Blogging for America

A Day in the Life of a CfA Fellow: Prashant Singh

What’s it like to be a Code for America Fellow? Fasten your seatbelts. Just kidding, don’t read this at all in a car: either pay attention to the road or make pleasant conversation with your driver. For everyone else…

7 AM¬†What?! Who’s calling?? Oh, the alarm. Get out of bed, get ready for a bike ride. The beach is only about 4.5 miles away, but it’s July, still foggy, and barely more than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so don’t look outside and just pretend it’ll be warm. Anyways, Golden Gate Park is beautiful when it’s misty.

8.45 AM Go to The Grind for coffee and breakfast. My usual these days costs $6.66. We’ll just file that under coincidence.

Morning coffee!

Gotta start the day right

 

9 AM Wait for the bus. Five minutes away. Open data in action!

9.20 AM It’s Tie Tuesday. I recently learned how to tie a bow tie, so I’ve been sporting one at the office on Tuesdays. If you claim not to have a dress code, people will test that claim.

9.25 AM Someone says “nice bow tie!” Translation: “you look like a magician, but I respect you as a colleague, and I respect your confidence with that inappropriate attire.” Compliment accepted!

9.30 AM Finally get around to eating my bagel. Delicious. Finally get around to reading some emails. Nutritious.

11 AM Phone call with some of our Detroit partners. We’re getting close to a launch date, so things are exciting but also nerve-racking. Signs, stickers, service fees. The conference room gets warm now that the sun is out, but if we open the window, the sounds and smells from the alley might distract us from our work. No distractions.

Alicia on the phone

12 PM We have brown-bag discussion with Allison Arieff, Urbanist Editor at SPUR. We get some awesome folks stopping by the office. So much for the brown-bag part, though; lunch will have to wait. Great discussion of technology’s role in the civic space. Just because we’re tech folks doesn’t mean we should throw websites and APIs at every problem.

1.15 PM Quick, send an email. Go grab coffee and lunch.

Coffee at Cumaica

I do more than just drink coffee, I swear

2 PM Not quite done with lunch, but we have another guest: Tom Carden, currently at Bloom and formerly at Stamen, discusses data visualization. I’ve been assured that it’s socially acceptable to finish my lunch during the discussion. Today is full of wins. Among other things, we discuss pie charts vs. more engaging but more involved visualizations. Great point: if you ask more of your readers, make sure to reward them.

3.20 PM Back to work. I’ve got some preliminary user testing data for an SMS-based service. Seeing real interaction with the system is super handy. Some people interact with the system almost as though it’s human. They send “Thank you” or “Ok:)” after receiving information. Our system does not respond in a very friendly way. Note: give our service a better robot-personality. As research, I should probably watch a bunch of movies or TV shows with artificially intelligent characters.

3.52 PM I’ve got mail. OK, yes, I get email all the time. But this is the kind I should read sooner rather than later. Evaluate for pun and snarkiness potential. Low potential: send a succinct, earnest response. Better luck next time.

4.15 PM Time to do some coding. People often ask if I’m a developer. I write code, but on a team of three, we each do a litte of everything. That’s part of why I’m here. But right now, it’s time to get my hands dirty. Metaphorically, of course. Dirt is bad for keyboards.

4.45 PM Quick discussion with teammate Alicia. Our Apps for Detroit Challenge has gotten some ex-Michigander startup founders excited about the Detroit tech scene. Hosting an app contest is stressful, and I’m not even taking the lead on it. This is awesome news.

5 PM Phone call! I don’t recognize the number, so this is either super important (the mayor? the president??) or a political survey. False alarm. It’s a restaurant confirming a reservation. Yes, I would still like to eat dinner in a couple of days.

6.15 PM Gotta check out early today for a haircut. In technology, some people use coffee as a replacement for haircuts, presentable clothing, and basic social skills. That’s not how it works, folks. Head to BART. No need to run. Open data strikes again!

6.40 PM Grab a snack on the way. Lunch was tasty but wasn’t going to last forever. The cafe on the corner is a little fancy. Pretend I’m also fancy, while I eat tiny, open-faced sandwiches. Crostini,¬†would that I had time for a thousand of you.

Crostinis

7 PM Haircut time. Taylor has been cutting my hair for a while, so not much for me to do except drink some bourbon and catch up. That’s right: my haircut involves bourbon, and it’s not even the highlight of my week. At Code for America, life is good.

Taylor

The other wall has a jackalope head

8 PM Head home. Check arrivals for the J train. I swear this is not an ad for open transit data. Also, open transit data is awesome.

9 PM The office is great, but a little quiet time at home is nice. Finish up some coding. Run into a roadblock. No problem, I know just who to talk to when I’m back at the office…

Experience the life of a Code for America fellow, fellowship application deadline is 7/29, apply right here.

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