Saturday, May 19, 2012

International Legislative Unhackathon and G+ Hangout

State Senator Leland Yee made a personal appearance. (He's a sponsor of SB1002 in California, an open data bill.) Jim Harper and Francis Avila of the Cato Institute joined us.  Professor David Jung, Director of UC Hastings' Center for State and Local Government Law worked on marking up a local ordinance. Tanzania, Italy and Japan were represented as were Washington, D.C. and Virginia. Rob Richards, as always, kept us all in communication.  Terrific organization and inspiration by Charles Belle (UC Hastings), Pieter Gunst (Stanford) and Karen Suhaka (Denver).

We were also joined by a number of curious (bored?) men from Middle Eastern countries, apparently looking to chat with English speakers. Some stayed to listen.

Participants everywhere were able to learn about the emerging data standards for legislation (Akomo Ntosa), thanks to videos by Monica Palmieri and Grant Vergottini, and tried their hands at marking up legislation from California and a number of other jurisdictions.  We got some great feedback, which we're posting at code.google.com/p/legal-hack, and had some very productive discussions about Grant's HTML5 legislative editor, the AKN standard, and the benefits of crowdsourcing vs. having a dedicated (paid) team to mark up legislation.

The event was also an amazing lesson for me on the power of technology to engage the "long tail".  After all, how many people are interested enough in legislative metadata to spend a beautiful Saturday in May hacking on it? There were 15-20 people each at Hastings and Stanford.  The LegiNation group was in Denver, and through the Google+ hangout, Twitter feed and editor on legalhacks.org, many more people could participate virtually and, aside from the introductory presentations, asynchronously.

I am particularly curious about how the experience was for virtual participants-- did you feel you could join in when and how you wanted?  Was the Google+ experience satisfactory?  What would you have liked to see more of?

Legalhacks.org will be hosting a series of future events on structured legislation and we'd love to hear what you liked, what you didn't like and what you hope to see in future events.