This project is my main focus outside of work and family these days. I started on the idea when I had a few months off in between leaving qintel and joining vic. The problem we're trying to solve is pretty simple; while there's a ton of great open source political and societal data out there, very little of it is easily accessible to folks who aren't technical. And, even for those who are technical, it's painful to aggregate and clean it enough such that it can be made presentable and intuitive.
So at least to start, we're kind of a data aggregator with free features like exports and (soon) embeds that we hope will prove useful to educators, journalists and anyone else in the space. Long term though, we hope to provide crowd-sourcing functionality that allows our community to easily fill in gaps or even submit larger blocks of data.
My extended family, as far as I can remember, have always been political junkies. It always bored me hearing them talk about it as a kid, but once I got out of college and started my career I began to get a little more intrigued by government.
What interests me more than any particular leader, party or issue is the architecture of government. This includes its overall structure but also how our leaders interface with their consituents. Like many young -- and I guess some older -- people these days, a lot of what I observed felt quite clunky. I think this is a natural first instinct many outsiders experience when they're first introduced to a field. For example, when I first became an engineer a lot of the process companies enforced felt like overkill but now that I've been in the game for a while and learned the rationale for some of it, I reject it less.
However there are some aspects of government that, even after more research and understanding still feel pretty silly to me...
- Bills are often gigantic, in an attempt to fix too many problems at once.
- There's an insane amount of money flying around between campaigns and lobbying.
- We rarely talk about the cause and effect, hyper-focusing on our current problems but less so on the trail of decisions that got us to those places.
intersection with software
I think that some of these problems can be solved with software. What if there were a place where citizens could more easily visualize how their country is doing and how their government's actions have played into that? What if we could see those things across time and compare our country's performance to another country's? And what if citizens could engage more with each key decision that's being made, not necessarily as a direct democracy, but at least to a point where a representative would have a very clear picture of their consituents' thoughts on the matter.
The technology to build such a platform certainly exists. In fact, the tech industry is solving much harder problems like artificial intelligence, biometrics and mugs that keep your coffee warm forever. As noted above, much of the needed data is also out there but hasn't been tapped in more meaningful ways yet. What's not there can either be crowdsourced or -- ideally -- exposed by the government in question.
so why not build it?
- Explore the world as a whole.
- Dive into a specific country.
- Export data from basically anywhere in the application.
- Search for politicians across multiple countries.
Now that we have some key parts of the foundation laid, we're shifting our focus to building out the community and adding features, like embeds, that empower users more and more with each new block of data that's added. If you have ideas please submit them here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if that's easier for you.