The First 30 Days of Data for Democracy

In December we started an experiment. We wanted to see what would happen if like-minded people from around the world gathered to work on technology that has an impact. No structure. No rules. Just code commits and lots of Slack messages. Now that we’re a month into Data for Democracy, it seemed like a good time for a status update. First, the numbers:

The community is gathered in a Slack instance and Github organization, which both offer some helpful stats for tracking activity.

  • We have 324 volunteers in Slack
  • Around 75 new volunteers join every week
  • The community posted 3,880 messages last week, which is 1,870 more than the week before
  • 38 members of the community have joined the Data for Democracy Github organization
  • We’ve created 11 public repos and 1 private repo
  • As of this writing, the latest commit was 38 minutes ago
  • This activity is mostly spread across 6 active projects

Our active projects are focused on understanding the behavior of online communities, election transparency, a USA dashboard (like KPIs for America), analysis on the extreme right, Medicare drug spending, and campaign spending (in support of work by ProPublica). These projects are all self-organized and community led. We’re also talking with a few US cities about more formal partnerships, and a couple of international NGOs about partnering on projects that don’t have a US focus.

This early activity is really inspiring, and we’ve realized that as an organization we can start supporting volunteers with a little structure — project templates, documentation, best practices, and a some guidance. With that in mind, a small group of active volunteers have come up with first drafts of new project templates, guidelines for leading projects, and some thoughts for how the community should govern itself. We’ve released those documents in a public Github repo so the larger community can comment, add, edit, and make it your own.

We’ll be updating this space with reports, analysis, and technical posts from the community in the coming weeks. In the meantime, huge thank you to the volunteers who are dedicating their skills, time, and energy to making a difference. If you’d like to be involved with the community, read more about how you can help, or email jonathon@datafordemocracy.org to request an invitation. If you’re already a member and need help getting started, join the #onboarding channel and we’ll help.