Civic Tech Toronto hacknight: July 21

First hacknight! 21 attendees

Presenter: Matthew Gray (@matthewdhgray)

Breakout groups:

  • Civic User Testing – Meghan
  • Community resource tool for librarians – Bianca
  • Toronto budget – Henrik
  • Ontario legislation tracker – Amanda
  • Conversation finder – Howard


68 thoughts on “Civic Tech Toronto hacknight: July 21

  • Here is some information about the project proposal candidate I put forward last night, regarding more accessible Toronto Budget information.

    The information below is taken from my announcement on the dataTO google group (!searchin/datato/taxonomy/datato/D4TU6BrpPMc/4vnLjqaSLa8J)

    All comments and suggestions are welcome!


    I’ve assembled a dataset (with some difficulty) of the City of Toronto Budget Summaries going back to 2003 (I couldn’t quite get back to amalgamation – 1998 – in this round). For presentation and analysis, I’ve created a better taxonomy for the detailed line items of the summaries, and using automation (Google App Script) created a fairly large set of time series for the data. Finally I’ve offered a preliminary analysis of the data.

    My research report can be downloaded here (, and the original google spreadsheets can be seen here (

    The report has three things that may be of interest.

    First, it offers a more accessible taxonomy for the City of Toronto Operating Budget Summary. So for example rather than ‘Citizen Centred Services “A”‘ or ‘Agencies’ at a high level, it offers what I call program domains of ‘Shared Services’, ‘Citizen Support Services’, and ‘Municipal Services’. The taxonomy rolls the 53 line items of the budget into 10 categories, and then rolls these categories into the aforementioned 3 domains. The introduction of the referenced report ( provides a Taxonomy at a glance which makes this clear.

    Second, it applies this taxonomy to a time series of Toronto Operating Budgets from 2003 – 2015. The time series includes many variations of tables and graphs, including notably an inflation adjusted series (based on the Bank of Canada inflation calculator). The tables and graphs are automatically generated based on the annual budget summary tabs so that changes to the model can be made realistically.

    Third, it offers a preliminary analysis of these time series, notably that the Toronto budget has gone up about 35% since 2003 on an inflation adjusted basis.

    So there are lots of avenues available for investigation.

    As mentioned above, the sheets themselves are available on google docs here (, and if anyone wants the source code for the automated table and chart generation, I’d be happy to share that too, just let me know.

    The brief background section in the report ( explains my history and interest in this.

  • Participants: Alex, Andi, Bianca, Cody, Henrik, Rachel

    Topic: Toronto Public Library – Community Resource Finder
    User: Librarian/Front Desk staff
    Question: Is there an opportunity to improve the tool(s) available to librarians/front desk workers to respond to community requests about local services?

    1. What’s the current state of the process/tools used to answer questions at the front desk regarding community services?
    2. Is 211 being used?
    3. What’s working well at the library?
    4. What’s challenging? Could we be helpful on any front there?
    5. Create an inventory of what librarians do

    Next steps:
    1. Inviting TPL contacts to a future meet-up
    2. Research library civic tech projects – those where library staff are the users of the tech

    Other Discussions:
    1. Accessible event space listing – spaces that qualify on several fronts (TTC, washroom, ramps, etc.)
    Starting points: Awesome Foundation, Stop Gap.
    2. Education – understanding the informal networks (parent to parent) that parents who do not speak English or French use to manage their children’s education (teachers, school admin.)

  • Amanda checking in here with a summary of our conversation on the Ontario legislation tracker.

    Essentially, we’re looking to build a scraper that can take the updates from the Ontario legislature’s website and aggregate them in a way similar to and allow users to sign up for updates on pending legislation, categories of legislation, legislation introduced by specific politicians, etc. Ideally, this could be integrated with Open North’s work as Nova Scotia’s has.

    The first step will be to build a simple scraper to get this information off of the legislature’s website in an open format. The next steps will be ensuring our database and designs for displaying the data conform to Popolo standards ( and reaching out to Open North (

    I also previously posted this on Code for Canada’s boards (, and we can discuss the project there if anyone is interested.

  • A much-belated update on the Toronto Civic User Testing Group!

    This is an inkling of an idea in its super early stages. I’m really inspired by the Chicago Civic User Testing Group:

    Basically it’s a way for developers to access real citizens to test their innovations with, and the citizens get paid for their time. I’d love to see something like this in Toronto. As the Civic Tech Toronto projects take off, it will be increasingly important for people to have access to real users to test their content with. How could we make this happen?

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