During the building of the LittleSis beta, many good ideas for future projects were brainstormed by the development team and the dozens of colleagues and friends from whom we received advice and feedback. Although much of our time over the coming weeks will be devoted to fixing bugs, improving basic usability, and cleaning up existing data, we plan to keep rolling out new features and systematically expanding the current database in big ways when we can.
In the long run, there are a number of things we can do to address the abundance of great ideas for future development and our relative lack of time. 1) We’re going to greatly expand our fundraising efforts now that we have a live website to both show off and build upon, and that will translate into more programming power. 2) We plan to open-source the LittleSis codebase so that all the talented political techies out there can make it better. 3) Exposing our raw data to the public through an API will let others do interesting things with the data beyond our expertise and capacity.
Still, over the next few months we’ll have to be quite selective in choosing enhancements to make, and we want the LittleSis community to help us get our priorities straight. We want to put all our ideas in a single place where users can see what ideas are on our plate, rank them, refine them, and add to them. We don’t want to guess what new features and data matter most to you.
Here’s just a sample of what we’ve been thinking about:
- visual network maps similar to TheyRule
or NNDB mapper
- using more person/org profile pictures & summaries across the site to help users navigate long lists of unfamiliar names
- allowing analysts to import campaign finance data, photos, etc, into profiles with a click of a button
- better linking to related info on other great accountability and transparency sites in the Sunlight posse and elsewhere
Building our Analyst Community
- user-to-user messaging
- better space for commenting and discussion on profiles
- blogging tools for analysts
- private company boards & executives
- state-level campaign finance data
- foundations, their boards, and their grantees
- employment histories of corporate executives
- new members of congress
- open API for accessing our raw data
- better documentation of site features and how to use them
- breaking news feed about people and groups with profiles in LittleSis
- a browser plugin for exposing overlooked connections between names in the news
So how do we narrow these, and so many more, down to a few? We could spend a little time building a user-rated wish list tool ourselves (basically a Digg for new features, not articles), but perhaps setting up a wiki for this purpose would suffice? Perhaps there’s an existing open source app along these lines?
Engineers especially: please let us know if you have ideas about how we can best aggregate your ideas about LittleSis and where it’s heading.