Brigade Network Project Indexing

Watch this space for cross-brigade collaboration on the creation of a network-wide project index

Historical/Current Resources:

  1. Code for America Project API hosts a list of projects for every brigade, however, many brigades are unaware this exists and/or are not using it: https://brigade.codeforamerica.org/brigades. More info on this projects list and api can be found here: https://cfapi.readme.io

  2. Laddr is used by Code for Philly (https://codeforphilly.org/projects) and Open Charlotte (https://brigade.opencharlotte.org/projects). Ladder has integration with Code for America project listings by exporting a csv that can be used to update the CfA website.

  3. C4SF Project Match. Code for San Francisco has work on matching volunteers with projects, and with creating a taxonomy for skills. Common feedback so far is that taxonomies will be critical to ensure that brigades are empowered to share a common list of projects without tags becoming too granular and unusable.
    Taxonomy: https://github.com/designforsf/brigade-matchmaker/blob/master/docs/taxonomy.md

  4. Code for America Civic Tech Taxonomy: https://github.com/codeforamerica/civic-tech-taxonomy

  5. Code for America Project Showcase Page: http://brigade.codeforamerica.org/showcase

  6. Civic.json. BetaNYC has created civic.json, a specification for listing civic projects: https://github.com/BetaNYC/civic.json. This might be something that we can modify/extend. Code for San Francisco has an archived flask app for working with civic.json https://codeforsanfrancisco.org/projects/civic-json-worker/

  7. Code for DC’s extended civic.json spec: http://open.dc.gov/civic.json/specification.html

  8. Common projects taxonomy, a Discourse outlining previous efforts on common taxonomies. (Common projects taxonomy)

  9. Navigating the Network, Laura’s Organizational Structure for the Network(Navigating the Network (Laura's Organizational Structure for the Network))

  10. Civic Tech Field Guide, a civ-tech project index: http://civictech.guide

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If this effort turns into a BAT we can figure out the name of that BAT later, but I suggest adjusting the topic title for this discussion now to “network project indexing” or “brigade network project indexing” or “cross-brigade project indexing” to avoid confusion with [all the tools for indexing projects within a brigade] (Project Frameworks/Guidelines/Checklists/etc) and make clear the focus is on building the network/mesh and help keep people out of the trap of just trying to build an ultimate project index tool with the hope everyone will switch to using the same thing

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Updated. Thanks, I’m not used to Discourse norms

Hey team. Exciting to see interest around this.

The Civic Tech Project Search is located here: https://brigade.codeforamerica.org/projects

It is populated based on the civic.json spec and the projects_list_url in the codeforamerica/brigade-information repo. e.g. Here is Code for San Francisco’s. I keep this file up-to-date and it also powers the map on the Brigade website.

It’s understandable that the Civic Tech Project Search is not well-known anymore, as we decided to de-emphasize it when we did a visual refresh of the Brigade website in 2018.

It’s linked here on the page:
image

The reason we de-emphasized the project search was that we felt that the traffic to those pages was small enough that it wasn’t serving the intended use-cases very well. In particular, there were some pretty large UX problems with the tool:

  • The project list included projects from non-CfA Brigades like governments and other orgs
  • The project list included items that weren’t projects (i.e. Brigade websites, libraries, etc.)
  • The project list wasn’t sortable by project category except via keyword search
  • Similar projects across Brigades weren’t grouped together
  • Prototype and pre-release projects were included in the results, especially ones that weren’t accepting contributions.

Given how difficult it would be to accomplish all this programmatically, we regrouped and created the curated Project Showcase page to do this all manually. We haven’t gotten too much feedback about that page, so please send any you’ve got my way.

If anyone wants to continue development on the Civic Tech Project Search, you won’t find any opposition from me. I don’t have the time to invest in it at the moment, but I’m happy to advise and consult if you all would like to improve it. But I am a bit cynical that the juice is worth the squeeze here, given the existence of other civic tech cataloguing efforts like the Civic Tech Field Guide.

Thanks for writing up so much @tdooner! That list of UX problems is extremely helpful to see

The gap seems to be in something that can provide for mapping and growing inter-brigade collaborations. The Civic Commons website back in the early brigade days provided a place for publishing redeployable projects, with lists of redeployments/forks organized underneath. The unique use-case is a shopping/collaboration catalogue between brigades

Current catalogues like CfA’s project showcase and the Civic Tech Field Guide seem focused on cataloging end-deployments. For example, there’s an entry for CodeForPhilly.org:

The entry seems to have been loosely scraped somehow, the “Code” link is to some random github repo that just happened to be linked to on the site somewhere. I’m the maintainer, so I should go ahead and click “Claim Now!” to fix the listing myself:

This is a wordpress plugin for maintaining a local business directory, and we’ve already bumped up against its limitations for the most essential of things: keeping the data up to date. Let alone showing that CodeForPhilly.org is a deployment of Laddr, a rating of how mature Laddr is for redeployment, and that there’s a handful of other deployments of Laddr you can browse through. How would mapping out all the forks/deployments of CourtBot at their various stages fit into this? This catalog is probably helpful for some purposes, but is too noisey, of high-volume low-quality data, and not structured for mapping within the brigade network. I hate to be so critical, but I don’t see a path from here to what we’re missing. Certainly a useful reference in its own right but it’s not going to morph from what it is now into a marketplace for cross-brigade collaboration

I think the space we need would have a couple properties we don’t see here, at the risk of coming into this too strongly opinionated I want to take a crack at painting some concrete parameters for critique:

  1. Project owners should maintain their own project’s table where it is as easy as possible for them to do themselves: within their own repository. We should start from Code for DC’s extended civic.json spec and extend it further to globalize tagging, categorize repositories as projects/guides/libraries/deployments, document support channels, and to link between deployments and their projects.
  2. Put brigades in charge of their own curation, using their own systems. No central database of projects that someone outside brigades puts together once. I think the way the CfA API is driven by a community-maintained repo that just has a link to each brigades GitHub org or dynamic projects feed is brilliant and the framework we should build upon.
  3. The data needs to show up right away, somewhere useful that gives maintainers immediate visibility for their efforts that they can take pride in. The brigade map is a great start. How about showing a news feed of new/updated redeployments? Top charts of redeployed projects?
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@gregboyer, et al once decided that this will become a proposed BAT project, please refer to this post here (that refers you to a v2 of How to do a BAT

@chris wrt to the limitations of what currently exists on Civic Tech Field Guide, I tend to agree that @ExperimentsInHonesty (Bonnie Hack for LA), et al, are looking for something more robust and descriptive (and useful) for interbrigade work & communication. I think you’ll have a better handle on specs than I will for sure, but I’ll do my best to keep up

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Hi @tdooner @chris @gregboyer @ramymik :wave: – Thought I’d chime in here as I’ve had a few discussions (see attached) in CfA Slack regarding my team’s efforts to build out new functionality that would let groups like Code for America brigades participate in the Govlaunch platform and use our free tools to connect/catalogue projects and tools used – both at the national and brigade level.

Wondering if you and/or anyone else involved with CfA would be interested in connecting sometime for a quick web conference? I’d love to walk you through what we’re planning right now – but also to get your feedback and see if there are any glaring holes in our idea.

A little background on what we’ve built thus far: https://docs.govlaunch.com/

Hi @James , thanks for sharing. Govlaunch looks super cool, but I see two major barriers to it being part of what we need for the network:

  • Brigades’ operation needs are diverse and brigades need freedom to co-evolve in slightly different ways. My own conclusion is this means we will never be successful at getting everyone to input everything into one central anything. This seems to be Govlaunch’s premise. Rather, I believe we need to explore how can build on the CfAPI model of independent-but-connected
  • Your platform appears to be entirely proprietary, and forbids even extracting data from it

Thanks for the reply @chris, very good points on all fronts. I will say that we’re currently working on functionality that would allow for full data exports so users can take their data with them. But I get your wider point as to why we wouldn’t be a good fit for internal use. Makes a lot of sense.

I do see what we’re building as something that might complement whatever CfA/individual Brigades use internally to manage projects/priorities – but for external use.

Since we’re looking to extend our community so non-gov/civic groups can connect/coordinate/cooperate with governments in the platform, I think this could still be useful in some capacity. i.e. A civic group could work with a local government privately within Govlaunch to plan/coordinate a project – and then to publicize said project at different stages.

I also see this as a way for citizen-based groups (non tech/hacker) to connect with their respective governments to point out issues/propose projects that have been done in other communities. A government could then loop in a local Brigade or any other local groups to help brainstorm/produce a solution.

In the end, I see this as a way better connect all of the different actors working to improve communities. Thanks again for the feedback and sorry to hijack the conversation. If anyone’s game, I’d still be very interested to chat a little more about our initial designs/specs. :+1:

@James a lot of brigades do advocacy work in their communities to promote better practices around buying and/or building technology in their local governments and other civic institutions. A big need I’ve heard echoed by many long-time organizers is that once we get to the table we often don’t feel like we have what we need on-hand to link our local partners with all the relevant precedent and resources the global network has to offer

This is a great topic for another thread, I recommend you start a new topic about resources for connecting local government to the network and kick it off with a link and description for Govlaunch. It sounds like you and your team have a ton of expertise in this space

Roger that @chris, thanks for rec. I’ll go ahead and do that now. Cheers!

I finally found the original site I talk about a lot: https://web.archive.org/web/20140903042754/http://commons.codeforamerica.org/

This site was a lot of fun: https://web.archive.org/web/20140903022516/http://commons.codeforamerica.org/government-entities/city-philadelphia

IMO we essentially need that, but a little more brigade/network-oriented

Really cool example of how a centralized index could look.

Here’s another example, by a group we have close ties with at Code for SF: https://explore.oviohub.com

Here are some links to the Code for SF Taxonomies and documentation around their implementation:

Taxonomy documentation

Taxonomies:

Here’s the mockup they created:

Just chiming in to provide some context from related discussions in the past:

Conversations and efforts we should keep in mind with this project

Also, I’m sure we’ll want to integrate the Civic Tech Taxonomy within tools used to generate a project index.

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I have created a github repo / project under Open San Diego for tracking the action items from our kickoff on Sunday (6/23/2019). Please DM me on the CFA slack (@Nikolaj Baer) or reply here if you want to be added to the project.

That’s awesome @nikolajbaer, thanks for putting a repo together! Also, welcome to Discourse!

Could we transfer the repo to the CodeForAmerica organization though?

Sure, I would be happy to. I just tried to initiate it and github complained that I didn’t have sufficient permissions to codeforamerica.

@chris can I add you as an owner and you do the transfer (assuming you have permissions)?

All set! The old address should keep working in git and automatically redirect online, but the new URL is:

I added the “Brigade” and “Brigade National Advisory Council” teams within the CfA github org to the repo with write access and I configured the master branch as protected (so no one with only write access can ever accidentally erase it). Nikolaj and I are the admins of the repo, but all owners of the CfA organization should be able to make themselves or anyone else admins too now if needed.

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