In a panic about what to get the civic nerd(s) in your posse this holiday season? In the spirit of the holidays (and shopping procrastinators everywhere), I’d like to provide this informative, “extremely official” guide — so you don’t feel compelled to go out and buy a drone for each of them. (Big shout out to Code for America’s awesome Brigade captains for sending in their suggestions!)
(Disclaimer: all featured products are intended as gift suggestions – none of these items are official promotions or sponsors of this post. This is just my opinion of fun, awesome civic nerd gifts.)
For the Makers
Be that traffic guy/gal
Tomorrow Labs brings us this superb traffic meter DIY kit. It can even track bikes riding over the sensor you put over a stretch of road or sidewalk! Gather local data on traffic in your community and get hacking! ($ varies)
Ever wanted to provide your community with a better sense of its health and wellness? A recently funded Kickstarter campaign yielded a big win for Air Quality Egg, which measures a variety of air quality inputs and publishes the data to an open data platform for you to share with folks in your ‘hood and everyone interested in local health measurements. ($40+)
Don’t forget the kids
If you have an aspiring young coder or roboticist, help them get their foot in the door at Young Makers Club, BlackGirlsCode, CoderDojo, or CodeNow. All these organizations provide great ways for young makers and hackers to get inspired by science and technology. ($ varies)
Don’t make tracks, make tracking devices
If you’re ready to roll up your sleeves, get out your soldering kit, and open some data, this project is for you. This hack for a low-power, low-cost public transit tracker would be a great project to do with your group of techy transportation nerd. I envision an awesome parent making a kit with the necessary parts for their budding civic nerdlettes. Enough said. ($ varies)
This brand new poster from Skillcrush highlights women hackers throughout history. Learn about the pioneering contributions of innovators like Ada Lovelace and Anita Borg. Limited Edition! ($ 18)
For the Urbanists
Promote Urban Research
Do you have a budding urban planner, transportation geek, and/or sustainability advocate in your midst? Give them a membership to your local urban research think tank (if you have one) or advocacy group. In the Bay Area, SPUR is a great bet, with luncheon lectures from prominent urbanists and walking tours around San Francisco, San Jose, and, if rumors have it, Oakland as well. ($ sliding scale)
Tours with a Twist
Looking for a hip way to explore your city? Collaborative consumption star Vayable is a startup which allows you to book a tour, class, or experience with a self-organized tour guide, rated by participants much like you would on Yelp for a restaurant.
I like to use Vayable for shenanigans such as exploring the local food scenes of Code for America city partners, like New York. For example, you can have a midnight food street crawl led by a local urban explorer. ($59 for a food crawl)
Head over to Delicious City Prints for some delectable city posters. I very much heart this food-focused poster of Seattle, my hometown and an inaugural Code for America city partner. ($24)
For the Civic Book Worms
The Data Book to Conquer All Data Books
Funny story – walking down the street on the way to work, I actually FOUND this amazing new book, the “Human Face of Big Data” on the sidewalk. How could I resist? Detailing the newest trends in understanding and digesting big data, this is surely to be the defining data nerd coffee book of the year. Also, you can see a great photo of our founder Jennifer Pahlka and the 2012 fellows (scroll to image 10). ($50)
Be a “Next American”
Next American City magazine exemplifies a lot of the values I love about forward thinking urbanists – community planning values, informative reporting, slick design, and of course, great reporting on technology’s effect on urbanism. This nonprofit provides not only an important read but also acts as a lightning rod of activism and events promoting new thinking around cities. ($1.99/month)
Get your #OpenGov On
If you haven’t checked out this, now classic, book on open government, head over to O’Reilly Media’s online book shop and pick up, “Open Government: Collaboration, Transparency, and Participation in Practice,” by Daniel Lathrop and Laurel Ruma.
Featuring Code for America Advisor Tim O’Reilly, along with Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation, and more, this book expands on how government can better leverage the openness of the web to improve its operations and increase citizen participation and awareness. ($24.99)
We hope this list of gifts helps you through any civic nerd shopping you may undertake this holiday season. Beyond any tangible gifts, we at Code for America are profoundly grateful for all the great work our community of civic hackers, government advocates, and organizers have done to help government become more collaborative, participatory, and accessible in its services. Your service is an incredible gift to the movement we all are a part of.
Questions? Comments? Hit us up @codeforamerica.