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Sunlight Developer Community

Welcome to the Sunlight Developer Community! On this page you'll find a sampling of projects to get you started on contributing to an OpenGov project. There are three categories for projects:

  • Needs tech help, for projects that need a software developer's touch
  • Needs non-tech help, for projects that rely on a community of volunteers to help analyze government data
  • Projects to inspire, for projects that aren't actively seeking contributions, but are open source projects, ready to be deployed in your home jurisdiction.

Know of a project that fits one of these categories?

Filter our community's projects to find one that inspires you.
  • Foreign Influence Project

    Sunlight Foundation

    Help track how foreign governments and entities try to influence U.S. policy by helping us comb through amazingly detailed records on file at the Department of Justice. These records provide the most detailed information available on how Washington's influence industry work. Help us to turn it into a searchable, sortable database that developers, journalists and citizens can use.

    Needs Non-Tech Help
  • United States Glossary

    Sunlight Foundation

    A collection of pleasant, readable definitions of terms and processes in the United States. Designed for integration in various user-facing applications. Ease of understanding is the #1 priority. Precision and completeness are #2.

    congress, judicial, executive, us Needs Non-Tech Help
  • Bill Nicknames

    Sunlight Foundation

    Bill Nicknames is a github repository that contains a CSV with popular bill numbers matched with their (unofficial) nicknames. For instance, HR3590 is mapped to 'obamacare' and 'ppaca', and HR3101 is mapped to 'hipaa'. This project always needs help adding new bills that are commonly referred to by their nickname instead of by their official bill title.

    legislation, congress Needs Non-Tech Help
  • Maintaining Sunlight API Wrappers

    Sunlight Foundation

    Help us maintain our Sunlight API wrappers or write a new one for the language of your choice! We've moved to the form of having one wrapper for all of our API properties, usually named language-sunlight. We currently need the following:

    • Adding Congress V3 API support to python-sunlight
    • Update ruby-sunlight to have the same support as python-sunlight
    • Create a node-sunlight wrapper that mimics behvaior of ruby-sunlight and python-sunlight. Can also function as client-side JS wrapper. Node for congress exists and could be incorporated into a node-sunlight wrapper.
    • We also need a PHP-sunlight wrapper! There isn't one created yet.
    Want to chat about it? Find us on irc.freenode.net in #sunlightlabs or email api@sunlightfoun

    APIs, sunlight Needs Programming Help
  • Collecting State Spending Data

    Sunlight Foundation

    This project was created at the 2013 Pycon code sprint. It is the beginnings of a state-by-state scraper project to collect spending data from all state level governments. It is affectionately code named "Neanmachine", after our intern Nina who began the process of collecting state spending datasets here. Get started scraping your state today!

    state spending Needs Programming Help
  • Actual Value Calculator

    City of Philadelphia

    A tool to help property owners estimate their real estate tax based on the Actual Value Initiative, a program to ensure that property values are fair and accurate. Working across departments, the City of Philadelphia released an API and this web app to streamline workflow and make accessible this data for residents. Contribute to the app or view their code here.

    Projects to Inspire
  • Chicago Lobbyists

    Open City

    An open data, open government and open source project intended to improve the transparency of interactions between the City of Chicago and lobbyists and their clients.

    Projects to Inspire
  • I Paid a Bribe

    Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy

    Tackling corruption by harnessing the collective energy of citizens who report on the nature, number, pattern, types, location, frequency and values of actual corrupt acts.

    Projects to Inspire
  • DemocracyMap

    DemocracyMap

    DemocracyMap is an initiative to better coordinate local boundary information and offer simple interfaces to discover and understand all the civic entities for a specific location. DemocracyMap aims to solve this problem by connecting citizens and journalists with the civic institutions and government bodies that represent any given location. Read more about contributing to DemocracyMap.

    Needs Non-Tech Help, Needs Programming Help
  • LittleSis

    Public Accountability Initiative

    LittleSis is a free database detailing the connections between powerful people and organizations. The site brings transparency to influential social networks by tracking the key relationships of politicians, business leaders, lobbyists, financiers, and their affiliated institutions. While the information is public, it is scattered across the internet. LittleSis brings it all together in one place by aggregating data from government filings, news articles and other reputable sources. Some data sets are updated automatically; the rest is filled in by our user community. Read more about submitting data to LittleSis.

    Needs Non-Tech Help
  • OpenElections

    OpenElections

    The goal of OpenElections is to create the first free, comprehensive, standardized, linked set of election data for the United States, including federal and statewide offices. Read more about getting involved with Open Elections.

    Needs Non-Tech Help, Needs Programming Help
  • OpenSpending

    Open Knowledge Foundation

    The aim of OpenSpending is to help track every (public) government and corporate financial transaction across the world and present it in useful and engaging forms for everyone from a school-child to a data geek. OpenSpending currently needs both technical help and non-technical help.

    Needs Non-Tech Help, Needs Programming Help
  • The unitedstates Project on Github

    GovTrack.us, Sunlight Foundation, others

    A collection of tools and data related to the fundamental workings of the United States. GovTrack and Sunlight jointly invested in a collector for information on legislative action, and a dataset containing core information on every past and present member of the United States Congress.

    Needs Programming Help
  • MuckRock

    MuckRock

    MuckRock serves as a proxy for FOIA requests and creates a community database of FOIA-ed documents. In light of the Supreme Court decision to affirm states' rights to prohibit out of state requests for public records, MuckRock is looking for citizens in affected states to serve as co-filers. Click here to learn more and volunteer.

    Needs Non-Tech Help
  • OpenCorporates

    OpenCorporates

    OpenCorporates is the largest openly licensed database of companies in the world, collecting information from company registries and other company-related government datasets (often with the help of community-contributed scrapers, though also from the governments themselves). OpenCorporates is seeking both non-technical volunteers to help create corporate hierarchy mappings, and programming volunteers to create scrapers for new jurisdictions. Information about contributing to OpenCorporates.

    Needs Non-Tech Help, Needs Programming Help

When we dream

Sometimes we can't hack our way out of a problem. Either the data for our vision doesn't exist, or the burden of entry requires more resources than we can muster. But that doesn't stop us from musing on how we might overcome the problem, to help build a more transparent government. Here's what's on our minds currently.

  • Tracking Bill Influence

    At Sunlight, a perennial problem for us is reliably identifying influence on the legislative process. Influence can take many forms (money, lobbying, etc.), but the legislative process can more or less be conceptualized in bills. There have been several recent tools and discussions about how to properly track the changes to bills as they travel through Congress. Many of those with a technology background have proposed better version control for bills or even launched tools to allow for more transparent public input on bills. The problem with these tools is that they are only able to have an effect on a bill after its introduction. In reality, much of the influence happens before that bill is even introduced and available to the public. It's this process that needs to be more open and accountable to really be able to track bill influence. There are several intermediate steps that could help of course, such as better and more timely lobbying disclosure, tracking changes in nearly identical bills across sessions, or even e-filing of campaign finance reports so that the public can see in real time where influxes of money are occurring. But for now, this remains a problem that we'll continue to investigate.

  • Unique Entity Identification

    Identifying unique entities, such as people, congressional committees, or companies, is hard. Yet, this affects almost every facet of our work. From tracking campaign contributions, to tracking government spending, this problem is not only difficult to solve from a technical perspective, but requires a political will that just doesn't exist. Organizations working on this usually approach it by trying to solve the problem for one type of entity, such as OpenCorporates for companies, or Public Bodies for government entities. Have knowledge to share? Add to the Etherpad!