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Tag Archive: opensource

CityCamp Colorado – Bringing Innovation to Life

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the guest blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of the Sunlight Foundation or any employee thereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guest blog. Scott Primeau is a board member of OpenColorado, a nonprofit organization established in 2009 to promote government transparency and citizen participation. Scott has also been an employee for a Colorado state agency since 2003. He provides project management, policy research and analysis, and customer engagement services. Scott has a bachelor’s degree in public affairs management from Indiana University and is a passionate supporter of improving citizen participation and government collaboration. You can contact him at scott.primeau@opencolorado.org. The third annual CityCamp Colorado took place on October 26, 2012. Almost 140 people attended the event, making it the largest gathering of open government advocates ever in Colorado. The attendees and presenters include city CIOs and IT staff, senior city leaders, Colorado state IT leaders, private enterprises and startups, nonprofits, elected officials and citizens.

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Three Cheers for the CFPB

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Consumer Financial Protection Bureau LogoThe financial watchdog agency announced an ambitious open source policy today, and we couldn't be more pleased at the news. The CFPB's announcement post does a great job of explaining their rationale: open source makes innovation easier, lock-in harder, and delivers value to taxpayers both by keeping procurements competitive and making sure their outcomes can be broadly shared.

It wasn't too long ago that government was scared of even using open source code, much less publishing its own. Its growing embrace by agencies like the CFPB and NASA is a testament to the hard work of organizations like Open Source for America. But it's also reflective of a long-established US norm that's only now being translated into the digital age: the federal government belongs to all of us. That's why our country's publications aren't copyrighted; it should be why its code is freely licensed, too.

At any rate, it goes without saying that Sunlight loves open source technology -- it's something we believe in and enjoy using. It's great to see that the CFPB feels the same way.

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Open States: 50!

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Three years ago at PyCon 2009, we had the first PyCon Open Government Hackathon. Our big project was Open States (then the 50 State Project). The goal was to begin scraping state legislatures' websites in the hope of providing a common format for bill metadata across all 50 states.

Today, as we kick off the 4th Annual Open Government Hackathon at PyCon we're extraordinarily happy to announce one of the most significant milestones in the history of Open States: as of today, all 50 states (as well as DC and Puerto Rico) are now supported via our API and bulk downloads. This makes Open States the first and only completely open, completely free resource for accessing legislative information in a uniform format across all 50 states.

This is a proud day for all of us here and for everyone who has contributed to the project. Over the past three years Open States has grown to be much more than we'd envisioned and a great deal of that is due to great suggestions, contributions, and uses by the entire Open States Community. It is no coincidence that Open States has become Sunlight's most contributed-to open source project; we needed the community to make this project happen, and over 40 of you have answered the call.

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Open States Source Visualized

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Open States recently reached a milestone in that we now support 40 states (and DC and Puerto Rico) and at our current pace we'll reach our goal of all 50 states by sometime early next year. It is only due to the fantastic support of our community and indviduals who have showed up at hackathons or just started contributing on their own that this goal is now in sight.

I thought it might be fun to look back on how the project has grown, and luckily gource is a piece of software for visualizing the history of a repository can help do just that. Watch below to enjoy a visually stimulating look back through the last two and half years of commits to Open States. You'll see flurries of activity around our hackathons, the drastic increase in activity from 2009 to 2010 and how 2011 so far takes up more than half the video, and some of the big refactors that we've made along the way to scale the project to a size well beyond what we initially conceived of.

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Influence Data APIs

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Followers of this blog are probably already aware of two of the main sites developed by our Data Commons team: TransparencyData.com and InfluenceExplorer.com. Both sites present a variety of influence related data sets, such as campaign finance, federal lobbying, earmarks and federal spending. Influence Explorer provides easy to use overview information about politicians, companies, industries and prominent individuals, while Transparency Data allows users to search and download detailed records from various influence data sets.

In this blog post I want to show how easy it can be to use the public APIs for both sites to integrate influence data into your own projects. I'll walk through a couple examples and show how to use both the RESTful API and the new Python wrapper.

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Sunlight Labs & Google Summer of Code 2011

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We're proud to announce we've been accepted as a mentoring application for the Google Summer of Code 2011.

If you aren't familiar with Google Summer of Code, it is a great opportunity for college students and open source organizations to work together. Google pays students a $5000 stipend in exchange for their work on an eligible project. For more details about the program in general visit the GSoC 2011 website.

This is our third year participating and we're looking forward to another great summer and a new batch of students and projects.

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Sunlight @ PyCon 2011

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Two years ago we held an Open Government Sprint at PyCon 2009. We had never hosted an event like that before, and had no idea what to expect. To our amazement we ended up with one of the largest groups of any of the sprint projects, completely filling our room for the first few days. Approximately 30 people attended and kicked off what has now become the Open State Project.

Next week, we'll be heading to PyCon and hosting an Open Government Hackathon for the third year in a row. The primary focus will again be the Open State Project but our space is open to everyone interested in government data. If you have a project you'd like to hack on let us know and I'll be sure to mention your project when I plug the sprint. If you aren't attending PyCon but happen to be near Atlanta you're welcome to join too, the Hackathon is free and open to the public (March 14th-16th @ the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta).

Additionally, I'm going to be presenting a poster on the technical aspects of the Open State Project on Sunday. I'll be around to talk about the project itself but also web scraping and opening government data in general, so if you're at PyCon stop by during the poster session Sunday morning and say hi.

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