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Tag Archive: runnerup

Praise for a labor app, and the promise of more great work from our community

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The final honorable mention among our Apps for America 2 contest entries, Employment Market Explorer, helps users assess the labor market in a region, watching unemployment over time at the city, county and state level. It contains only two measures—employment and unemployment—so it falls short of providing a more drilled-down look at the labor markets, including sectors, and I'd like to be able to compare regions or states head-to-head. There is a lot of potential here, and as the financial turmoil continues, employment issues will be important to watch. Perhaps a future app will mine the data for some interesting conclusions on the national scale, or highlight areas where change has been particularly notable.

Thanks to everyone who helped make our second Apps for America contest a success, and remember, the fun doesn't end with the competition. Our volunteer community of civic-minded developers—which we hope contest entrants, as well as everyone else, will join--is always hard at work on new projects, and it would be great to see a more in-depth look at labor issues in the future.

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Federal Register App has Sunlight Staff Singing

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The great thing about the Federal Register is that is has everything—it's the historical record for the entire federal government, and outlines the decrees coming out of various agencies in near real-time.

The problem with the Federal Register is that it has everything, and it's virtually impossible even for experienced researchers to spot what they need in the massive reams of blocky, sparsely-formatted text.

That's where Bernie the Federal Register Watcher comes in—an Apps for America submission so pragmatic that some of us in the Sunlight Labs have been singing our own accompanying jingle for the app, named in honor of the Register's first director.

Bernie scrapes the register and turns it into a virtual newsfeed, allowing you to monitor just the areas you're interested in, drilling down by department, agency name and announcement type, and browsing digestible summaries, which are also available as Atom feeds.

Though the register, in its raw form especially, has a largely deserved reputation as a repository of dry bureaucrat-ese being shoveled daily into a void, resting in little-perused booklets by the Government Printing Office, Bernie seeks to build a community around the notices, allowing users to flag and comment on the less-monotonous dispatches.

In the end, this application achieves the measure of success we like to see most. It uses technology for a specific goal: To make a government tool that was hard to use, suddenly useful.

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USASpendingWatch.net monitors contracts – but are its conclusions meaningful?

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Apps for America 2 runner-up USASpendingWatch.net is a visually appealing and ambitious take on the mounds of data on federal contracts at USASpending.gov. It aims to create an online community where readers can flag contracts they deem interesting or suspicious--though because the data provided by the government can be vague and misleading, participants in the best position to spot impropriety might be locals with their boots on the ground.

The site is easy to navigate and chock-full of information, but its designer's greatest obstacle may be one for which he can scarcely be faulted: The data sets being combined--the politics of local leaders and federally awarded, often competitive contracts--belie an incomplete understanding of the United States government; the author, Sven Regel, is German.

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Earthquake apps from Apps for America

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The USGS represented a lot of data on Data.gov in the early days of the contest, supplying developers with data about earthquakes and other geological information. As a result, we saw quite a few applications about earthquakes and other natural disasters led by visualization award winner QuakeSpotter. But that wasn't the only one.

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App For America Honorable Mention: Budget

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Over the next few days I'm going to be blogging about and announcing the honorable mentions for Apps for America. The toughest part of this contest, honestly, were that there were so many really interesting apps. I hope that all the contestants make another stab at it and keep at their current apps.

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