Launching “Sunlight Labs”


I’ve long had the fantasy of one-click political influence disclosure. Imagine pressing one button and finding everything you need and want to know about a member of Congress, or a corporation, labor union or individual trying to influence her. Web 2.0 technologies – Web services, API’s, XML, AJAX, RSS – now make that possible.

To speed up making this happen, this week we decided to create a small, informal "Mash-Up Lab." We are going to treat this as a pilot project for six months to experiment on our own and to provide ad-hoc technical support to nurture other mash-up projects — some of which Sunlight has already  nurtured, to realize a one-click future. These will be projects that strategically and tactically bring together nonprofit organizations, exemplary developers, and web-applications.

Heading this project will be Greg Elin, a software developer specializing in databases and interactive technologies. Greg is the creator of FotoNotesTM, a very cool image annotation program. For 15+ years he has helped organizations articulate requirements and prototype new technologies, everything from NYNEX (now Verizon) to dot.coms to non-profits. Since 1998, he has independently provided database and technology services for a variety of clients including New York University and the United States Naval Research Labs. Greg has extensive experience working with institutional and distributed data. Maybe most important, he can communicate clearly about all this. He maintains a thoughtful weblog at

Operationally we envision a combination of activities: undertaking our own tractable projects and prototypes on a monthly/weekly basis; convening informal gatherings to nudge organizations that have already begun to have conversations about data mashing; and interacting virtually and face-to-face (and providing matchmaking with developers) to groups needing advice and technical support. We will also create and facilitate "Do-It-Yourself How-To’s" on mashable resources.

We’ve already heard from a number of organizations which we think would benefit from this kind of work we can offer. Let us know if you know of more.