Random Hacks of Kindness

This past Saturday, techies from across the country joined together in Mountain View, California for the first ever Random Hacks of Kindess event. The meeting, held in a warehouse space transformed into a tech-center/community center hybrid called “The Hacker Dojo,” included participation from technology powerhouses like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, as well as NASA, the World Bank and various other international agencies. The goal: bring some of the nations best coders together to find new ways to use technology to solve real world problems, looking specifically at how people can send and recieve information during a disaster. The event came out of a joint need felt by Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft representatives to create a community of developers to build tools to help emergency workers. Out of the event came a variety of apps and projects, many of which focused on the use of social media sites, SMS, and GPS technology to track statuses of disasters, receive information, and notify loved ones of a victim’s status. One of the most important results of Random Hacks of Kindess is the collaboration between NASA and developers, NASA recieves huge amounts of data from it’s satellites daily, and they realize the massive potential for its use: “We’ve got 40 years of data,” said Robert Schingler, a project manager in the office of center director at NASA Ames research center at nearby Moffett Field. “But, NASA needs a good application programming interface (API) so developers can make better use of it.” Ideally, many of the technologies developed at the event could be used by the World Banka and other international organizations: “It’s a perfect opportunity to mobilize the technology community to work on issues such as sustainable development and disaster relief,” said Emma Phillips, a consultant in disaster risk management and sustainable development at the World Bank. “This is a first step in building community, and bringing together the public and private sectors for a common goal.”

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