OpenGovernment named a Finalist at SxSW Interactive – Accelerator

We’re very excited to announce that OpenGovernment was selected to be one of 8 finalists in the News category at South by Southwest Interactive’s Accelerator contest, March 14-16th in the gem-of-a-town Austin, TX. Looking forward to meeting & trading ideas w/ the other finalists & attending SxSW in general. We’re honored to have been chosen and excited to show our work.

Your correspondents here with the Participatory Politics Foundation have never attended Interactive before, though bit of personal trivia, I attended the Music conf. back in 2002 when I lived in Austin (E. 7th & Navasota, link to G-Map for posterity – pictured here is Angie’s, an under-rated Tex-Mex spot up the street I enjoyed and which which subsequently moved to the fairly-audacious construction photographed above… you want to talk tacos in AUS, get at me. Not at all saying Angie’s has the crown, that would be a much more involved discussion, but FWIW, Curra’s > Chuy’s [w/ Juan in a Million as a wildcard]).

Thank you to the Accelerator Advisory Board and greetings to the Judges. To be clear, since SxSW is often associated with startups, OpenGovernment is likely coming to the News category from a different perspective than at least some of our competitors — our public-mission web application is licensed under the GPL, and is the project of two 501(c)3 non-profit organizations. So we’re not a for-profit project of, say, an LLC — not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just that we elected to incorporate as a non-profit so that our principles would be formally enshrined in our organizational structure.

We have a non-profit sustainability plan, not a business plan, and a non-profit funding prospectus we’re circulating, not a V.C. pitch. We don’t have a marketing budget or social media consultants, and our tiny development team chooses to work on this project at non-profit rates because we believe in its mission. To be sure, there are lots of non-non-profit web/tech projects doing praiseworthy public service work out there, too many to highlight here, but we wanted to be clear that OG is indeed FLOSS. As soon as our development resources allow, all the actions that users are already taking on this beta version of OpenGovernment to track and share information about their elected officials will be made even more accessible back to the public commons via a free API & structured bulk data. We won’t stop until we’ve ensured a lasting foundational commitment from government at all levels in our representative democracy on behalf of the community-generated OpenGovData Principles.

As the contest approaches, we’ll talk more specifically about how OG fits into the News category and can be used by a wide variety of political bloggers, media publishers, journalists, educators, and citizen watchdogs to track and share what’s happening in their state legislatures … but for now, imagine all the uses that we’ve seen with OpenCongress over the past four years, happening at the state and local level for user-friendly transparency and public accountability. That’s where we’re headed and what we’re hoping you’ll help us build.

My understanding at this point is that each of the Eight Finalists will deliver a two-minute burst of presentation accompanied by media, and that the judges will winnow it down to three final-finalist projects to move into the next round. It’s sure to all be extensively documented on streaming video & micro-publishing services, so Carl and I will seek to represent PPF & OG strongly, with shouts in-person to Jeremy w/ our partner org. Sunlight, who will be at SxSW flying the Labs flag on behalf of the Open States Project. We look forward to mixing it up with everyone and finding other publicly-available data sources to aggregate via our open-source Ruby wrapper GovKit (which powers the OG web app). If you’ll be there, or if you’re a finalist yourself, holler at us to say make our acquaintance in advance, and see you in Austin, will be fun, looking forward.

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