Community Update 5/12 (Part 2)

Of course most of the events in our wider community are put together by a wide variety of groups and other associations. Here’s a look at what’s going on in the near future and some of the recurring meetups and other events that they have. 

In this conversation we will discuss how the technology of the web works and how all the pieces fit together in a spectrum ranging from iPhones to Google servers. As an entrepreneur, designer or developer creates a project or a business, questions come up repeatedly about where to begin and what to do next. We will attempt to put together something of a map of the huge world of the internet in order to make answering many of these questions a little easier.
WHEN:         Monday, May 12th; 6 – 8:00 PM
WHERE:       Ideas & Coffee l Albuquerque
SIGNUP:      FREE with pre-registration HERE.

Our nation faces multiple, simultaneous and interrelated epidemic scale crises across many levels – in our systems, our organizations, our communities, our families, and ourselves – that diminish our individual and collective security and capacity. We are caught in a self-fulfilling negative cycle – in which we suffer too much, spend too much, waste too much, and die too young – and the resilience of a nation so conceived cannot long endure. Dr Wayne Rosenkrans, of the Center for Biomedical Innovation at MIT will give us a vision of the future of “health”.
WHEN:         Tuesday, May 13th; 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM
WHERE:       BioScience Center | Albuquerque
SIGNUP:      $35 for non-NMBio members HERE.

The Eureka Effect is like speed dating only smarter. Businesses from northern New Mexico will meet and mingle with scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory that can offer free technical and scientific assistance. Each business will spend 5 minutes of one-on- one alone time with each scientist to whisper sweet nothings of nano fibers and materials testing. If there’s a spark there will be plenty of time to kindle it during the open networking section. If that synthesis of data structures, algorithms, numerical analysis, programming methodologies, simulation, visualization, data analysis, and performance optimization applied to the study of complex problems – is a’rocking, don’t come a’knocking. Space is limited. Must Register.. 
WHEN:         Wednesday, May 14th; 4:45 – 7:00 PM
WHERE:       Santa Fe Business Incubator | Santa Fe
SIGNUP:      FREE with Pre-Registration. Info HERE.

Participants will learn the definition, theory, and practice of preventing defects – and have the opportunity to become familiar with an example of how to prevent defects and how to apply it in any organizational setting. Organizations that prevent defects as a matter of everyday business have reached outstanding levels of success.
WHEN:         Thursday, May 22nd; 7:30 – 9:00 AM 
WHERE:       UNM Continuing Education l Albuquerque
SIGNUP:      $20; Registration HERE.

The New Mexico State Film Office’s annual Film & Media Industry Conference offers a broad range of panels, workshops, vendor exhibitions and networking opportunities that target all areas of film and media from budgeting and attracting investors to post production and emerging media.
WHEN:         Friday, May 30th – Saturday May 31st
WHERE:       Hotel Albuquerque l Albuquerque
SIGNUP:      FREE with pre-registration HERE.


The Albuquerque WordPress Group has several meetups including a monthly session at WESST on the 2nd Thursday evening of the month, weekly Workalong Wednesdays, and Women Working w/WordPress the first Monday of each month. Visit for more info.

Cocoa Conspiracy is an informal gathering of iOS (and other) developers 9:00 AM Thursday mornings at Winning Coffee (across from UNM). More at 

The iOS Developers Workshop meets the 1st and 3rd Friday of each month at Ideas & Coffee. Look  for Friday events at

Lean Startup Monthly meets the first Tuesday night of each month at Ideas & Coffee. More info at:

The New Mexico .NET Users Group (NMUG) exists to help facilitate education and knowledge exchange among developers, architects and managers with an interest in Microsoft’s .NET technologies. NMUG meets on the first Thursday of each month. More at:

The New Mexico AIGA chapter produces a handful of events each month, from the S.I.P Social Hours to CoffeeTalks, workshops and more. Find it all at

NM Internet Entrepreneurs is for internet entrepreneurs with an existing business or actively working
on a business idea. Meets monthly with info at: 

The NM Tech Council and other community members post several tech meetups and other events 

New Mexico SolidWorks User Group is a user community for the SolidWorks 3D CAD program dedicated to improving the technical abilities of their members as well as providing a forum for business and employment networking.  Their meetings are on the 2nd Wednesday of alternate months (June, August, etc.) at 5:30pm with pre-registration requested at

OpenHackABQ meets the third Thursday of each month at Convivium CoWorking, beginning at 6PM. More info at:

The RubiABQ Meetup Group for Ruby on Rails developers meets the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of each month at Ideas & Coffee. Find them at 

The Sandbox is a new space at the South Valley Economic Development Center for co-working, learning, incubation and more. Join this new and growing community at 

 To sign up for our e-news letters and other communications, please visit


2014-05-12T13:09:18+00:00May 12th, 2014|

Community Update 5/12 (Part 1)

New Groups & More Events!?

Yep, all the time. We’d like to highlight two groups whose events will appear in the ongoing section toward the bottom – and sometimes in the Community Events section too.

(Note: this is an edited version of our most recent community update. This section includes most events and activities from the NM Technology Council. For community events, visit HERE.)

There’s an ongoing iOS Developers Workshop meeting the 1st and 3rd Friday of each month at Ideas & Coffee – many other good things there as well. (Much) More at

Also at Ideas & Coffee TONIGHT, our friend Bill Bergman demystifies the world of modern web technology with “Putting the Web Together in your Mind” (sign up HERE).

New Mexico SolidWorks User Group is a user community for the SolidWorks 3D CAD program dedicated to improving the technical abilities of their members as well as providing a forum for business and employment networking.  Their meetings are on the 2nd Wednesday of alternate months at 5:30pm with pre-registration requested at

Can your business recover from data loss? “Don’t get caught with your pants down” is the title for this month’sNM Cybersecurity Lunch on May 21st, addressing issues in business continuity and disaster recovery (Sign up HERE).

On Thursday, May 22nd, join our Women in Techgroup for “The Advantage: is Good Communication Really That Important for Your Business?” A session that translates ‘The Advantage’ model into something you can use to improve your business or organization (Sign up HERE).

Learn more about Open Data and Civic Tech on ABQ Civic Tech Day, May 31st. 

Are you getting the emails from us that you want? We send emails to several groups, through they’re primarily lists for NMTC paid members (join here!), those interested in NMTC, and those with a general interest in business development activities around New Mexico (Shandra’s List). Update your preferences HERE

Is that all a bit much anyway? Check out the NM Innovation Community Calendar!

There’s always a lot going on. Let us know if your tech community event should be on our list. And JOIN US if you’d like to help us grow New Mexico’s tech business community!

And please share!

There is no Business Continuity w/o Disaster Recovery. In 2002, our speaker’s finance company collapsed when it didn’t protect its data when migrating from ACT to Goldmine. After losing all of the company’s data, and an average of 1 million dollars a month, the company closed its doors In just 13 months. 
In this session we’ll learn more about how this catastrophe happened and a variety of tools and approaches to ensure this doesn’t happen to you and your company.Join us! 
WHEN:         Wednesday, May 21st; 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM
WHERE: | Albuquerque
SIGNUP:      Varied Pricing; Info & Registration here.

Meet others in web design and development, software and other tech at the area;s longest running tech meetup. 
WHEN:         Wednesday, May 21st; 6:00 – 8:00 PM
WHERE:       ArtBar | Albuquerque
SIGNUP:      FREE with pre-registration HERE.

Connect with the students, faculty and staff of UNM’s School of Engineering & others who are making Albuquerque an up and coming Tech Hub. 
WHEN:         Wednesday, May 28th; 5:30 – 7:30 PM
WHERE:       ArtBar | Albuquerque
SIGNUP:      FREE for Students and pre-registration.

ABQ Civic Tech Day is part of the “National Day of Civic Hacking” on May 31st. The day is intended to build awareness around ‘Civic Tech.’ ‘Open Data’ and ways our communities can work together to provide useful tools that not only increase civic engagement and more responsive government, but also improve our experience as we live and work in the Albuquerque area. What ‘app’ or other civic tech tool would you suggest to improve our communities? Share your ideas and vote at:
WHEN:         Saturday, May 31st; 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM
WHERE:       UNM City Lab | Albuquerque
SIGNUP:      $5 Register HERE.

To sign up for our e-news letters and other communications, please visit

2014-05-12T12:52:17+00:00May 12th, 2014|

By any Other Name: Hackathons, Datapaloozas, Barcamps & Jams

We’re working with the City of Albuquerque and other partners on our region’s participation in the “National Day of Civic Hacking” that comes Saturday, June 1st (some cities and regions will be making a weekend of it too). Planning is still in the early stages, but the content and activities of the day are beginning to take shape – and there’s already a ‘win’ or two to announce soon. (But for now, save the date!)NDoCH_logo


However, it does raise the ongoing question about use of the terms ‘hacking’ and ‘hackathons’ for larger groups that aren’t always that tech-savvy.

We’re not the only community that has this dilemma, so there’s been some great discussion online recently about the nature of hackathons and some difficulties in using this term for events where we want people who don’t define themselves as coders to participate. We’ve had similar conversation locally about the use of ‘barcamps,’ hackathons and ‘jams’ with no definitive conclusion. On the one hand, there’s some pre-existing buy-in and brand identification with some terms, but on the other hand we don’t want to alienate potential participants with a term that doesn’t make sense or seem wrong… What to do?

While I haven’t reached a definitive conclusion, I’m inclined to go with the camp that says – about hackathons specifically – that those of us in locations outside the US main tech hubs should evangelize the term. I agree.

Though I also like the idea of bundling groups and events to both spread the word and address the needs of different people. So we’ll promote an event through the Tech Council of ‘Barcamp” and hopefully our friends at httq, AIGA and Quelab will send the word out to — all in messages tailored to these different audiences.

There was a particularly good blog post recently that captured many of the reasons I like hackathons – but I noticed that their site had gone down so I’ve included the whole post here just in case. (Hopefully it will be back up at zzolo.­org/­­thoughts/­­what-­­hackathons-­­really-­­are soon.)  The reason we produce, participate and promote hackathons and events like Startup Weekend is their effectiveness in building community. But Alan writes it much better below.

However, I’d like to point out that this discussion is part of the reason for the event (National Day of Civic Hacking, June 1st!) and the Tech council’s involvement. Please join us in building a better connected, engaged – and tech-savvy – community!


What Hackathons Really Are: Community building events
by Alan Palazzolo

Submitted by zzolo on 2013, February 21 – 10:21pm
Hackathons, Code-a-thons, Code sprints, Hack days, Hackfests, Codefests, call them what you will; they have been going on for quite some time. In recent years, this has moved past the idea of a specific programming language or software to such things as civic hacking, fashion, icons, and more.

As Code Across America and International Open Data Day approach and people across the world come together to help release and utilize public data and make technology that helps their communities, I have been thinking critically about what is the real value and purpose of what I will generally call Hackathons (we so need a better word).

My main idea is this: Hackathons are community building events. Plain and simple; that is their sole purpose. Dress them in whatever activity you want, its still all about strengthening connections among people. I see many organizers let this idea go wayside in place of activities like building apps or clearing the issue queue. I also often hear the idea of community building talked about as a side benefit of hackathon events, but by defining succes of a hacakthon in terms of community building, I fully believe these events will become much more meaningful and productive to everyone involved. So let me explain in more detail.

Let’s describe a hackathon a bit first

Hackathons are pretty general events where people of a community come together and work on project(s). Often the actual activities of a hackathon resemble something like the following:

  • People meet in person
  • Idea generation or task delegation
  • Team or group forming
  • Building or working (hacking)
  • Presentation or judging period

To better define the space that is a “hackathon”, here are some general examples of what I would lump into the term “hackathon event”; trying to provide enough variety to show that subject and tasks can be quite different.

  • Civic Hackathon. Technologists and civic leaders making applications for their communities.
  • Iconathon. Designers and artists coming together to make reusable icons for everyone.
  • Code Sprint. Coders sprinting towards the next release of a software product.
  • Data Day. Data nerds come together to try to liberate and utilize (public) data.
  • Internal Hackathons. Like a code sprint, but for a specific organization or company.

Just to make sure we are on the same page, let’s define this a bit more. Community building is simple; its the act of bringing people together for a shared cause and creating connections where there were none before and/or strengthening existing connections. That’s it. But keep that in mind as we go through this.

The value of community building is that you grow the size of your community with more participants and also strengthen everyone’s ties to the community as a whole, which translates to your community becoming more sustainable and more capable of accomplishing its mission, whatever that may be.

By building a stronger community, you are building more sustainable solutions.

  • If your community is focused on creating civic technology, better connections produce sustainability and ensures real needs are met.
  • If your community is designing icons, building relationships means knowledge and inspiration sharing, enhancing the artistic pool.
  • If your community is all about a specific software, building community means less burnout, more throughput, and more adoption.

So, why a hackathon?

If our primary goal is community building, why not just hold an ice cream social and let people mingle and talk to each other? Good point. Holding a happy hour or ice cream social in your community would be a great idea and would probably strengthen your community, given the audience.

And that’s where the answer comes in — given the audience, i.e. the members of these communities, a hackathon is the best activity for community building. The people in these communities want to build and create and learn with and from each other. In fact, these communities are defined by the things they make Their members want to feel productive. Working together and collaborating builds bonds and strengthens personal ties much better than a beer will (beers can pretty great too).

Sunlight Foundation’s recent article says that community building is not the focus of a hackathon and that application building is, and the article makes the comparison of a hackathon to a Habitat for Humanity event. But here’s the thing, hackathons are about coming together to find new and innovative ways to tackle problems or otherwise lending one’s specific skills to a problem; a Habitat for Humanity event is focused on getting bodies to help build things that have already been planned out, but the skills of the individuals are not important at all. This would translate to a Habitat for Humanity session where a foundation was set, then the volunteers would try to find the best way to build a house; it would probably be really bad unless you had experienced contractors, carpenters, and electricians. But I am not trying to knock what Habitat does; getting volunteers together to build a house is a great activity, and if your community has a set project and plan and all you need are volunteers, do think about it in this way, but a hackathon should not be run like this.

Hackathons are not for everyone, and depending on your community and goals, you may want to hold other sort of events.

What about the apps, the issue queues, the code, the icons?

The activities of the day are not the same as the reason for holding an event. The activities of a hackathon can be fairly different, stretching from everyone working on an existing project in a code sprint, to building new apps at a hackathon, to data wrangling at a open data day, to drawing icons at an iconathon, and more. These are really important and are the focus of what people are practically doing; telling people to come to a Community Building Marathon would probably not convince many folks to attend. But this is not the reason for holding the event; people could do these things by themselves, but they come together because they value their connection to the community.

You aren’t going to finish these activities at the hackathon. You aren’t gonna come out with anything more than prototypes for applications; even if you close out every issue in the queue, there will still be more tomorrow; you can ship a new release, but there’s always another one; you will draw lots of icons, but probably not make any finished ones; there’s always more work to be done. This does not mean its not worth the time and energy that people are willing to put into the event, but expectations need to be realistic. Again, it’s not about the activities, its about how the activities actually build stronger communities so that this work can continue into the future.

Prototyping and experimentation

The ideas of experimentation and prototyping are very critical to successful community building. These are the ideals that have led to such a strong community of computer hackers. By providing an event where experimentation and prototyping are promoted, people can feel more comfortable with taking risks, learning new things, and being more open with each other. Focusing on finishing activities will often conflict with this.

Promote the work

Given that people are giving their time, energy, and expertise to draw icons, triage issues, scrape data, and more, it is really important that these activities are collected and put on a pedestal after the event. This is not about the actual work, its about promoting the people that did the work.

But we want to create sustainable, stable applications to help your community, you say?

That’s great! But a hackathon won’t make that happen. Don’t get me wrong, some amazing projects have come out of hackathons that have gone on to be great things. But these are rare cases, and at best the hackathon simply played the role of getting the right people together, not providing an environment to fully foster that project. Holding a hackathon that is solely aimed at making great applications is like playing the lottery; sure, you might get a winning ticket, but most of the time you are gonna be disappointed. This is not even to speak to the mechanics of making good applications in which a day, a weekend, or even a week could not produce a sustainable solution to a problem.

If you really want to foster sustainable applications and projects, hold an event or series of events that brings together real funders and established product teams and build those relationships. A hackathon can be a real good step in getting those product teams together, but it will not provide sustainability to them.

What about contests?

First, let’s distinguish between hackathons that are contests, and long-running, remote (not in-person) contests, for instances ones that are on The latter is actually a productive way to promote innovation and given certain conditions, will actually lead to some significant, long-term projects. The former is a bad idea in my opinion.

Contests at hackathon promote competition, which in a community of people where you want to strengthen relationships with, could have negative results. Also, as discussed above, hackathons do not create long-term projects, and giving significant money to a project that was prototyped over a day or two with a team that may have never met before is not a good investment of money.

On the flip side, contests do provide incentives to people that might not have them in the first place; but it is arguable if this is actually the type of behavior you want to promote. If the prize money is in small, relatively trivial amounts, and almost everyone gets a prize, contests can provide a level of competition that promotes innovation and experimentation that might not be there.

What is success?

If you accept the premise that a hackathon is a community building event, then what does success look like? It is the number of connections made and the quality of relationships at the end of the event; it is not the number of apps built or issues closed or even the quality of the projects produced. Some specific metrics:

  • Fun was had
  • New connections were made
  • People learned new things
  • People know how to keep in touch with the community
  • Teams continue to work on their projects
  • People come to the next event

Planning your hackathon

When you plan your hackathon, ensure that your primary focus is community building and that your activities lend themselves to that idea; you will have a fun and successful event if you do this. Some ideas to keep in mind:

  • Do no harm. Make sure you are not doing things that sever connections or lessen community.
  • A charismatic, empathetic, vibrant facilitator is so crucial. The person that leads the event needs to understand the core of community building and what needs to happen to facilitate it.
  • Ensure everyone feels productive, no matter the skill level, or if they show up late, or even if they dont have a computer. You’ll need extra facilitators for this.
  • Make sure everyone can speak their ideas if they want to. This needs to be constructive, of course.
  • Make sure all relevant audiences are there. Go out and get them! Only having coders working on applications will result in incomplete ideas and solutions.
  • Everyone is equally important. Seriously. Make sure this is activated.
  • Collect names of participants and promote their work after the event.

In conclusion

I am not trying to say that people are doing bad jobs when running their hackathons, but by keeping in mind that hackathons are just community building events, you will find a lot more success with your events.

Let me know what you think.


I have had the amazing fortune of being apart of some great communities and knowing fantastic people that have allowed me to participate, lead, and critically think about these sort of events. I have not fully attributed them in this article, but will soon.

Note that the Sunlight Foundation article linked to above is really great; I just think the original premise is a bit off.

Log in or register to post comments
github twitter contact linkedin flickr
Alan Palazzolo © 2006-2011

2013-03-08T07:01:47+00:00March 8th, 2013|