Report from Transparency Camp

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OpenElections represented at this year’s Transparency Camp, a national conference for civic hackers who work to make political process and government data more, well, transparent. This is a growing and very dynamic un-conference and the session topics ranged from ‘Why the internet hasn’t changed politics’  to ‘Interoperable Civic Data — for user-centric technology’. There were many journalists in attendance, as well as political scientists, policy makers, and technologists working within and in support of government. The atmosphere was palpably optimistic, as the general ethos of the crowd was that ‘we are all here to affect positive change’.

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There were many international civic tech folks and journalists in attendance too, who were especially interested to observe how the US deals with the issue of advancing it’s government transparency since the  impact of this is felt all over the world. TCamp is becoming more international each year.

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The conference was also very technical. OpenElections team members Derek Willis and Sara Schnadt spoke to a room full of hackers particularly attuned to the nuances of elections processes and aware of existing results infrastructures and their limitations. Derek walked through the process of acquiring a data source for a state, writing a scraper, and made the case for joining our effort. There were many thoughtful questions and a lively broader discussion about how to best create technologies to facilitate democratic process. The discussion continued and got even more down to the nitty gritty in a later session bringing together representatives from OpenElections, Voting Information Project, Google Civic Innovation, the Sunlight Foundation, and others, to tease out the problem of defining open data identifiers in an open and non-hierarchical ecosystem of technology projects.

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That weekend, as you heard from us leading up to it, was also National Day of Civic Hacking, and TCamp was one of over 100 events taking place around the country. We camped out and hacked in the main room at the conference a good bit (as did our teammates in Chicago and the Bay Area), ramping up new developer volunteers who were joining in from TCamp and from events in other parts of the country. A big thank you to everyone who joined us over the weekend, and great to meet all of you who came on board at TCamp!