In the early months of 2012, Code for America fellows swept into Honolulu. For thoseÂ unfamiliar, Code for America is a nonprofit organization who seeks to technically support cities who are looking to harness the City 2.0 concept: blending community with technology.Â Suddenly, at all kinds of tech and social media events, you could count on seeing the ubiquitous Code for America fellows, talking to the community, getting an understanding of the unique needs of Honolulu, injecting their distinct enthusiasm into every single event. Â Our Code for America fellows were here about 3 months, but for me personally, the time was transformative. I was absolutely inspired by the creative zest and dedication of our Code for America fellows.
Around the same time Â CityCamp, created quite a stir. A hackathon, supported by the city and sponsored by private business, CityCamp introduces geeks to open data from the city enable citizens to create applications which make the content more accessible to the larger community. Â Jane Zang and Andy Yip created an Iphone app, DaBus, that tracked bus locations (using GPS) and identified nearby bus stops and routes. In a city with a high bus ridership, this was a welcomed
application to many.
There was a movement afoot: government and citizens were collaborating in unique ways.
Before the fellows departed Honolulu, Sheba NajmiÂ invited me to meet with her, Burt Lum (planner of CityCamp, and Honolulu tech advocate and SMCHI Professional Member) Â and the City of Honolulu’s communications director, Jim Fulton to discuss the use of social media for some of the technical development the city is either supporting or developing. While there was internal support for the use of social media and the city has an active social media presence, Fulton was skeptical that social media could be used to engage the community. Before the meeting was over, Lum and I had committed to creating a pilot program – a tweetup to celebrate the launch of the DaBus App, with a Geeks on the DaBus tweetup with Najmi cheering us on and offering support.
What is so incredible about this particular event is the citizen collaboration thatÂ occurred. Â The first meeting about Geeks on DaBus took place at GreenHouse Hawaii, a co-working location which has developed into a collaboration and innovation hub. Â John Garcia is GreenHouse’s owner and he’s also a SMCHI Pro Member, he immediately agreed to develop a website for the event and as quickly Â Derek Gabriel (SMCHI Pro and Board Member) jumped into assist. Â Lum, myself and Forest Frizell, Deputy Director of IT at the City and County of Honolulu sat down to hash out our plan. We agreed to startÂ identifyingÂ social mediaÂ aficionadosÂ who also took the bus. The first tweet wasn’t 30 seconds old before social media bus riders were self identifying, then social mediaÂ enthusiastsÂ who weren’t bus riders were asking if they could participate too! How could we say no? We made one rule: to get free lunch, you had to show evidence that you took the bus and tweeted or posted on Facebook Â - that was the price of admission.
Energy was building. Despite the fact that the tweetup was scheduled for lunch time on a Thursday, it sold out! Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle agreed to attend the event along with key stakeholders from the City and County of Honolulu. The app developers, Zane and Yip agreed to attend as well.
On the day of the event, KITV Morning news show hosted Frizell to discuss the event and to discuss the DaBus App, meanwhile Â geeks and Â busriders started tweeting early! Â Gabriel even agreed to escort this bus neophyte to the day’s multiple locations; shout out my personal DaBus app! As the morning went on, about 15 people (in addition to his entourage) joined the Mayor at Honolulu Hale (City Hall) as he himself jumped on the bus to tweet along side geeks and unsuspecting bus riders. Jana Pierce, SMCHI Pro and Board Member who is the city’sÂ archivistÂ was a member of the Mayors entourage and acting host of the city’s twitter discussion on @HNL_Info. At the GreenHouse, there was a flow of over 40 people throughout lunch. There was an impromptu Q&A with Roger Morton, President of Oahu Transportation who wowed attendees and the tweet stream with fun bus stats.
In the end, our tweetup created a sustained conversation about Honolulu’s bus system and #DaBusHNL app, for over 10 hours on a single day and the hashtag lives on. Â People have adopted it to use throughout the bus experience. New people took the bus and experienced bus riders embraced the app.Â Over 92 unique people participated and dozens more followed the journey of geeks all the way through Honolulu on an interactive map. In the days surrounding the event, there were 762 downloads of the app from Itunes. The app and the event were featured on Hawaii Public Radio and two television stations, but the heart of the energy came from those who participated either by taking the time to write an app, create a website, design a campaign or tweet along with the rest of #DaBusHNL geeks.
MAHALO to all who contributed in anyway!
Get highlights from the day’s activities onÂ Storify.