Civic Hacking Meeting 10/18/16 - Google Maps, Firebase, Polymer

Hey everyone,

The Civic Hacking Committee aims to increase awareness of technology topics as they pertain to aspects of making your community better, whether it’s through open government data, map making, emergency alerts, or other related endeavors. We are having a meeting this coming Tuesday at 6:30 PM.


  1. Vote!
  2. Latest news on technology in the public sector space
  3. The Main Event: Build a map app with Google Firebase, Polymer, and Maps API

We have previously discussed several other tools for serving maps online without needing to set up your own back-end, but this approach gives you even greater control over your content. And, like the others, it doesn’t require much coding at all! Little to no JavaScript is required and the vast majority of the functionality is built with essentially HTML.

Firebase is a cloud database service offered by Google, but is really much more than that if you dive deeply into it. Polymer is a light-weight “framework” for quickly developing Web apps, and easily leverages Web Components to minimize the amount of custom code you have to write to build your app. Come on out if you’re interested in exploring these technologies.

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Arrrgh! I have a Tuesday commitment and wish there had been a notification days ago. Am working on a long-term civic project involving mapping and would have enjoyed this meeting.

Aw drat! Well if it makes you feel any better, the Google Developers Group (GDG Dallas) is having a Polymer workshop Wednesday night, and you could probably get one of them to walk you through it as well… just not with my Makers’ Markers points organized by shop type.

Anyway, I’d love to hear more about your project if you want to share it here or catch up in person!

(I probably should have asked if Tuesday or Wednesday worked better for people, but assumed there were already a lot of other meetings on Wednesday.)

Well, maybe I hyped up the Polymer & Firebase a little bit too much… Being mostly a Java guy, anything involving HTML programming doesn’t really feel like programming. :stuck_out_tongue: But when I was doing the presentation, I realized there is actually quite a bit of theory involved in what’s going on with all that!

Anyway, for those of you interested, while my code isn’t exactly up on GitHub at the moment, I highly adapted it from this example on GitHub: But before any of that will be useful, you’ll need a server of some sort (like Node.js & Express), some Bower components installed, a Google Firebase database account, and an API key for accessing Google Maps. I showed the interfaces for particularly Firebase & Google API Console.

Finally, thanks to those of you who came out to the meeting tonight. Despite my most sincere offers, I couldn’t convince anyone to challenge my chairmanship.

Not sure if I mentioned this before, but having talked to various people in government and institutions, usually they prefer to have some level of support or service-level agreement when they get software, and software from a group of volunteers from a Makerspace, no matter how well-intentioned, just seems way more risky than something they might have to shell out big $$$ for. It might be hard to live out one of our original goals – to volunteer our time & skills building software for institutions – but that doesn’t mean we can’t still build cool stuff just for the sake of learning, and then open-source it! Let’s see where the next 6 months takes us. Meanwhile, I’m going to practice not just expecting but bringing on the unexpected. Stay tuned for our next meeting!