Paul Smith

About me

I’m a software engineer and computer programmer living in Chicago. I’ve been developing websites and applications professionally for more than 15 years. I was a leader of the “tech surge” that fixed HealthCare.gov.

I’m co-founder and a principal of Ad Hoc, a small company that’s making better government sofware.

I’m formerly the CTO of Public Good Software, a startup I co-founded to help make better software for civil society.

I was the Deputy Director of Technology at the Democratic National Committee from September 2011 through February 2013. I worked closely with the Obama For America 2012 campaign in Chicago. We reelected the President and helped Democrats win across the country.

I co-founded EveryBlock in 2007. It was acquired by msnbc.com in 2009, and I worked there until the fall of 2011. I wrote an article about our custom-made maps.

Before EveryBlock, I was a freelance web developer in Chicago. I developed web applications for Crain’s Chicago Business, and designed and developed the personal website of journalist Chris Hayes.

Prior to that, I worked at the Center for Neighborhood Technology, a non-profit also in Chicago. I was webmaster and systems administrator, and developed sites such as the Civic Footprint, a site that let you look up who represented you politically, down to the local level.

While at CNT, I also helped conceive and direct the technology of a community wireless networking project that aimed to pilot internet access in low-income communities in Chicago and Illinois. As a consequence of that effort, I found myself in the Gulf states of Louisiana and Mississippi in the weeks following the landfall of Hurricane Katrina. My colleague Rogers Wilson and I, along with a team of volunteers from around the country, helped to restore communications for people displaced by the hurricane.

Throughout my time in Chicago, I was involved in helping a unique rails-to-trails project, similar to NYC’s High Line, hoping to be the Chicago equivalent. I co-founded Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail in 2003, an all-volunteer non-profit organization dedicated to converting the unused elevated rail line on the north side of Chicago running along Bloomingdale Avenue into a multi-use greenspace and park. The park was built and opened in 2015. I continue to serve on the board of FBT.

I intermittently attended St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where I studied physics and philosophy.

I was fortunate to intern as a high school senior at (what was then known as) the Laboratory of Mathematical Biology, part of the National Cancer Institute at Ft. Detrick, Maryland, where I first was exposed to Unix systems, C and Perl programming, information theory, the internet, and the World Wide Web, in 1994-95. Long live NCSA Mosiac!

I’m originally from Maryland. I lived in Chicago from 1999 to 2009. I was again in Maryland, in Baltimore, from 2009 to 2014. I moved back to Chicago in the summer of 2014, where I currently live with my wife Michelle Mills and our children.

Talks

Beyond the HealthCare.gov fix: making better government software (slides) (Given at Chi Hack Night)
How Go helped save America Rescue of HealthCare.gov (Given at GopherCon 2015)
Fixing HealthCare.gov (Given at Enroll America’s 2014 conference)
Spatial Data and Web Mapping with Python (Given at PyCon 2012)
Mapping with Location Data (Given at Refresh Baltimore)
The Web map stack on Django (Given at EuroDjangoCon ‘09)