Tech Ready Brainerd hackfest is big success

hack brainerdI’ve heard great things about the Hackfest in Brainerd last weekend. There were five projects helping the local community make better use of technology. The emphasis wasn’t on coding as much as creativity.

Planner John Hamerlinck had some reflections that might be helpful for anyone thinking about hosting a local hack themselves…

I was glad that we did the short reception the night before – more folks seemed ready to hit the ground running. I’m also glad that I made the event website. There were lots of page visits to the Participant Guide page.

A hackfest is turning into a more general term all of the time. It’s like lunch. Not just PB & J anymore. It’s really based on the needs of the community (attendees) and the skills of the folks in the room. Reading through the various projects I hope even more communities can see a how a hackfest might fit into their futures…

Sprout – better online marketing

The team working on potential technologies to more effectively convey the organization’s message [Sprout, a company that supports the local foods sector] started by looking at the information that is currently available on Sprout’s website, and looking at the sites of similar organizations. They began focusing on relatively simple enhancements to the existing website that could yield immediate benefits.

The team helped identify strategies based on the point of view of both partner farmers as well as potential customers. The list of valuable website enhancements included a adopting a theme with responsive design, so that the site would be mobile friendly. Additional recommendations regarding the site’s navigation categories and enhanced video and image content are under consideration.

Reaching students who don’t use email

A HackFest team that included a Brainerd school district staff member, a high school student, a middle school student, and some HackFest volunteers worked on a solution to this dilemma [reaching students with info when they don’t read email]. The team created the basic design of a platform agnostic administration tool that could push messages to students via Twitter, text messaging, or whatever the student’s preferred platform might be.

Volunteerize – a website that helps people volunteer to help people, not organizations

The Volunteerize team created a basic framework for the website, and has identified additional considerations that have yet to be worked out. These include identifying a potential host for, and monitor of the site, crafting a marketing plan, and creating strategies to ensure that the platform is not co-opted for other purposes, not endorsed by the owner.

Lakes Ignite – a welcome wagon for young professionals

  • The team working on the Lakes Ignite project created the framework for a useful website that can serve as a central communication hub for the organization. It will complement their existing social media presence by providing features such as:
    •An application submission area for meeting with a member of the group
    •Top 10 Events per month (+ links to other community calendars)
    •A resources page with links to volunteer opportunities, jobs, other networking groups
    •And much more

Creating a walking historical tour app

A group of project hackers set out to see how they might create such a resource. They defined the data sets and features they desired. These included things such as exact location, photos, descriptions, type of site, site restrictions, and so on. The team also drilled down on functionality of the desired project, things such as user interface, the ability to create self-defined tours, the ability of users to add or suggest previously unknown sites, and many other features. …

Then along came Field Trip, an existing app, from a reliable developer, which does what they needed. The app pulls from over 100 open databases, so a new strategy started to develop around getting local data into the existing databases (sites like, and from which the app currently pulls data.

This entry was posted in Conferences, economic development, education, MN by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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