Crowdsourcing Our Projects: Meet our new Trello board!

As a lean team, we depend on our thriving community of Data Angels, our community partners and volunteers who work with the city to help us realize what truly data-driven government looks like in Los Angeles. In the past, we’ve worked with groups to pitch projects based on our open data, partner on new analytics initiatives using data, and build digital services that make government information more accessible to the public.

To streamline this process and be transparent about our project pipeline, we launched a Data Angels Project Board on Trello with current and upcoming #DataLA community projects.

Data Angels, Unite! Credit: rawpixel.com

How do I become a Data Angel?

If you’re interested in developing your skills and lending your expertise to community projects that drive social impact you’re well on your way to becoming a Data Angel. Our Data Angels are data enthusiasts in the community that are motivated to improve our city through better use of data and technology. If you’re interested in joining our community, reach out to us at mayor.opendata@lacity.org or comment below.

Meet a Data Angel

Brett Kobold is a Senior Digital Analyst at Dollar Shave Club and an avid learner of new things. We on the mayor’s data team were first introduced to Brett when he shared an analysis of parking citations using the dataset from the open data portal. The analysis and visualizations were very helpful in turning the raw numbers into meaningful insights for Angelenos, so we featured it on the dataset landing page and shared it on social media. We also showed the analysis at our quarterly Citywide Data Collaborative meeting to demonstrate the demand for interesting, up-to-date datasets to department data coordinators.

Realizing the great opportunities for collaboration and shared learning, he then asked if there was a project he could work on with/for us (Angel!). We pointed him to the Trello board and he was able to find something that fit his interest in data cleaning and manipulation, and that provided clear value to the city and Angelenos. So he moved the project to In-Progress and we were off.

Screenshot o fLA City Data Angels Project Board

Brett’s Project — Budget Data Cleaning

Every year on April 20th, the mayor releases a proposed budget. After typically a few modifications, the budget is then adopted by City Council in June. While this has been the process in Los Angeles for some time, we only recently started putting the proposed and adopted budgets and related datasets onto the Open Data Portal each year as part of Mayor Garcetti’s open data initiative.

Again, the data needs to be updated twice a year — when the proposed budget is released and when the adopted budget is released — so it was fine in the past to do this pretty manually using the excel exports we get from the City Administrative Office. But for the sustainability of the open data program, and to get the data to Angelenos quickly, it was time to get more programmatic about it.

For Brett’s project, we started by picking one dataset — General Fund Revenue. His task was to write a script that merged the new export of data into the current dataset (easier said than done without a unique identifier), and that we could rerun with minimal changes for future budget releases.

We collaborated using R to complete the project and learned from each other along the way to make a programmatic update method for more datasets like Budget Expenses, Incremental Changes, and Performance Measures as well. You can see the repository here.

Thank you Brett for your impactful work and inspiring other Data Angels to lend their skills and interests for collaboration!