Remember when Mark Zuckerberg and his friends made a baby, and sent it on a cross-country bus trip to DC? FWD.us was supposed to be a new force in Washington, using new tech smarts to solve old policy impasses. Of course, that was bullshit, but here's a semi-exploitative hackathon, just for fun.
The LA Times rings the bell of political progress: "Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg is bringing young undocumented immigrants with engineering chops to Silicon Valley to 'hack' immigration reform." "Hack" is written in scare quotes because it doesn't mean anything here: immigration reform will remain exactly as intractable and bleak as ever, which is why Zuck is playing the same old lobbying games as every other lobbying group in the history of lobbying. Cozying up with creeps gets shit done in our nation's capital—hackathons don't.
Especially hackathons as patently useless as this:
The young coders will break into small groups to build technology during the marathon programming session to push Congress to pass immigration reform. Technology veterans including Zuckerberg, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and Dropbox co-founder Drew Houston will be on hand to advise them, and Fwd.us, Zuckerberg's lobbying group, has pledged to get the projects up and running
Among the young immigrants who will code for 24 hours straight is 24-year-old Justino Mora from Los Angeles.
Mora's group plans to build a mobile app that will tell people who their representatives are in Washington, where those representatives stand on immigration reform and ways in which people can take action, either by signing a petition or sending a message to their representatives.
Coding for 24 straight hours as FWD.us tweets about you, preening for its followers: I would renounce my US citizenship to not have to go through that. It's a perfect example of two very clear and very bad things: Silicon Valley's fantasy faith in coding as panacea, and Washington's faith in the power of a good photo opp.
Truly, the worst of both worlds. If hackathons were all it took to pass reform on a national scale, it would probably make more sense to put a bunch of people in a room with laptops instead of greasing politicians with money.