Sunshine Statutes Goes into Public Alpha

The Florida implementation of The State Decoded has launched as a public alpha test. Sunshine Statutes resulted from strong interest in the project from the Florida Society of News Editors and the First Amendment Foundation, especially Rick Hirsch, the Managing Editor of the Miami Herald. Within hours of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announcing the $165,000 grant that funds the State Decoded project, Rick was insisting that Florida was the perfect state to start things off, and he was right about that. Open data hacker Michael Tahani did the heavy lifting of creating the parser, which reads the XML of the Florida Statutes and turns it into a format familiar to the State Decoded’s software.

The resulting site is rather beyond a proof of concept, but surely not finished. (Hence the “alpha test” moniker.) Some statutes with particularly complex structures are missing some text, and not all statute histories are being parsed correctly, but we’ll be ticking down the list of fixes and getting everything repaired soon enough. (Every statute has a link back to its listing on the Florida legislature’s website, making it easy for folks to see the official version of the text.) Once all known content-related bugs are fixed, it’ll enter “beta” status, and the dire warnings can be stripped away.

In the few days since we announced Sunshine Statutes, there’s been an outpouring of offerings of help from Floridians. Putting together a site like this—and keeping it going—is more like a barn-raising than a monolithic construction project. Any other folks who are so moved to get involved are welcome to contact us—the folks at the FSNE and the FAF would surely love the assistance, and there’s certainly a lot of work to be done.