Follow Us

Tag Archive: technology

OpenGov Voices: 3 simple ways cities can improve access to online information

by

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 Matt MacDonaldthereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guest blog.

Matt MacDonald is the co-founder and president at NearbyFYI. NearbyFYI collects city government data and documents, helping make local government information accessible and understood. He can be reached at matt@nearbyfyi.com. Matt is also one of the winners of Sunlight Foundation’s OpenGov Grants.

At NearbyFYI we review online information and documents from hundreds of city and town websites. Our CityCrawler service has found and extracted text from over 100,000 documents for the more than 170 Vermont cities and towns that we track. We're adding new documents and municipal websites all the time, and we wanted to share a few tips that make it easier for citizens to find meeting minutes, permit forms and documents online. The information below is written for a non-technical audience but some of the changes might require assistance from your webmaster, IT department or website vendor.

Create a unique web page for each document or form

Each city or town meeting that occurs should have its own unique web page for agenda items, meeting minutes and other documents. We often see cities and towns creating a single, very large web page that contains an entire year of meeting minutes. This may be convenient for the person posting the meeting minutes online but presents a number of challenges for the citizen who is trying to find a specific meeting agenda or the minutes from that meeting.

Here is an example of meeting minutes that are in a single page that requires the citizen to scroll and scroll to find what they are looking for. This long archived page structure also presents challenges to web crawlers and tools that look to create structured information from the text. Proctor, VT provides a good example for what we look for in a unique meeting minutes document. We like that this document can answer the following questions:

  1. Which town created the document? (Proctor)

  2. What type of document is this? (Meeting Minutes)

  3. Which legislative body is responsible for the document (Selectboard)

  4. When was the meeting? (November 27, 2012 - it's better to use a full date format like this)

  5. Which board members attended the meeting? (Eric, Lloyd, Vincent, Bruce, William)

The only thing that could improve the access to this document is if it was saved as a plain text file rather than a PDF file. Creating a single web page or document for each meeting means that citizens don't have to scan very large documents to find what they are looking for.

Continue reading
Share This:

See you at the BarCamp NewsInnovation!

by

On April 27, all roads will lead to Philly for the fifth annual BarCamp NewsInnovation (BCNI) and its third annual News hackathon. BCNI (which is part of Philly Tech Week) is a one-day national unconference on journalism innovation and the future of news as explored by practitioners and others in the same field. Sunlight is one of the sponsors for the event.

Participants at the 2012 BCNI

BCNI is organized by the good folks over at Technically Media (the company behind Technically philly) and Temple University Department of Journalism. It will bring together designers, developers like myself and an interesting mix of programmers and students.

Register for the fifth annual BarCamp NewsInnovation and the third annual News hackathon in Philadelphia on Saturday, April 27.

 

What: BarCamp NewsInnovation

When: Saturday April 27

Where: Temple University Philadelphia, 2020 N 13th St, Philadelphia, PA 19122

Continue reading
Share This:

OpenGov Voices: Building a Community of Data Professionals and Opening Government Data, One Meetup at a Time

by

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 guestsean_small blog.

Sean Patrick Murphy and Harlan Harris wrote this post. Sean has served as a senior scientist at Johns Hopkins University for over a decade. When not doing research, he currently advises several startups and provides general data science and learning analytics consulting for EverFi. Follow him on Twitter (@SayHiToSean) or contact him at SayHiToSean@gmail.com Harlan has a PhD in Computer Science (Machine Learning) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and post-doctoral work in Cognitive Psychology at several universities. He currently is Senior Data Scientist at Kaplan Test Prep, and co-organizes Data Science DC. Follow him on Twitter (@HarlanH).

Potential
The greater National Capital Region (i.e. the DC metro area), has always had a wealth of technical talent, waist deep in data, calling the region home. Whether launching satellites at Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt to decrypting messages at the NSA, this region is literally littered with three (or more) letter organizations -- NIH, JHU, DoD, DARPA, AOL, NIST, etc. -- working extensively with data.

Despite this intense concentration of professionals who share this common bond, these groups exist in isolated silos preventing the open dissemination of knowledge and best practices that would accelerate progress across industries. A rising tide of data-expertise would indeed raise all ships.

Continue reading
Share This:

Opening Government: Oakland’s First CityCamp

by

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. Spike is the Director of Research & Technology with Urban Strategies Council, an Oakland based social justice nonprofit and speaks nationally on data driven decision making and open data. He is the co-founder and captain of OpenOakland, a Code for America Brigade. An Aussie native, he became a dual US citizen last year and voted in his first ever American election.   I recently co-founded an organization called OpenOakland with former Code for America fellow Eddie Tejeda. One of our passions was that we both believe that government can and should be much more than a vending machine. Those of us in OpenOakland (all 20+ volunteers) dig the idea of government as a platform: a platform that supports safe communities, job growth, excellent schools, strategic business development and innovation. When our government operates more collaboratively and genuinely engages with our communities (as opposed to acting as a barrier), it facilitates so much more that can benefit our communities. To many, this is a new concept, but we believe that it matters how we perceive our governments. It's no secret that current local governments have a ton of changing to do, but it's unlikely that these changes will come about swiftly without all of us being involved and engaged and supporting our government staff and leaders to make these changes.

Continue reading
Share This:

Creating Tools for Civic Engagement and providing a home for activists and hacktivists

by

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. Tom Tresser is the Chief Tool Builder at the CivicLab. He teaches civic engagement, public policy and creativity at several local universities. In 2009 he was a co-leader of the No Games Chicago campaign and in 2010 he was the Green Party candidate for Cook County Board President. Wouldn’t it be great to have a place to connect with activists, practitioners of civic engagement, inventors and artists interested in social change? A place that is a combination of a lab, a lounge, a theater, a clubhouse and a school for social change. In Chicago there isn’t one that combines all this in a storefront space with a grassroots vibe that invites people to walk in and connect. A gang of like-minded civic scientists and makers are well into the process of designing and launching one! The CivicLab will be civic maker space. Think of Pumping Station One meets FreeGeek meets 1871 meets the Knitting Factory with a dash of open source tool making and the Little Red School House plus CommuniTeach. Chicago is the home of modern community organizing and has also been a hotspot of innovation and research. We want to be a meeting space where old school organizers and educators can meet with new school technologists and designers to do research, teach civics, and build tools that accelerate social change and community improvement efforts.

Continue reading
Share This:

Open Source Initiatives Can Strengthen Cities’ Downtown Revitalization

by

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. Jennnifer Wike is an Editor and contributor for Opensource.com, a community service website of Red Hat dedicated to highlighting the ways in which the 'open source movement' is shaping government, law, education, science and technology, and other areas of life. Jen also helps other businesses develop their content strategies and blogs about growth in downtown Raleigh, NC where she lives. Follow her on Twitter or you can contact her at jenn.wike@gmail.com. The open government movement in our country is well underway, though still brand new in terms relative to the pace of the workings of government. Change tends to be delivered slowly, as evident during President Obama’s re-election campaign this year when many of us had to remind ourselves that though some change has trickled down over the past four years, much of it has yet to come to pass due to the inherent processes of government bodies. And yet, it still astonishes me how quickly ‘open’ ideas are being accepted, built and implemented into city governments from the east to west coast.

Continue reading
Share This:

CFC (Combined Federal Campaign) Today 59063

Charity Navigator