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Sunlight Foundation’s Transparency Corps Recruits People Amazon Turk Style

The Sunlight Foundation recently announced the creation of the Transparency Corps. Modeled after Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, the Transparency Corps aim to make it easy to harness small efforts by enthusiastic volunteers to move forward efforts to improve government transparency.

From the June 30, 2009 Sunlight Foundation press release:

“Inspired by Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, Sunlight created Transparency Corps as a new way for people to volunteer to make government transparency a reality,” said Ellen Miller, executive director and co-founder of the Sunlight Foundation. “Now, when people ask ‘how can I help?’ Sunlight and future partners can provide micro-tasks that when aggregated, help solve research and data analysis problems when computers alone cannot properly scrutinize government information.”

Right now there are two projects:

Each time you complete a task, you get points. Those points add up and are how you move up the transparency leader board. I joined up to see what a task would look like. For the earmarks task I was presented with a PDF of a letter requesting funding for a local project and a form to the right of the letter to be filled in with data such as the quantity requested, title of the project and other requester information. You can see an example of one of the letters on ScribDB.

I am curious to see how big they can grow their corps & see what projects they target over the next year. I love that they are grabbing structured data. This particular task is part transcription and part encoding and reminds me of some of the work being done over on Freebase.com. For an example of one of the datasets they are building, take a look at their U.S. National Register of Historic Places base or the Government Commons.

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