Jersey’s First ‘Hackathon’ Comes to Montclair State

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- By Catherine Baxter, News Editor

 

This weekend, Montclair will host the first ever “hackathon” in New Jersey. Coined as “Hack Jersey,” the event will begin on Saturday afternoon. Teams of journalist and computer coders alike will have 24 hours to create something for one of five categories.

The event was co-created by Debbie Galant, director of the NJ News Commons and Tom Meagher, data editor at Digital First Media.

According to Galant, teams will compete to win in the following categories: Best Overall Project, Best Design, Best Story, People’s Choice and Best Project Relating to Superstorm Sandy and its Aftermath.

Teams will have 24 hours beginning Saturday at noon to create something in one of the categories. There is essentially no limit to the projects that teams can create.

Galant gave just a few examples of what teams will be creating. “[What they want to make is] up to their discretion. One example is using data visualization, which is basically anything from a map showing where a concentration of crime is, or a pie chart. It’s taking data and making it more understandable and to show a story. Another example is to create some kind of tool or application, something similar to Twitter, a better Twitter or an app. They are actually physically creating it within that weekend.”

The event will officially kick off on Friday night at a dinner for participants, sponsors and other VIPs. This will give participants a chance to meet each other and team up, if they have not already formed a team previously. Teams will consist of around five people with an even mix of both journalists and coders.

The “hackathon” will officially commence on Saturday starting at noon. Teams will have a full 24 hours to complete their project. Beginning Sunday at 1:15 p.m., teams can show off their creations to the judges.

The five judges for the event are Chris Ackermann, who works on Platform Partnerships at Facebook, Emily Bell, the Professor of Professional Practice at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and the director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Aaron Price, worker of crafterMania and founder of the NJ Tech Meetup, Jim Schachter, vice president for news at WNYC, and Jonathan Soo, the President and Founder of New Agora.

Once the presentations are complete, the judges will choose a winner for each of the five categories. Best Overall is whatever “wows” the most. Best Design is the technical and visual excellence. Best Story is taking the data and telling something that was unknown before. Sandy has to do with the best project relating to Hurricane Sandy. Finally, for the People’s Choice category, people can vote on their laptops for the winner.

As listed on hackjersey.com, the prizes include “a tour of the New York Times’ R & D Lab and lunch with Michael Zimbalist, vice president for research and development operations, lunch with Jeff Jarvis, author of ‘What Would Google Do,’ a one-year subscription to the CartoDB mapping platform, a special prize for the best project related to Superstorm Sandy and its aftermath, a stash of programming and data visualization books from O’Reilly Media and, of course, bragging rights.”

The creators of this event hope for a few things to come from this hackathon. “I want a few things,” said Galant.  “I would love it if there are projects that totally knock my socks off with beautiful visualization or an amazing app. I also want it to be fun. It should be a good time in addition to the work.”

Students can tune in to a blog at hackjersey.com to watch the event. Additionally, the presentations and judging are open to the community. Students can join on Sunday at 1:15 p.m. in University Hall 1070 to see the projects and the winners.

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