this is day 1 of 30, borrowed from fifiwoofwoof
I totally had something different planned for this post (and it's really awesome!!!!) but has to wait because I got even cooler news today.
project is mentioned in an official government report!!! edit: And a reporter contacted me for an interview :D the story so far
So what IS LobbyLens? Well you have to start with the Lobby bit first.
Lobbying is the practice of influencing decisions made by the government (in groups or individually). It includes all attempts to influence legislators and officials, whether by other legislators, constituents, or organized groups.
At it's most innocent, lobbying is just people getting together to present their point of view to government. But unfortunately, some lobbyists are paid by corporate clients with "success fees" if they get those clients what they want. It's why the Obama administration cracked down on what connection senior advisors can have to lobbyists
and why the Rudd government publishes a "Register of Lobbyists" (and State governments have joined in too!). I should mention that we never actually suspected there was/is anything wrong with lobbying in australia, just that it's interesting to investigate
LobbyLens takes that register and turns it into a graph (and map) of relationships. Politicians are connected to Portfolios who have Departments that do business with Suppliers that might have been hired due to the efforts of Lobbyists. It's pretty spiffy technology! i get by with a little help from my friends
Even more spiffy is how it came about. On the afternoon of October 31st, I went to ANU to help out with Government 2.0 (making government more open and accessable through the power of technology). There was a big speech and then... everybody disappeared! After wandering around aimlessly, I ran into a bunch of people who were talking about doing this lobbyist thing. And I was like "Hey! I know how to get a list of suppliers!". And they were like "Cool! Join our team!". So we started a team! A team of people from different states that had never met before. It was like... unreal :P
We got free meals at the Purple Pickle and free snacks/soft drink for 24 hours... I think our team was one of the few who did 24 hours straight (there was a prize for that!) and our website was awesome at the end (even if the "men in black will come and get you now" taunts were interesting). So we won the grand prize!!! Meccano robots :P where to now, dr. spock?
I'm still working on Gov2.0 stuff to make the world a better place - “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants”. We're not there yet; there's still plenty of interesting things to discover in a hidden datasilo somewhere and there's a cultural shift to make public servants feel comfortable being open. But it's been a busy couple of months and there's even more interesting things to come in 2010.