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Sunlight in ACM’s XRDS

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Those of you who were computer science majors in college may have belonged to your school’s student chapter of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery). If you were a dues paying member, you likely received their quarterly magazine XRDS (called Crossroads when I was a student).

The latest issue of XRDS is themed around “CS in Service of Democracy”, and I’ve contributed an article about Sunlight Labs to the issue. If you’re able to get a copy, you’ll also find articles by friends of Sunlight like Josh Tauberer of GovTrack and POPVOX, and Harlan Yu and Stephen Schultze, who built RECAP.

My article is reprinted after the jump.

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FederalRegister.gov Wins Innovation Award

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Remember the inspiring story of FederalRegister.gov 2.0, and its humble beginnings as Apps For America finalist GovPulse.us? Well, the team behind the site has won another commendation, this time from ACUS:

According to its website, the Administrative Conference of the United States is an independent federal agency dedicated to improving the administrative process through consensus-driven applied research, providing nonpartisan expert advice and recommendations for improvement of federal agency procedures. In a writeup about FederalRegister.gov, ACUS describes some lessons learned that other agencies should take to heart:

  1. Make your data available in bulk so others can use it.
  2. Work with volunteers in the community and encourage them to develop new applications with your data.
  3. If the volunteers come up with something great, work with them and use those components on the government web site.
  4. Make the source code for the government web site open source so other agencies and other non-governmental organizations can make customized versions.

We at Sunlight Labs could not agree more. Congratulations to the team at FederalRegister.gov!

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Civic Hacking Quarterly: Fall 2011

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There's a lot going on in the world of open government and open data. And it's tough to keep up. Once a quarter, we'll do our best to round up all the events and challenges going on that the Sunlight Labs community may be interested in.

Events

  • Hack4Reno, September and October, Reno. The biggest little city in the world is hosting a series of events in the next month designed to build up a community of civic hackers, then caps it off with a 24 hour hackathon on October 15.
  • Hacks/Hackers at ONA 11, Sep. 22, Boston. A day of hacking as the Online News Association's annual conference kicks off.
  • Code 4 Country, Sep. 24-25, Washington, D.C. and Moscow: The first collaborative codeathon between Russia and the U.S. The D.C. event is taking place at American University, and the Moscow event at the offices of Russia's largest search engine, Yandex, located on Leo Tolstoy Street.
  • BmoreSmart Meets City Hall, Sep. 27, Baltimore. The Baltimore startup community meets with the City of Baltimore's CIO to discuss city government, technology, and citizen engagement.
  • Hack the Map, Oct. 2, Phoenix. Part of WhereCampPHX, this hackathon is focusing on geo apps.
  • Apps for SEPTA, Oct. 8-9, Philadelphia. The Philly area's transit system has recently released GTFS data and a real-time bus and trolley API. Time to let a thousand apps bloom.
  • Data Without Borders Kickoff, Oct. 14-16, New York City. This nascent organization kicks off with this event pairing NGOs with data hackers. More events are planned for London, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.
  • Open Government Data Camp, Oct. 20-21, Warsaw. The Open Knowledge Foundation is hosting two days of talks, code sprints, and workshops in Poland's capital. Sunlight will be there, and we've pitched in $5,000 to support travel bursaries for US attendees.
  • OpenDataPhilly's OpenDataRace, through Oct. 28. The open data community in Philly is seeking input from city non-profits on data sets not currently available that would be useful to their work. Then, OpenDataPhilly will work with the City of Philadelphia to make that data available.
  • OpenAccessPhilly Forum, Oct. 28. A forum to discover what the City of Philadelphia and its citizens are doing at the intersection of civic innovation, participation, and technology.
  • Education Hack Day, Nov. 12-13, Baltimore. Developers and designers will get together at the Digital Harbor High School to build apps based on ideas from local teachers. Current project ideas include a parent-teacher conference scheduler using a web and phone interface, and a homework notifier, via email, voice, or SMS, for parents.

Challenges

Just Passed

If we've missed something going on through the end of the year, let us know in the comments. If you're planning an event for 2012, send Luigi a quick note.

OpenLexington

Each edition of Civic Hacking Quarterly will close by featuring a local civic hacking group. To kick things off, we're highlighting OpenLexington. Based in Kentucky, the group reminds us that civic hackers are not just found in big cities. In addition to a full website, OpenLexington has a presence on Github, Twitter, and Google Groups. Founder Chase Southard has recently been added to an Open Data workgroup inside the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, with plans of a data catalog launch in the near future. The next OpenLexington meetup is scheduled for October 27 at 7 p.m. 

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Recap: RailsConf 2011

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Last week at RailsConf, Sunlight held an Open Government Hackathon at the event's official unconference, BohConf. We worked on a few projects:

Speaking of Dan, he gave a keynote at RailsConf the next day:

Thanks to all who made it out and contributed!

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Open Government Hackathon at RailsConf

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This Wednesday, May 18, Sunlight Labs will be at RailsConf in Baltimore, running an Open Government Hackathon at the event's official unconference, BohConf. We'll have several projects that need your help, and of course, you're welcome to bring your own. The hackathon runs from 1:50 to 5:15 pm.

But that's not the only #opengov activity happening at RailsConf. Dan from Code for America is giving a lightning keynote on Thursday morning. It'll be livestreamed at 9:50 am ET. Also, check out BohConf's schedule for more unconference fun. It should be a good time.

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JSConf, NodeConf, and Open Government

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I was in Portland last week, soaking up back-to-back conferences in JSConf and NodeConf. JavaScript (or just JS) is experiencing a bit of a renaissance. Not only are the modern browser wars a boon to client-side JS performance and functionality, but JS is being used on the server side via Node.js. The speakers and attendees are on the cutting edge of software development. It was an inspiring, mind-expanding week.

Reflecting on these two conferences, another important observation comes to mind about my fellow attendees: Many of them are active in the open government and open data community. Our community!

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Data.gov and the Developer

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The response to our Save the Data campaign has been phenomenal. Although the Electronic Government Fund has been cut from $34 million to $8 million in the compromised budget, we can take solace in the fact that members of Congress are indeed listening to us.

A particular question has been popping up again and again: Is Data.gov worth saving? Sunlight's answer, not surprisingly, is a resounding yes. The impact of Data.gov is broad. For those of us who write software, Data.gov acts as a strong foundation that we can build upon. In fact, many of us have done just that.

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Sunlight and Open Government on TWiT

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Those of us who grew up watching ZDTV (later called TechTV) have fond memories of Leo Laporte. In recent years, Leo has been building a podcast empire called TWiT. Jeremy and I were on the TWiT Network's FLOSS Weekly show to discuss open government in the context of free, libre, and open source software. Give it a listen, or watch the video.

While we're on the subject, there have been a few other tech podcasts where Sunlight has made an appearance:

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