Posts Categorized: Tech

The Hype Market

It takes time, money, and other resources to execute on any new information technology initiative. In theory, there should be a return on investment for any new IT development. However, in the current market landscape, a lot of effort is being wasted on reinventing the wheel or misapplying solutions, rather than driving towards proving greater value to citizens and customers. The relatively low cost of experimentation and implementation of processes result in a fetishization of abstraction, leading to further and further complexity even if a proportional benefit is not achieved. (more…)

What I Wish I Had Known About Decoding The Law

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…)

Bootstrap Sass with rem instead of px for Vertical Typographical Rhythm

A huge number of sites use Bootstrap as a css framework these days. Using Bootstrap is even easier with the bootstrap-sass package, which uses SASS to allow developers to customize nearly every aspect of the framework. Unfortunately, the current version doesn’t support units other than pixels (px), so using percent, ems, or rems isn’t easy. It also is rather hard to establish a vertical grid for typography rhythm aside from the default, since so many values are hardcoded.

To solve this, I’ve created a boilerplate that overrides the problematic aspects of bootstrap-sass to allow the easy use of rems as well as setting up a solid vertical rhythm. We’re using this right now on our redesigned Madison project! (more…)

Managing Data with Unix Tools

Most Unix systems (including OS X) provide a large number of fantastic tools for manipulating data right out of the box.  If you have been writing small Python/Ruby/Node scripts to perform transformations or just to manage your data, you’ll probably find that there are already tools written to do what you want.

Let me start with the conclusion first. The next time you have to transform or manipulate your data, look around for what Unix tools already exist first.  It might take you a little longer to figure out all of the flags and parameters you need, and you’ll have to dig through some unfriendly documentation, but you’ll have a new, far more flexible tool in your toolbox the next time around.

This is part 3 of a series on Unix tools. (more…)