Posts tagged Sunlight Foundation

Mostly Cloudy During Sunshine Week

To coincide with Sunshine Week, the Sunlight Foundation released their Open Legislative Data Report Card. Some states are doing well, many aren’t, with most scoring a Gentleman’s C or below.

Grades are based on what Sunlight calls the Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information. For this report card, their criteria is based on six: completeness, timeliness, ease of access, machine readability, use of commonly owned standards and permanence.

The Society of Professional Journalists takes a different tact to explore government openness as they examine what obstacles reporters face when interviewing employees of federal agencies:

[A] survey of journalists who cover federal agencies found that information flow in the United States is highly regulated by public affairs officers, to the point where most reporters considered the control to be a form of censorship and an impediment to providing information to the public. According to a survey of 146 reporters who cover federal agencies, conducted by the Society of Professional Journalists in February 2012, journalists indicated that public information officers often require pre-approval for interviews, prohibit interviews of agency employees, and often monitor interviews. Journalists overwhelmingly agreed with the statement that “the public was not getting all the information it needs because of barriers agencies are imposing on journalists’ reporting practices.

Meantime, over at the Washington Post, Josh Hicks gives a rundown of what’s going on with FOIA requests:

The Center for Effective Government said Wednesday that the administration’s rate of response to FOIA requests had improved in 2012 but that the percentage of replies with redacted information had grown.

“While processing has gone up, we see a record-setting rate of partial grantings,” said Sean Moulton, the center’s director of open-government policy.

Federal agencies averaged a “C-minus” grade for FOIA compliance in Cause of Action’s analysis, also released Wednesday.

The group sent identical FOIA requests to 16 federal agencies in April. In its report, it said that one-quarter of the agencies provided no information and that the average response time for the others was 75 business days — more than double what the law requires.

Reporters filing FOIA requests with the Commerce Department have to wait even longer. The average turnaround time there is 239 days.

And then there’s national security and whistleblowing. We’ll let the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald take it away. The gist of it runs like so:

Along with others, I’ve spent the last four years documenting the extreme, often unprecedented, commitment to secrecy that this president has exhibited, including his vindictive war on whistleblowers, his refusal to disclose even the legal principles underpinning his claimed war powers of assassination, and his unrelenting, Bush-copying invocation of secrecy privileges to prevent courts even from deciding the legality of his conduct.

Looking for more opinion and updates on Sunshine Week? Visit The SPJ or SunshineWeek.org’s opinions page.

Images: Screenshots, best and worst of the Sunlight Foundation’s Open Legislative Data Report Card. Select to embiggen.

Sunlight Foundation Launches Open States

Via the Sunlight Foundation:

After more than four years of work from volunteers and a full-time team here at Sunlight we’re immensely proud to launch the full Open States site with searchable legislative data for all 50 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico. Open States is the only comprehensive database of activities from all state capitols that makes it easy to find your state lawmaker, review their votes, search for legislation, track bills and much more.

If you watch the video one of the important points of tracking the legislative data is that laws and such often flow up from the state to federal level rather than the other way around.

Consider it an early warning system of a type.

Data is available on the Open States Web site, through APIs and through bulk downloads.

Data Visualization Fellowship with Sunlight Foundation

This is hot:

The Sunlight Foundation is seeking a social scientist who can help us create compelling visualizations, tell richer stories, and incorporate more of their discipline’s work into our own. Sunlight’s work frequently includes examinations of political influence. The questions surrounding this issue have been studied by political scientists, economists and sociologists for decades. We believe that our work can benefit from this tradition of scholarship; and we believe that the tools, technologies and practical expertise of Sunlight’s reporters and technologists could help to inform scholarly investigations of political influence. This fellowship is an effort to encourage cross-pollination between two communities that have been examining the same question from different perspectives…

Qualified candidates are doctoral students working in the field or recent graduates of such programs.

Full listing and information here.

And don’t forget to visit the Sunlight Tumblr.

sunfoundation:

How Many Open Gov Projects Are There (and How Do You Find Them Fast)?

Last year, former Deputy CTO for Open  Government Beth Noveck reached out to GovLoop Founder Steve Ressler  about leveraging the energy of community members to complete a  gargantuan task: read through all of the Open Government Plans and  compile a list of the hundreds of projects named within them. We had  already created a dataset with all the Open Government Plans (which happens to be our 3rd most popular dataset, by the way), so we felt up to the challenge.

sunfoundation:

How Many Open Gov Projects Are There (and How Do You Find Them Fast)?

Last year, former Deputy CTO for Open Government Beth Noveck reached out to GovLoop Founder Steve Ressler about leveraging the energy of community members to complete a gargantuan task: read through all of the Open Government Plans and compile a list of the hundreds of projects named within them. We had already created a dataset with all the Open Government Plans (which happens to be our 3rd most popular dataset, by the way), so we felt up to the challenge.

Data + APIs = Sexy

Two things I find sexy: data, and APIs to get at that data.

Actually, there’s a third thing I find sexy: open government and organizations that increase government transparency.

For those counting, that might bring sexy up to four depending on your arithmetic.

So this is what I think: the Sunlight Foundation is a sexy organization. And the sultry group running Sunlight Labs gets data wonks and Open Gov advocates hot and bothered. 

Here’s what they ostensibly look like.

sunlight labs geeks

And here’s what they’ve recently done:

  • Created the Real Time Congress API that gives developers real-time access to everything going on in Congress from bills to videos to votes and documents.
  • Updated the Open States Project that’s doing very much the same thing on the state level.

This latter work might slip under the radar but is very important.

As Tom Lee writes on the Sunlight Labs Blog:

State legislatures are where vital decisions are made about civil rights, transportation, education, taxes, land use, gun regulation, and a host of other issues. Far too often, these issues don’t get the attention they deserve. It’s a simple question of scale: there are a lot more resources available at the federal level for both lawmakers and journalists. That means state governance both requires more transparency and tends to get less of it. We think technology can help make the situation better — that’s what Open States is all about.

Now it’s up to the rest of us to create great applications around this Open Gov treasure trove.

We’re looking forward to all sorts of new sexy. As a certain captain of a certain Starship Enterprise frequently said, “Make it so.”

And, by the way, they’re hiring.

Coming to a State Near You
The Participatory Politics Foundation and the Sunlight Foundation launched OpenGovernment.org yesterday to track government data, state legislatures, voting information and media mentions on the state level. Currently, information is available for California, Texas, Wisconsin, Louisiana and Maryland with funding efforts in place to bring the project to all 50 states.
Alex Howard reports on O’Reilly Radar:

"We’re providing a concentrated activity stream that offers a more calibrated way of staying in touch with state government," said David Moore, executive director of the Participatory Politics Foundation. "We believe in the power of peer-to-peer communications, which means connecting with people online and empowering them to share information with one another."
The idea, said Moore, is simple in conception but difficult in execution: create a free, open source platform where “it’s as easy to follow your state senator as it is to follow your friends on Facebook.” 
To get to launch today, the team rewrote the code base for OpenCongress, including an improved Ruby wrapper for open government APIs. The code for the wrapper is available through GitHub. Official legislative information is integrated with Follow the Money, ratings, news and blog information.

Coming to a State Near You

The Participatory Politics Foundation and the Sunlight Foundation launched OpenGovernment.org yesterday to track government data, state legislatures, voting information and media mentions on the state level. Currently, information is available for California, Texas, Wisconsin, Louisiana and Maryland with funding efforts in place to bring the project to all 50 states.

Alex Howard reports on O’Reilly Radar:

"We’re providing a concentrated activity stream that offers a more calibrated way of staying in touch with state government," said David Moore, executive director of the Participatory Politics Foundation. "We believe in the power of peer-to-peer communications, which means connecting with people online and empowering them to share information with one another."

The idea, said Moore, is simple in conception but difficult in execution: create a free, open source platform where “it’s as easy to follow your state senator as it is to follow your friends on Facebook.”

To get to launch today, the team rewrote the code base for OpenCongress, including an improved Ruby wrapper for open government APIs. The code for the wrapper is available through GitHub. Official legislative information is integrated with Follow the Money, ratings, news and blog information.