Scrape, standardize and share public meetings from local government websites
Public meetings are important spaces for democracy where any resident can participate and hold public figures accountable. City Bureau's Documenters program pays community members an hourly wage to inform and engage their communities by attending and documenting public meetings.
How does the Documenters program know when meetings are happening? It isn’t easy! These events are spread across dozens of websites, rarely in useful data formats.
That’s why City Bureau is working together with a team of civic coders to develop and coordinate the City Scrapers, a community open source project to scrape and store these meetings in a central database.
The City Scrapers collect information about public meetings. Every day, the City Scrapers go out and fetch information about new meetings from the Chicago city council's website, the local school council's website, the Chicago police department's website, and many more. This happens automatically so that a person doesn't have to do it. The scrapers store all of the meeting information in a database for journalists at City Bureau to report on them.
Community members are also welcome to use this code to set up their own databases.
A lot about the City of Chicago! What is City Council talking about this week? What are the local school councils, and what community power do they have? What neighborhoods is the police department doing outreach in? Who governs our water?
From building a scraper, you'll gain experience with:
This repo is focused on Chicago, but you can set up City Scrapers for your area by following the instructions in the City-Bureau/city-scrapers-template repo.
The City Bureau Labs community welcomes contributions from everyone. We prioritize learning and leadership opportunities for under-represented individuals in tech and journalism.
We hope that working with us will fill experience gaps (like using git/GitHub, working with data, or having your ideas taken seriously), so that more under-represented people will become decision-makers in both our community and Chicago’s tech and media scenes at large.
We ask all new contributors to start by writing a spider and its documentation or fixing a bug in an existing one in order to gain familiarity with our code and culture. Reach out on Slack for support if you need it.
Join our Slack channel (chatroom) to discuss ideas and meet the community!
A. We have ongoing conversations about what sort of data we should collect and how it should be collected. Help us make these decisions by commenting on issues with a non-coding label.
B. Research sources for public meetings. Answer questions like: Are we scraping events from the right websites? Are there local agencies that we're missing? Should events be updated manually or by a scraper? Triage events sources on these issues.
This project is organized and maintained by City Bureau.