogue Goat

Joel Houser, the Executive Director of Crabtree Farm was kind enough to show us around and explain the urban farm’s programs.

We met escape artist goats, angry geese, and tiny seedlings; admired the vintage McCormick tractor; and learned about TasteBuds, a Crabtree project which maintains an ever expanding guide to local food. 

Crabtree has a clear mission and experiments to find the best way to reach its goals. We learned about shiitake growing logs, nurturing fig trees in a zone where they’re a stretch, and expanding the plant sale from one day to three. Chattanooga is lucky to have Crabtree, a place with a lot of energy for for trying new things, and learning season to season.

There’s a Woman Right Next to You
We enjoyed chatting with the women of CodeXX and are excited to support their mission any way we can.
"CodeXX is an organization where women learn and code together. We work in any framework, and come from all professional backgrounds and experience levels. We believe that by building a supportive community of female coders, we can create a brave, new class of Chattanooga women working in technology."

There’s a Woman Right Next to You

We enjoyed chatting with the women of CodeXX and are excited to support their mission any way we can.

"CodeXX is an organization where women learn and code together. We work in any framework, and come from all professional backgrounds and experience levels. We believe that by building a supportive community of female coders, we can create a brave, new class of Chattanooga women working in technology."