When my friend and fellow geek Burt Lum suggested we start a local chapter of Hacks/Hackers, I was initially skeptical. Frankly, both of us have an unhealthy tendency to jump into the latest cool tool or group, and we'd just had a Sunlight Foundation meetup. But when I finally looked into it, I was immediately on board.
First, "Hacks/Hackers" shared a lot of complementary goals with groups I supported and blog about (including the Sunlight Foundation, CityCamp, and the Online News Association). More importantly, its focus overlapped quite a bit with the things we're working on as Hawaii Open Data.
But more importantly, the two main pillars of Hacks/Hackers was journalism and programming, two things I love and at least aspire to do well. It was a perfect fit. The Hacks/Hackers "About" page says it all:
Hacks/Hackers is a rapidly expanding international grassroots journalism organization with dozens of chapters and thousands of members across four continents. Our mission is to create a network of journalists (“hacks”) and technologists (“hackers”) who rethink the future of news and information. Our mission is to spread knowledge. information and ideas. Local chapter activities currently include talks, hackathons and demo days.
The online headquarters of Hacks/Hackers Hawaii is a group on Meetup.com. With almost no promotion, we were heartened to see more than 50 people sign up. And we were impressed to discover that we weren't familiar with many of the names. The best meetups, after all, are the ones where you discover totally new local contacts and communities.
Burt lined up some great presenters around the theme of open data and Government 2.0 (including Ben Trevino, Jared Kuroiwa, and Misa Maruyama), and there were more than a few "oohs" and "aahs." It was a great first gathering under the Hacks/Hackers banner, and there'll undoubtedly be more. Until then, to get a feel for the evening, check out the video above. We used the occasion as an opportunity to add another episode to our "Techspotting" series of reports.