Labs Update


I admit it: we missed the May Labs Update entirely. I’m sorry! It’s been as busy as always around here, with a number of really neat — but also really involved — projects beginning to see some light at the end of their respective tunnels. Amidst that effort, we just plain forgot to get out a timely update last month. We promise we won’t keep you in the dark like this again.

The most exciting news is that we have a bunch of new faces in the labs offices:

  • Drew Vogel has joined the Subsidyscope team, and after a few weeks of work by remote, he’s now in the office, in person, and doing great things.

  • Ryan Sibley recently moved over to Labs from the Reporting Group. Ryan’s been with Sunlight for a while, but the idea of having a journalist embedded with our developers is a new one, and something that I’m pretty excited about.

  • Casey Kimmey has joined the Open States team for the summer, where she’ll be doing some invaluable data quality validation.

  • And finally, Montserrat Lobos is joining us for three weeks from our friends at Ciudadano Inteligente in Chile. She’s going to be working with the design team; we’re excited to have her.

Here’s what the team has been working on:

Tom has been finally — finally! — finishing the process of getting the team back to a full headcount. He’s also been doing the usual mixture of proposal writing, project oversight, and general triage. Also: some soldering and messing around with Titanium Mobile, the results of which will hopefully be published in a few months.

Alison added a new, corporate accountability dataset to TransparencyData and Influence Explorer. She has also been working on several name matching tasks and making some major additions, including parsing for organization names, to our Name Cleaver name parsing library. In addition, she has been experimenting with some visualizations based upon campaign finance data, which you may be able to look forward to cropping up on our site or in a blog post in the future.

Luigi is busy with the next-generation of software that will power our Sunlight Live events. He wrote an article for HTML5 Rocks and took trips to Portland and Baltimore.

Drew added a few usability enhancements to the Subsidyscope search tool. Now he is working on changes to the data importer that will allow us to provide direct expenditure figures based on more current USASpending data.

Jeremy has been hard at work destroying Sunlight web sites, but in a good way. We have decided to retire Public Equals Online and integrate the features into the main Sunlight Foundation site and organizing page. Jeremy also rebuilt to add a brand new mobile app and HTML based informational screens to display session information on monitors at the conference.

Eric has been integrating full-text searching with ElasticSearch into our Real Time Congress API for bills. There’ll be new endpoints and features announced soon. He’s also been wrapping up work on our soon-to-be-released iOS/Android mobile app to help people make better local health care decisions. Finally, he’s been working on getting the first round of House expenditure data from the 112th Congress up into our expenditure database and House staff directory.

Aaron updated Follow the Unlimited Money for the new election cycle — just in time for the special election in New York’s 26th District — and made some improvements to the Reporting Group’s Lobbyist Tracker. He’s also been working on Capitol Words (preview: the top words in Congress so far this year are “job”, “cut”, “create” and “repeal”).

Kaitlin has been working on a third Roku app as well as building some backend tools for Subsidyscope. She’s also been busy writing bombastic blog posts and checking up on her FOIA for contracting data quality reports. Also, she’s been working with the other Caitlin to update the design and functionality of the Subsidyscope site.

Chris has been working on a variety of projects including: coding the new design for the House Staff Directory, creating graphics/signs/and other deliverables for Transparency Camp, new background theme for Sunlight’s YouTube channel, and misc graphics for other Sunlight projects. She is currently working on a new theme for Sunlight’s Data Viz Tumblr blog and continuing to work on the House Staff Directory site.

Michael has been working on expanding the coverage of the Open State Project to new states, adding XML support to the API, and exploring visualizations of the data that’s being collected.

Ethan has been coordinating a number of new products and features in Data Commons. This week we released Inbox Influence and added POGO’s contractor misconduct database to Transparency Data and Influence Explorer. We’re hard at work on several new data sets to be released in July.

With Sunlight Health teetering on the edge of completion, Caitlin has turned her focus to building out the Subsidyscope redesign, interrupted briefly by a jaunt through the South and once again to help with updates to the Roku app that Kaitlin has been working on.

James has been adding support for Maine, New Hampshire, and Oregon to the Open State Project. He’s also been working with new Open States intern Casey who has been doing data checking and cleaning to help promote more states from experimental to ready status.

Andrew prepped the Inbox Influence project for its launch, which was announced at the PdF conference in New York. He has also continued to work on extracting data from

Ali has been working on numerous small tasks to support the foundation in their design needs. She’s been doing a little bit of everything from branding to visualizing data to giving cfbp advice on their new mortgage forms. Currently the big project on her desk is the new Capitol Words site.