Update: This news challenge entry was declined in the first round. No additional details are provided on first round declines.
We've submitted an open entry to the Knight Foundation News Challenge for 2010 - 2011. We hope you'll take a look, rate and review the application: Crowdsourced Budget Transparency Platform Trial for Seattle and Washington State
Here's the basic project description:
Our project will build web sites that allow citizens to use social media to assess city and state budgets, show affinity for programs they care about, highlight wasteful spending, identify fraud and create more transparency and citizen involvement in general. We’re essentially providing a platform for crowdsourced analysis of city and state budgets.
We will launch two different sites: one to analyze the budget in the city of Seattle and the other for the state of Washington. We will use a variety of methods for importing public data about government budgets and spending into these sites to make the data easily available for public review.
Any citizen will be able to visit the sites to explore the budget and highlight and share spending items with their friends and colleagues. For example, users will be able to like, dislike, comment, share on Facebook, tweet, tag or flag any budget item. Users will receive email notifications when other people respond to their comments.
On the home page of these sites, we’ll use familiar social media widgets to help people navigate to interesting areas. For example, we’ll list the most liked, most disliked, most discussed and most flagged budget items. We’ll also offer keyword search to make it easier to find specific budget areas.
While these sites will be most deeply utilized by passionate citizens, bloggers and activists, the social media features make it likely for controversial budget items to receive tremendous exposure and discussion within a community.
As part of this project, we will manage a promotional campaign to raise awareness about our sites while leveraging as much as free publicity as possible. We’ll also work with the city of Seattle, the state of Washington and local media and bloggers to encourage them to promote the project from their own websites.
We’ll build the technology for this project by extending the open source Ruby on Rails based NewsCloud platform. Many of the social media features such as Facebook Connect, likes and dislikes, comments, tweeting, notifications, tags, flags and feed parsing are already built into the NewsCloud platform.
Budget data is rarely organized in simple forms. We’ll place significant focus on bringing data into our application in forms that are easily grasped and analyzed by our sites’ visitors. We’ll aim build a flexible hierarchy for organizing data across categories and departments. We’ll also make extra efforts to provide extended analysis e.g. comparing spending by headcount across departments, comparing spending across departments involved in similar functions or budget areas, assess spending vs. public benefit / the number of people who use a resource or are effected by a budget item.