Frequently Asked Questions

The Project

CivicApps is a call for ideas and apps for using open data to change the world, in the hope of helping as many in our communities as possible.

The City of Portland is not doing this alone. This is a regional effort between local governments across the Portland area. The simple answer is that we think helping people find and use public information is good. Even better is empowering people to help themselves and help others. Making public data open empowers people.

CivicApps stands for Civic Applications. No, we’re not talking about the ever popular fuel-efficient, reliable and environmentally friendly car. This is about Civic engagement, which is defined as “individual and collective actions designed to identify and address issues of public concern.” In a few words, the goal is to promote applications that help people identify and address issues of public concern.

Portland area governments want to be more transparent and make their data more useful. Government has to be on the cutting edge of technology to fulfill its public service mandate in today’s world. To be useful to citizens, the information it collects must be more accessible. But we also know we don’t know how to do this. There is a lot of creative ideas and talent in the local developer community – as well as a willingness to share with others. This Challenge is a way to tap into this and let everyone know about the datasets that have been made public. It's about how you can help the community make better use of public data. This is your chance to show us new ways to use the data and help transform how people use public information. Find out more on the About page.

The Community

Open source software is developed using an open and collaborative process and licensed under terms that generally give its contributors and users alike the rights to use, copy, modify and redistribute the software. The Linux operating system, Firefox web browser, Apache web server, and OpenOffice suite are just some of the open source software offerings millions of users worldwide depend on each day.

Support of open source, open data, and open standards is the first step to attaining more open and transparent government. A number of them are working with regional public, private, and non-profit organizations to provide a data platform to enable the good will of others in the community to contribute the best ideas and innovations to address civic needs and solutions to problems. The Design Challenge will help to incentivize the development of applications using the open datasets.

The Portland region enjoys a long history of incubating, attracting and sustaining a very large talent pool for open source development. The Portland region is home to many of the premier providers of open source technology and related activities, including: dozens of user groups; top companies; top development projects and labs; nationally recognized programs at Portland State and Oregon State universities; both large and small software conference and "unconference" events such as OSCon, LinuxCon, Open Source Bridge and BarCamp, WhereCamp, DrupalCamp, and WordCamp.

A number of community leaders, business and group organizers, open source developers, and other interested representatives from the public and private sectors, and academia are already involved in helping grow open source software development in the Portland area. A volunteer citizen advisory board was formed based on specific resource needs of the project in addition to a pool of people encountered through meetings with community groups and their representatives. See the Data Providers and Sponsors page for a full list.

The Site

This site is hosted by Open Source Labs on behalf of a long list of local governments in the Portland Oregon metropolitan area. See the Data Providers and Sponsors pages for more information. These governments and sponsors have agreed to contribute to a prize fund to recognize and reward winning ideas and applications.

Personal information is not part of this effort at all. Only non-personal information can be publicly available and re-used to make life better for the public. In fact, local jurisdictions are going to great lengths to ensure no private information and individual privacy can ever be compromised. For example, information about where a school is located is valuable public information; who goes there is not.

The Challenge

The CivicApps team reserves the right to change the rules at any time. However, this right will only be exercised to promote effective running of the event and fairness to participants.

The CivicApps Challenge is open to all mobile and web application developers who live or work in the Portland metropolitan area. Employees of key partners and sponsors are eligible to participate in the Challenge, but are not eligible to receive the prize rewards.

You have from now until the Best Idea Awards deadline to get ideas submitted. After each award announcement, you have about six weeks to submit apps to be considered in the Apps Challenge.

No, you don’t. Anyone can submit ideas. To submit an application, you do have to be the creator of the application or have permission from the creator to submit it in the Challenge.

The CivicApps Challenge opens in March and will close in late June. The winners will be announced in May and July.

Yes, government employees are encouraged to enter, but if you are a government employee you will not be eligible to win a prize award.

Review the FAQ. You can also share your thoughts and ideas on the CivicApps Ideas and Apps discussion boards, or Contact the event organizers for specific questions.

Stick around and help shape the ideas and applications that have been posted. Your comments are valuable. The more an idea is worked on, the better it gets. Click on the “Add Your Own Idea” button and complete the form. If you have an application to enter, click on the “Add Your Own App” button and complete the form.

This depends on whether we are talking about the Ideas Challenge or the Apps Challenge rounds. You can see the ideas entered during the first round immediately after they are entered, and hopefully you will begin voting and commenting on them. The point of holding this first round of the Challenge is to collect lots of innovative ideas in one place so that everyone can learn from them. The application entries, however, will begin to become available towards the end of the development rounds. Many entrants have requested that their entries not be made public until after all the entries are in, and this is a fair request (since part of the scoring is based on originality). We want to share the entries with you as soon as possible, so we will work as hard as we can to get our part done.

We reserve the right to change the rules at any time. If a small number of people were to enter, we are likely to award fewer (potentially larger) prizes.

The Data

Open datasets are available in the Datasets section. The datasets and their related documentation come from the many regional suppliers, including various City bureaus, TriMet, Metro, Portland Public Schools, and others. The datasets include regional maps and boundaries, zoning, business and building permits, crime data, and many others. All data is available in a number of structured, machine-readable formats for programmatic access, including XLS, CVS, RSS, XML, SHP, KML, etc., depending on the type of data involved.

A data mashup is putting information together from different sources in new ways not the original reason for producing the data, often creating a new service. An example is Google Maps integrating images with traditional street maps. This Challenge is about ways to “mash” local government information in news ways.

The Rules

All submissions for ideas and/or applications must be submitted via the “CivicApps for Greater Portland” website. This involves registering for an account on the site, submitting ideas during the Ideas Challenge phase, and submitting your application during the Apps Challenge. Submit your ideas now, the sooner the better since ideas can only be registered by the first person to submit it. When you submit an application, be sure to send a link to the repository of the source files, documentation (compressed), and provide a URL for a prototype on the Internet. See the respective "Submit App" page for more information.

Yes. We want all your good ideas and apps, so enter all of them.

Yes. We like teamwork. Although you'll have to split the prize award, chances of winning will likely improve the more creative minds at work on the application.

Yes. You are free to incorporate ideas and code developed in the past.

Yes. All ideas must affect and be implemented for the Portland metropolitan area, however.

The submission form will prompt you to complete all necessary information. Once you've submitted it, you won't be able to revise it. Please make sure to review your work carefully before you submit it. For application submissions, be prepared for the judging team to request additional information using the email address you provided.


All entries remain the property of their creators, in as much as open source allows. If you enter the Challenge, you should be prepared to have your application on display for up to a year, even if it doesn't win. You don’t have to have your name shown. Neither the Challenge team nor the organizations sponsoring it will ask for or claim ownership of anything submitted. The intention is to let other people see all the cool stuff that got created, share ideas, promote mashups, and hopefully inspire you to take it to the next level.

All software application submissions must be licensed for Open Source. Any OSI approved licensing will be accepted. See for a listing of approved licensing schemes.

All non-software creative content submitted - text, images or video - should be licensed under a Creative Commons or similar license.

The Ideas

We are looking for new ways to make public data useful to everyone. You can see a growing list of ideas on the Ideas Challenge page.

Not at all. The ideas phase of the Challenge is so that you can share your idea in a public forum. Let everyone know “this is my idea”. If you are a developer, please do enter your idea as an application. But if you don’t know how to turn your idea into action, let everyone know about it and hopefully a developer can make your vision a reality. Government is looking for partners; not to appropriate your idea for itself.

People can have ideas at the same time. We will accept the first idea submitted for consideration of prize awards. We suggest that you use your comments to help shape the idea. A well thought out idea has a much better chance to be realized.

The purpose of CivicApps Challenge is to identify great ideas and bring them to life. If an idea or app is selected that is similar to yours, and it succeeds, everybody wins. That's the spirit of this Challenge.

The Apps

You can use any tools you like, but the resulting code must be released as Open Source.

Part of the challenge is that you don't know. If there are compromises to be made; you have to make your judgment.

Developers entering the Apps Challenge can use any tools they like. The only requirement is that the resulting code that you submit be complete and available as open source.

No, no and no. We’re all for standards and clean code, but this is a special case. Aside from the open source mandate, your entry can be sloppy. The beauty of open sources is that truly innovative and creative apps will very likely generate a community of developers on their own. It just needs to work well enough to demonstrate the proof of concept and persuade the community to get involved. We are after creative and new ways to present information.

No. All code must be released as Open Source and all design materials must be in the Creative Commons or similar licensing. Submissions will likely be audited for compliance to this condition.

No, you are free to use any language used by a community of residents or workers within the Portland area. However, it would be very helpful if you could provide a translation with your entry though for judging.


Entries will be evaluated by the public and a select panel of judges. The public will vote and then the panel will meet to decide the winners. See the Judging page for more information.

The judges represent Portland’s diverse community, representing the design and developer communities, both on the business and government side. They graciously donated their time and deserve our thanks. You can find out more about the judges on the Judges page.

Entries are judged in two phases – an Ideas phase and an Apps design phase encompassing two (2) separate rounds - with public voting along the way. In each phase, judging is different. In the ideas phase, the public votes and judges pick their favorite ideas. The Apps design phase across two (2) rounds involves a more rigorous evaluation of usefulness and utility to citizens, appeal of the application in terms of design and usability, originality, uniqueness and inventive nature of the application, and utilization of the various datasets. Please see the Judging page for more information.

A panel of judges will review all of the entries, and choose the finalists and winners according to the following criteria:

  • 25% Most Useful – Usefulness and utility to Citizens overall, or any particular demographic of users
  • 25% Most Appealing – Appeal of the application in terms of design and usability
  • 25% Most Original – Originality, uniqueness and inventive nature of the application
  • 25% Best Use of Data – Utilization of the various datasets

You can vote for any number of submitted ideas. Only one vote rating will be allowed per idea. How you allocate those votes is up to you.

You can only vote once per submission, but you can change that vote at anytime prior to voting deadline. After the deadline, only your most recent vote will be considered.

The Awards

You get the satisfaction of knowing you made a difference and helped others…and have lots of good karma. That being said, the sponsors have pooled their resources together for prizes as a way to encourage participation. The total cash and prizes for the 2010 CivicApps for Greater Portland Challenge are worth more than $20,000. The top five submissions in each category will receive a cash award and "Spotlight" placement featuring the winning application on the newly created CivicApps Apps Showcase. Citizens will vote for the "Civic Choice" Award. The top 5 submissions in each category will also receive awards. More detailed information about prizes can be found on the Prize Awards page.

The winners for one set of awards will be selected by a panel of CivicApps judges, based on the criteria of: Usefulness and utility to Citizens overall, or any particular demographic of users; Appeal of the application in terms of design and usability; Originality, uniqueness and inventive nature of the application; and, Utilization of the various datasets.

Other awards will be determined by public vote, participant vote, and/or individual judges for discretionary awards.

There are two phases in the Challenge: the Ideas Challenge phase and the Apps Challenge phase. Winners of the Ideas phase will be announced on CivicApps for Greater Portland in May. Winners of the two rounds of the Apps phase will be announced in May and July.

Winnings will be split equally among the team members.

Sure, multiple awards are allowed (and likely). “Civic Choice” and “Participant Choice” award winners are still eligible to receive any criteria-based judging panel awards. However, category winners cannot win more than one judged category. For example, an application could win “Civic Choice”, “Participant’s Choice”, as well as win in the “Most Original” judged category, and maybe even take home a judge’s Discretionary award. But in the case a single application scores the highest in more than one judged award category, the next highest scoring application for one of the categories will be selected as the alternate “blue ribbon” winner.

An application may score highest overall across all criteria-based categories, but fail to score the highest in a single category. This application will be awarded a “blue ribbon” award for “Best Overall Score”.

Each “Blue Ribbon” winner receives $1000 cash. “Red Ribbon” or runners up awards and Discretionary awards are gift cards, store credits, or other certificates valued at $100.

More Questions

If you have more questions, please contact us through the CivicApps Contact form.