SF Tech Workers Start Building Solutions To Common Political Complaints

SF Tech Workers Start Building Solutions To Common Political Complaints

A hackathon in San Francisco. (Photo: Matthew (WMF)/Wikimedia Commons)

By Elaine Gavin - Published on November 18, 2016.

A group of local technology workers with a variety of skills and political perspectives are gathering in Yerba Buena tonight to begin building technical solutions to political problems they believe are plaguing the country.

The group is called Debug Politics, and their first "hackathon" is tonight at 814 Mission St. The organizers are inviting designers, programmers, developers, marketers and copywriters (as well as pretty much anyone with a skill to offer) to help brainstorm ways to address community complaints surrounding this year's election.

The idea for this effort began with Jesse Pickard, CEO of Elevate (makers of the brain-training mobile app of the same name), and a small group of friends and colleagues—including engineers from Elevate, Google, Facebook and Airbnb. The group discussed ways to proactively create tech solutions that would help address problems with the current political atmosphere. And now they have 50 volunteers working to get the first Debug Politics hackathon up and running.

“People are seeing that it doesn’t really do any good to just post [complaints] to Facebook and Twitter," says Pickard. "You’re not really having an effect. But people want to truly make an impact.”

Debug Politics is nonpartisan, he said, and they are not taking a particular stance on the election. Instead, their objective is to create solutions to improve communication and information-sharing for Republicans and Democrats alike.

“We don’t have an agenda. We’re biased towards action,” Pickard says.

Pickard | Photo courtesy of Jesse Pickard

So what kind of "action" is Debug Politics looking to take?

One of the most common complaints he’s been hearing, Pickard says, is that there is little direct conversation happening between differing political views in the United States. “So we would want to create communication tools that inspire direct contact between these two groups instead of what's happening today, which that everyone is in their own echo chambers."

During the hackathon, the group will point out complaints like this and examine ways to solve them. Pickard believes that many of the problems brought on by the most recent election can be addressed by tech answers, if the right combination of minds work together.

But he's well-aware that the technology industry is a polarizing subject here in San Francisco. “We get a lot of flack in the Bay Area. Most of my friends really just want to try and build solutions for problems.”

Debug Politics is sponsored by Elevate, as well as fellow startups Hustle, and Looksharp, and the venture capital firm 500 Startups. Tonight's hackathon is almost at capacity, but Pickard assures that there will be others—including another San Francisco event on December 9th as well as gatherings the same day in New York and Los Angeles.

“I’m not saying we're gonna save the world in a weekend. But it’s better for our community to be engaged and focus on positive change then to be on the sidelines.”