What Can I Dev For My Country

Feb 25, 2009
Tags: Sunlight Foundation Gov20

A little while ago I ran across this post from @corbett3000 about the need for greater civic involvement from the tech community. This was a call to "build stuff that matters” to help the country do more with less, keep our leaders honest, their governance transparent, and plainly put—to fix crap that’s broken.

Maybe it was a kernel of hope tucked away somewhere in my brain from recently seeing Obama get elected, maybe it was some residual sense of community from a week just spent at Drupalcon, maybe I just need some sleep—either way, this post was speaking to me.

So, surprisingly freed from the overbearing cynicism so typical of my generation, I spent some time playing around with this API made available from the Sunlight Foundation. The Congress API provides access to all sorts of cool data sources, from Census Boundary Files, to FEC Disclosures, to Senate Office Public Records, and more. I can’t say I’ve actually produced anything that would be of any real use to anybody at this point, but I am starting to get some ideas.

I also registered for the upcoming eDemocracy Camp going on here in DC this April. This whole optimism and participation thing feels a bit weird after 8 years of cynical obstinate opposition, but I think I could get used to it. If you’re a techie in the DC area and are going to be at the eDemocracy camp I’ll see you there, if not, maybe you should be asking yourself: What can I develop for my country?

Update: I eventually got around to building something with this API, a mobile optimized web app built with Ruby and Rack for soliciting public outreach to Capitol Hill.

The Distress Signal is the personal blog of Bryan Schuetz. Bryan has been complaining on the Internet since the 90s. If you'd like to get in touch with Bryan, you can find him on twitter.