The PDC’s online systems for public information access are a key component to fulfilling the agency’s mission.
The PDC partnered with members of the community to develop a complete replacement for the data access system. The scope of the project included both a new interface for casual browsing, deep data access and an Open Data interface for large data requests. Most importantly, the goals were being developed by the community.
The initial stakeholder meeting was held on October 13, 2016. All members of the PDC's general stakeholder list were invited to participate. Six external stakeholders joined the PDC staff for the meeting, most choosing to participate online. While attendance was small, we had a lively and creative group that got us off to a good start.
- Phase 1 was completed March 9, 2017. As a result of phase 1, the PDC made 5+ million records available on the State of Washington Open Data Portal and new PDC Open Data Catalog.
- Phase 2 The final deliverables for phase 2 went live on October 26, 2017.
Project scope and structure
From the initial meeting, we were able recognize that most of our use scenarios fall into three major categories. It also was clear that we could deliver greater value by taking each of the categories in turn, allowing us to deliver new functionality as quickly as possible rather than trying to complete a single large project.
- First, Open Data. We decided PDC customers would be well served if the PDC implemented Open Data standards that would allow members of the public to download bulk data and perform their own searches, analysis and reporting. The Open Data project provides a foundation for both the specific search and fuzzy search features. One of the major pitfalls with many Open Data systems is that they languish over time because the data is not updated. Our plan is to build an open data set that will drive our own systems and requires that the data be kept up to date and correct. This also ensures that we build in stability that external users can rely on for their own purposes. Because it creates a foundation for the other projects, we finished the open data project first.
- Second is what we called specific search. This is the middle ground between Open Data and fuzzy search where a user might be interested in specific campaign information for a certain jurisdiction, office, etc.. This is probably closest to the former “Search the database” functionality on the PDC website.
- Third is what was referred to as fuzzy or Google-esque search. We are all familiar with the idea of just typing a term into a search box and seeing everything that’s related. The PDC recently made a big improvement in this regard with our April 2016 website update. Typing a name in the site search box reveals candidate records, compliance cases and commission meetings where the term appears. Additionally, you can refine the search by selecting the categories you are interested in. It was suggested that this type of functionality be available across all PDC data.
- Phase 1, November 2016 to March 2017 - Open Data (bulk access to raw data for research and analysis)
- Phase 2, March 2017 to October 2017 - Specific Search (find the specific record you are looking for)
- Phase 3, On hold until 2018 or later - Fuzzy Search (find everything related to a term or expression)
On May 9, 2017, the PDC in conjunction with our project stakeholders decided to add additional time and resources to phase 2 and hold phase 3 until 2018 or later. This decision was driven primarily by a desire to substantially improve the usability of the Specific Search functionality.
The PDC has a strong community of stakeholders who are as passionate about the work we do as we are. Let's deliver a great end-result together.