Phase 1 project closeout, PDC Next Generation Data Access project.

On Tuesday, March, 7th, 2017 the PDC team of external stakeholders and PDC staff completed phase 1 of the PDC’s Next Generation Data Access project.

The goals for the project, including phase 1 are available on the Next generation data access project page. 

Mission complete

Our mission was ambitious and the team delivered on that mission by meeting all our initial goals that were in the project scope and completed additional goals that initially considered as lower priority and out of scope due to resource constraints.

In 14 weeks, the team published 5 million records on the State of Washington Open Data Portal. The data sets include: all campaign finance contributions, expenditures, debts, loans, and pledges; campaign finance registrations, reporting history, and filings; Lobbyist employment registrations, compensation, and expenditures; and independent electioneering and communications. Each of the data sets is updated daily. The data catalog contains complete metadata for each of the datasets making it easy to understand what is included. Where possible, we’ve also included a direct link to the report where the data originated for easy validation. The team built an extensible process for publishing which will allow us to easily add data sets as future needs arise. The portal itself includes features that allow anyone to do their own searching, sorting, grouping and analysis. This includes creating and saving your own charts, graphs and even maps.

If you are interested in doing your own research with PDC data or even building the next great app that brings light to the political process, the PDC Open Data Catalog is the place to start. The catalog can be found our Open Data page or just search the PDC web site for Open Data.

At the final meeting of the phase 1 team, we did our normal retrospective of what worked, didn’t work and what can we do differently, but asked for the whole project.

What worked?

  • Everyone on the team was receptive to feedback, took priority requests seriously and did not pursue our own agenda.
  • Communication and feedback was very good.
  • We don't need to stress about getting communication out immediately - the frequency and schedule was good as it was.
  • Project timing was just right from inception to launch to implementation. Abe suggests this would be a good case study for other agencies.
  • The stakeholders drove the project to be 100% customer focused.
  • The technical team achieved amazing feats of engineering on a very tight timeline and smiled the whole way.

What didn’t work?

  • Skype was not always reliable for joining remotely.
  • Socrata, our portal provider has some issues to resolve such as making the conversion of addresses into map locations more reliable.

What can we improve?

  • Have a dial in number for when Skype isn’t working.
  • Document all the discussions, questions and answers at the two-week team meetings.
  • Figure out how to make sure the positive momentum isn’t lost and have a way for the public to provide feedback and track progress of the continuing work.

To address “how to make sure the positive momentum isn’t lost”, we are embarking on a new experiment in open collaboration. Anyone with an interest in open data and data access at the PDC can see the full list of known issues, feature requests, wish lists, etc. and even contribute their own suggestions. We’ve created a project site for our Open Data Program that is completely transparent to you. For more information, please see the project site.

Special thanks go to the entire team for, as one of the stakeholders said, going “above, beyond and destroying the bar for everyone else.”