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Open Source Disclosure: Improving Congressional Transparency
April 24, 2009 10:17 PM   Subscribe

The Sunlight Foundation's open source development team, Sunlight Labs, have announced the winners of the first annual Apps for America contest. Over 40 entries were judged, with Filibusted (Hold senators accountable for blocking legislation) getting top marks. Legistalker (The latest online activity of Congress Members) got second, and there was a 4-way tie for 3rd. [via mefi projects]

The Sunlight Foundation have been featured on the Blue before, and Sunlight Labs was previously seen on the Blue with Capital Words, allowing you to see what the most often used word was on any given day in the U.S Congress. They have a few other projects posted that didn't make it to the Blue.
posted by filthy light thief (17 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
ooh...i heard about these on the npr today...thanks for the links! awesome stuff
posted by sexyrobot at 10:33 PM on April 24, 2009


What an awesome idea! Thanks so much for posting this!
posted by heathkit at 11:27 PM on April 24, 2009


These are great, thanks for posting
posted by Mick at 5:41 AM on April 25, 2009


4thing!
posted by Liver at 8:02 AM on April 25, 2009


Man - these are all completely awesome! It's hard to believe we haven't had these all along. GOOD WORK HUMANS.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:10 AM on April 25, 2009


See also: Sunlight Foundation page on Sourcewatch, and the Apps for America contest mentioned on NPR.

I especially like the fact that these efforts towards transparency are themselves transparent, by way of open source.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:10 AM on April 25, 2009


This is really cool, thanks.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:38 AM on April 25, 2009


Took up my entire morning on WH2, thank you MeFi... =D
posted by JoeXIII007 at 10:26 AM on April 25, 2009


I love the stuff Sunlight does; it's really impressive. I just wish I didn't have a bad taste in my mouth from the fact that their director used the the foundation's web site to publicly slag on other open source projects after his former company (Blue State Digital) was passed over to build Recovery.gov. Subsequently spreading false figures about how much it cost to build smelled like sour grapes.

It's great to see the kinds of innovative projects they're helping build; the infighting in the open source community is unbecoming, though.
posted by verb at 2:52 PM on April 25, 2009


verb: Ick. He's fixated on reinventing the wheel, or Not-Invented-Here Syndrome, or something.
posted by Pronoiac at 3:28 PM on April 25, 2009


Thanks for the additional background, verb. I was looking for some words of caution or pessimism to round out the story, but it seems I didn't look far enough.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:35 PM on April 25, 2009


Well, now I feel crappy. Sunlight is doing really awesome work. The projects highlighted in the post are important stuff; it's hard to avoid strong feelings when nerdfights about technology come into play, though. It's an obscure-ish side note. God knows I've said strong things on my blog.
posted by verb at 7:54 PM on April 25, 2009


verb: I couldn't disagree with you more!

I hate the stuff that Sunlight does; it's quite unimpressive, and the whole 'transparency' concept turns out to be fucking useless.

On the other hand, I passionately hate off-the-shelf CMS apps of every form, especially ones that don't have a pretty rigid idea of what they're for. Drupal is probably the best-of-breed and it's still pretty awful. It is really not hard to write your own shit and be much more satisfied with it.

They're doing terrible, unimportant work; but I absolutely take their side in this nerdfight.
posted by blasdelf at 11:33 PM on April 25, 2009


Does anyone else find the attitude of the Filibusted website really creepy? I mean, yes, the filibuster can be abused, but it can also be a helpful antidote to some of the problems of pure majority rule. It's a tool that exists for a reason, and yet the site seems to be organized around a model of Evil Senators Who Filibuster vs. Good Citizens Who Catch Them Doing It.

I know they give lip service to the idea that you might be for or against filibusters ("You might think they’re heroes. Or jackasses."), but that almost makes the one-sidedness of the rest of the site more troubling.
posted by moss at 8:34 AM on April 26, 2009


verb: I couldn't disagree with you more!
See, that's the spirit!
I hate the stuff that Sunlight does; it's quite unimpressive, and the whole 'transparency' concept turns out to be fucking useless.
I'm not sure I agree. I do think the articles you pointed to discuss an important wrinkle -- data access is only one piece of the puzzle. Smart, driven people still need to do the legwork of making sense of it, of digging up stuff that might not be obvious in the 'public feeds,' and so on.

But they're definitely tools that can be put to good use.
posted by verb at 9:28 AM on April 26, 2009


moss - it'll be interesting to see if all this survives into a republican-dominant era, where Democrats would be more likely to filibuster. I get the feeling that a lot of these projects are claiming to be non-partisan, while the creators are more left-leaning, giving the presentation of their products a slant.

blasdelf - I think there is a significant different between terrible work and unimportant work. The summary from your first link says it all: "Changes to the culture of Washington must be structural ones. These projects, while fun, fundamentally misunderstand how institutions operate." These efforts will not change how Congress works and functions, but that's not the intention.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:46 AM on April 26, 2009


verb: I'd see the logic of "sour grapes" if I'd (I'm the director of Sunlight Labs) encouraged the use of Blue State Digital in my post, but that I encouraged organizations to, well, use other open source frameworks (which, by the way Blue State doesn't use) doesn't line up well with your argument.

And in terms of false figures for how much recovery.gov costs to build, that number isn't made up. It comes from this report.


Anyhow, just wanted to clarify some things
posted by cjoh at 10:21 AM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


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