We had our suspicions when we heard that the city was hosting a hackathon to transform its creaky, outdated 1.0 website, but minus a hackathon’s trademark scrappy flavor (Interested participants had to submit portfolios in advance and it helped if they had designed a website with over 1 million visitors a month.) Developers were likewise suspicious. One local representative, Mike Caprio, wondered if the city wasn’t just creating “a no-bid process for giant design firms in the city to compete with each other to create designs for no pay.”
But although the developer teams selected to participate skewed toward the larger side–the New York Daily News reports teams representing companies from Google to Victoria’s Secret– it sounds like the winners were inspired by the start-up world. Among the five awardees chosen by judges like Chief Digital Officer Rachel Sterne and Meetup co-founder Scott Heiferman were an team of expats who developed a Q&A site in the same vein as Stack Overflow and Quora. They suggested seeking out “super-experts” to answer everything from where to eat on the LES to how tricks for getting your kid into kindergarten.
The “Judge’s Prize” was awarded to another idea that borrowed a page from the start-up world. Casson Rosenblatt, Matthew Howell, and Tom Gibbons came up with the idea of MyNYC.gov, which brings gamification to being a good citizen, awarding points to residents who report potholes and downed trees. Their suggestion was that citizens could then use those points to compel the city to make small grants toward a local cause.
Ms. Sterne stressed that a winning vote didn’t necessarily mean a commitment to implement the idea, telling the Daily News, “What we hope is that it will inspire us and help us to inform our decision-making process internally,” as the city’s website redesign is finalized over the next couple months. Perhaps local government can learn a lesson from the start-up world as well and iterate as it goes.