After a little over three years of working on The State Decoded (and a bit less than that on Madison), I’ve learned quite a few things about the law. The process of translating legal code into machine-readable data is not an easy one, but after thousands of hours working on this problem we’ve made some solid progress in automating it.
What follows are a few lessons about the law that I wish I’d known before starting, which may help other developers to make good decisions in open law and legislation projects. (more…)
City and state governments across America are adopting Open Data policies at a fantastic clip. Technology hotbed San Francisco has one, but places far from Silicon Valley – like Pittsburgh, PA – are also joining the municipal open data movement. The increasing availability of free tools and enthusiastic volunteer software developers has opened the door for a vast amount of new government data to be made publicly available in digital form. But merely putting this data out there on the Internet is only the first step.
A Brief Summary
After a hackathon a few months back, we were joking about creating an easy way to take the data we’d painstakingly parsed from PDFs, word documents, and XML files, and “translate” it back into a format that government agencies are used to. Many of us have been shell-shocked in dealing with PDFs from government agencies, which are often scanned documents, off kilter and photocopied many times over. Fundamentally, they’re very difficult to pry information out of. For the OpenGov Foundation’s April Fools’ prank, we created Govify.org, a tool to convert plain text into truly ugly PDFs.
Waldo just posted The State Decoded 0.8 Release. This is a *huge* update that we’ve spent the last few months working on. 577 changed files, 127,076 additions, 5,123 deletions. That’s a lot of code.
There are a few pieces I would have liked to squeeze into this update, like abstracting the XML import to make JSON importing more user-friendly, and cleaning up the admin system – but those will come for the 1.0 release. Which is pretty close on the horizon.
In the meantime, check out the 0.8 release of State Decoded on Github!
I’ve just made my first official launch for the OpenGov Foundation. We’ve been hard at work pushing new law codes up online, and we’ve just released San Francisco’s! Have a look, and please let us know if you find anything broken!