What’s Going on in the Labs


September was a very busy month for us in the labs with new product launches, an open house, new employees, conferences, a broken system administrator and the daily task of maintaining existing products. Here’s a rundown of what we’ve been up to and what you can expect to see from us soon.

September Highlights


In early September, we released Clearspending, a site that scores federal spending data in consistency, completeness, and timeliness. Reception was positive and sparked an interesting debate.

Catalog of Government Publications Bulk Data

On the 13th, we released bulk data from the GPO’s Catalog of Government Publications. The code that we used to create the data set was also released.


Kevin and Kaitlin are keeping the releases coming for Subsidyscope. Last month, we released the Energy Sector and we’re currently working on the Housing Sector with the goal of having something to release by the end of the year.


Most of the Python team (Alison, Ethan, James, Jeremy and I) went up to Portland, Oregon last month for DjangoCon US 2010. We enjoyed the lightning talks but, sadly, not much else.

Open House

Roughly 150 people showed up to our open house on the 23rd to drink free beer, play retro video games, get a csgo boost on us, and take in a few presentations for our projects. Caitlin made a beautiful poster for the event and Jeremy made an excellent photo booth application, stuck an iMac in the corner and gave partygoers an excuse to ham it up. Sadly, we aren’t planning any more Labs Open Houses this year, but should have another in early 2011.

Design Team Growing

Three people now make up the design team, something we’re all thrilled to see. This month we were joined by Caitlin Weber and Chris Rogers. Caitlin comes to us from Portland, Oregon where she spent several years as a designer. Chris’s previous experience is in Advertising/Marketing and she recently completed her MFA in Graphic Design from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Ali continues to lead the team, although she’s now doing it with the title of Creative Director. She and the rest of the team are working on the HTML5 app, campaigns for the organizing team at Sunlight and general Sunlight Foundation branding.

Work with Sunlight Reporting Group

Aaron continues to keep our independent expenditure data site fresh, keeping the reporting group busy with stories. This quarter, we’re planning to launch a new set of foreign lobbying data at our Foreign Lobbying Influence Tracker site.

Broken timball

September wasn’t without it’s frightening moments. In the middle of the month, our sysadmin timball shattered his arm in a freak accident. Through the miracle of modern medicine (and stir-craziness, I think), timball is already back to work with a new Edward Scissorhands contraption to keep our systems running smoothly. We’re happy he’s back.

Project Updates

Open State Project

This month, James, Michael and the Open States team focused on maintaining the first batch of states that we released last month. There’s been a lot of activity in the community as people are taking their first look at the API. If you’re looking to get involved check out our mailing list.

National Data Catalog

David spent the month adding several new features (tagging, categorization, making user favorites visible) to the National Data Catalog. He’s putting the finishing touches on the site now and should deploy soon. Stay tuned.


Ethan, Alison and Andrew worked hard last month on updates that we expect to see within the next two weeks. There will be several new features and a new data set. New features you can expect to see include an all new front page with links to politicians, geolocation and more. Influence Explorer will be gaining a new dataset and will display federal grants and contracts for organizations.

Mobile Applications

Eric worked on the Congress application for the upcoming Windows Phone platform and I continued to plug away at version 2 of the Real Time Congress iPhone Application. Once complete, the new iPhone app will be ported to other platforms, including Blackberry and webOS.

Sunlight Live

Although we don’t expect to have it complete until next year, we’re starting to think seriously about how to build out the new Sunlight Live Platform. Expect to hear much more on this exciting project soon.

Capitol Words

Jessy handed Capitol Words off to Aaron last month. We’re working to have the new and improved API ready to go in the coming month or so with a new and improved site soon to follow.


We wouldn’t be labs if we didn’t experiment a little. This month Kevin continues to play with facial recognition technology (to identify Members of Congress, not you) and Kaitlin and I are playing with apps for Boxee and Roku. Luigi continues to work on the HTML 5 application and should have something for you to see soon.

Upcoming Events

We will be hosting an open government hackathon at RubyConf 2010 this November. If you’re coming down to New Orleans, stop by and give us a hand! For more information, see our blog post.

See you again in November!