“Hacks and Hackers,” our young organization focused on bringing journalism and technology closer together, seems to have struck a chord.

Over the weekend of May 21-23, 80 journalists and technologists in San Francisco participated in the group’s first "Hacks/Hackers Unite" gathering, where they developed 12 iPad applications. Meanwhile, our “question-and-answer” site, Help.Hackshackers.com, launched less than two months ago, is becoming a thriving online community for people interested in computer programming for journalism and media applications.

Here’s the latest sign that Hacks and Hackers is meeting a need: the RSVP list for our first New York City event tomorrow night (June 2). There are now more than 160 people who’ve confirmed they plan to attend.

"I’m thrilled with the way this group seems to have hit on something right at the right time," said Aron Pilhofer of the New York Times, co-organizer of the meetup and one of three founders of Hacks and Hackers. (The other two are me and Burt Herman, a San Francisco-based technology entrepreneur and former Associated Press bureau chief and foreign correspondent.)

Burt did an amazing job leading the organization of the Hacks/Hackers Unite event in San Francisco focusing on iPad applications. The event was sponsored by KQED, National Public Radio, the Knight Digital Media Center, Demotix, Speck Products and Exygy.

At the end of two days of coding, judges picked two projects as the best applications:

  • Citizen Kid News: an iPad app that provides a visually dynamic and accessible framework for kids to safely explore and interact with the news. Top kid-appealing news content is curated on a daily basis, in 5 categories: Animals, World, Science, Sports and Entertainment. A photographic touch interface provides a window into each story, and kids can select stories for further exploration that includes additional text, photos, video and audio. The app incorporates game mechanics to encourage participation: kids earn points for commenting on articles, viewing videos about the reporter’s process, and eventually contributing their own articles. Kids earn badges along the way, starting with “Cub Reporter” and culminating with “Editor”. Screenshots of the application can be found here and here and here.
  • Who’s Reppin’ Me, a Web-based app that feeds users news stories about their political representatives based on location. Users can then send Tweets to lawmakers to express their approval or disapproval of their actions. The app is online at http://whosreppin.me/

A list of all the projects completed during the weekend is at: http://unite.hackshackers.com/2010/05/order-of-presentations/.
Video from the event can be found at http://www.youtube.com/user/hackshackers. Matt Baume, on Poynter.org, did a nice writeup on lessons learned from Hacks/Hackers Unite.

The New York event tomorrow isn’t going to try to tackle any technology problems – but it will be a great chance for hacks and hackers to get to know one another and talk about future collaborations. Burt, Aron and I will be there to talk about Hacks and Hackers. Jennifer 8. Lee, who has played a key role in organizing the event, will discuss her work with the Knight Foundation to support journalism innovation. Josh Cohen, senior business product manager at Google News, will also make some remarks. And folks from Patch, an event sponsor and AOL’s hyperlocal startup, will be discussing their approach to news and technology, as well as the skills and experience they are looking for on their product and technology teams.

The event also gives me, Burt and Aron an excuse to get together in one place for the first time. We’ll be talking about next steps for Hacks and Hackers. Feel free to post ideas and suggestions in the comments below.