Sunlight Foundation reveals winners in its Apps for America contest

The Sunlight Foundation has announced the winners of a recent contest for mashup-styled applications that reuse legislative data in ways that can better inform the public.

Sunlight's goal for the contest, called Apps for America, was to have outside developers provide new applications that citizens could use to better understand congressional activity. The organization received submissions for more than 40 open-source applications.

First prize (which came with a cash award of $15,000) went to an application called Filibusted, which tracks senators' use of parliamentary procedures to block votes on legislation. Web interface developer Andrew Dupont created that site.

Second prize ($5,000) went to Legistalker. Created by Forum One Communications, this site tracks all posts on Twitter and YouTube by congressional representatives, as well as any news articles in which they appear.

Other notable entries included CongressCal, a Google calendar with details about bills before Congress; Word on the Street, an application for mobile phones that pinpoints the user's location and displays elected congressional officials for that area; and Defogger, a service that can scan an article or blog post about a political topic and return biographical information about the parties referenced.

Programs entered into the contest were required to draw data from a dataset or application programming interface (API) provided by the the Sunlight Foundation, as well as from other government-related sources. Sunlight's APIs and datasets draw and reformat data from such government sources as the Census Bureau, the Federal Election Commission and the Senate Public Relations Office.

Applications under consideration also had to be open source. The judges looked for how useful the applications were, the potential impact on congressional behavior and the originality of the application.

In speeches given earlier this year, federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra urged agencies to expose more of their data, so that it could be reused by citizens and private industry.

The Sunlight Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to making "information about Congress and the federal government more meaningfully accessible to citizens," according to the Web site. The group has funded or developed a number of public databases of Congressional information, including OpenCongress.org, FedSpending.org, OpenSecrets.org and EarmarkWatch.org.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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