Technical.ly Baltimore

Civic

Mar. 12, 2013 10:30 am

govSee: Chris Whong enters wiki gov org chart into Knight News Challenge

Ever wondered who reports to the deputy mayor within a city government? With govSee, people will be able to chart the structure of government, associating names and faces with oftentimes obscure-sounding job titles along the way.

A screenshot of how the finished govSee project will look.

Big Brother might be watching us, but govSee is a first step toward knowing which of his underlings belongs in timeout.

The latest project of data visualization enthusiast Chris Whong, govSee is a crowdsourced wiki database displaying the connections among political officials within government. Ever wondered who reports to the deputy mayor within a city government? With govSee, people will be able to chart the structure of government, associating names and faces with oftentimes obscure-sounding job titles along the way.

“We can’t improve something we don’t understand. Govsee will help you find that person and position, but more importantly it will show you who they report to, and who reports to them,” said Whong, the owner of Charm City Networks in Federal Hill, in an e-mail.

Whong likens govSee, which he has just entered into the Knight Foundation News Challenge, as a Google Earth for navigating the organizational structures of local, state or federal agencies and offices. As he writes in his Knight application, govSee users “can click, pan, zoom, expand and otherwise explore the hierarchy as if it were a Google map, clicking each node for more information along the way.”

“Applaud” Chris Whong’s Knight Challenge entry for govSee here.

And because it will be a crowdsourced effort, anyone with knowledge of government connections — say, a journalist with years of reporting experience of a city IT agency — can fill out missing elements within govSee’s database.

The idea for govSee has been on his brain since last summer, and Whong hopes the initial beta build-out will be complete by May.

Moreover, the wiki-based beta “will be … expandable to any government,” Whong said. Baltimore will be in the initial pilot of govSee once it’s up and running. After six to eight months of beta testing, govSee should be ready to launch in cities across the U.S., according to Whong’s Knight application, before going international.

While active civic hacker Shea Frederick is helping Whong with the beta build in his spare time, what Whong really needs is additional help to construct the govSee platform. Hence, his entry into the Knight Foundation News Challenge.

The position Whong is actively looking to fill right now?

“What I really need is a CTO who believes in the mission and can manage a substantial build,” he said via e-mail. “And by CTO, I mean a rockstar developer who can code like a boss.”

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Andrew Zaleski

Andrew Zaleski is a freelance journalist in Philadelphia and the former lead reporter for Technical.ly Baltimore. Before moving to Philadelphia in June 2014, he was a contributing writer to Baltimore City Paper and a Tech Check commentator for WYPR 88.1 FM, Baltimore city’s National Public Radio affiliate. He has written for The Atlantic, Outside, Richmond magazine, Washington City Paper, Baltimore magazine, Baltimore Style magazine, Next City, Grist.org, The Atlantic Cities, and elsewhere.

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