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Date: 2019-03-21 Page is: DBtxt001.php txt00000726

People ... Who Knows Who?
The LittleSis Initiative

LittleSis is a project of Public Accountability Initiative to understand who knows who, connecting the dots that control the economy

COMMENTARY

Peter Burgess



LittleSis is a project of Public Accountability Initiative to understand who knows who, connecting the dots that control the economy

LittleSis is a project of Public Accountability Initiative, a 501(c)3 organization focused on corporate and government accountability. Our mission is to facilitate and produce investigative research that promotes transparent and accountable governance. PAI was founded in early 2008 by a group of activists, public interest lawyers, and academics associated with leading universities and major social change organizations.

Feature Overview

LittleSis features interlinked profiles of powerful individuals and organizations in the public and private sectors. Profiles detail a wealth of information vital to any investigation of the ways power and money guide the formulation of public policy, from board memberships to campaign contributions, old school ties to government contracts.

The site currently offers profiles of 62571 people and 19583 organizations in varying stages of completion. These include, but are not limited to:
... Politicians: members of Congress since 1979, governors since 1974, Bush and Obama administration officials.
... Business people: Fortune 1000 executives and directors, members of the Forbes 400.
... Lobbyists who have lobbied on behalf of Fortune 1000 companies.
... Government bodies: US House & Senate; agencies ranging from the Department of Defense to the IRS.
... Businesses: Fortune 1000 companies, lobbying firms, top law firms, and other private companies.
... Non-profits such as foundations, think tanks, and political organizations.

Relationships

LittleSis offers some data about these people and organizations themselves, but it's focus is on the relationships between them. There are currently 329389 relationships linking entities profiled in the database. The word 'relationship' is broadly defined, and can include:
... Organizational affiliations: employment, directorships, memberships.
... Donations: political contributions, grants.
... Social: family ties, mentorships, friendships.
... Professional: partnerships, supervisory relationships.
... Services/contracts: legal representation, government contracts, lobbying services.

Our focus on relationships distinguishes LittleSis from other important research websites that emphasize biographical narrative and history of abuses in their profiles of powerful people, making it a more powerful and flexible platform for exploring and analyzing social networks. For example, Exxon Mobil's Wikipedia page can offer a strong narrative account of the company, but isn't well-equipped to track historical information on the executives and directors of the corporation, the boards they sit on, and the politicians they support.

Moreover, LittleSis's data model minimizes bias and maximizes its reusability by other projects like mashups and network visualizations. Moreover, relationships can be easily aggregated to reveal patterns, saving users the manual tabulation. For example, LittleSis automatically shows which organizations are linked through common personnel, and which people donate to the same set of political candidates.

Wiki Features

Our data derives from government filings, news articles, and other reputable sources. Some data sets are updated automatically; the rest is filled in by our user community.

Making edits on LittleSis is more like adding friends on Facebook than modifying a Wikipedia page. The editing process mostly consists of adding relationships between people and groups. Users don't have to be great writers or learn a special formatting language in order to contribute quality information to LittleSis.

We have made accuracy a major priority for LittleSis; LittleSis implements stricter editing controls than typical wikis. Editors – called 'analysts' on LittleSis – must provide a reference link for every update they make, and links must point to authoritative sources. This requirement not only ensures credible data, but also provides researchers with valuable links to further information.

Unlike Wikipedia, editors have to sign in to make edits. Registered users can choose to keep their real name hidden, but are still accountable to the community: all modifications to data are logged, so users that make inaccurate or malicious edits can lose editing privileges. Currently, LittleSis staff members enforce these standards, though the user community will eventually be self-policing.

Analyst Notes

The LittleSis developers are admittedly latecomers to Twitter. Microblogging makes nuanced argument difficult, but is quite effective for documenting simple facts and leads. What better model to mimic, then, for LittleSis’s analyst note system?

We’ve decided to modify Twitter’s format to make it more flexible for LittleSis analysts, thus feeding many birds with one worm:
... Notes let analysts keep memos — public or private — that make their own research easier and more complete. Notes are more useful when concise, but aren’t limited to Twitter’s 140 characters.
... Notes let analysts “alert” other analysts using Twitter’s @username markup. Multiple analysts can be “alerted” within one note. A private note can only be viewed by its author and any analysts it alerts
... Notes can link to any combination of entity, relationship, and list pages using a simple markup. For example, @entity:1 will create a link to Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., whereas @entity:1[biggest company in the world] will create a link to the biggest company in the world. @rel and @list work the same way.

While notes are designed to the above needs, all of which LittleSis analysts have asked for, we encourage you to experiment with them and find new uses we haven’t thought of.

The note system is intended to strengthen the social layer on LittleSis, which is essential to keeping our data fresh, accurate, and relevant. Notes are still a work in progress, so let us know what you think!

Data Sources

Much of our data derives from government records and other free services that collect them.

Data about members of Congress come from the Congressional Biographical Directory, GovTrack.us, and Project Vote Smart.

Political contribution information is from the Federal Elections Commission.

Corporate board and executive information comes from the Form 4 and 10-K filings of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Lobbying data is from the US Senate's Lobbying Disclosure Act database.

Government contract data from the Federal Procurement Data System, by way of OMBWatch's FedSpending.org.


A project of the Public Accountability Initiative.

More about LittleSis.

Read the disclaimer.


Staff

Kevin Connor, Research Director & Co-Founder Kevin is a writer, developer, and activist who has drawn major media attention with creative direct actions and investigative reports.

Matthew Skomarovsky, Technical Director & Co-Founder Matthew has led high-profile social justice campaigns, investigated corporate accounting scandals, and built web applications for large nonprofits.

Eddie A Tejeda, Technology Developer Eddie is a researcher and developer interested in projects that challenge the traditional relationships between individuals and institutions.

Erin Heaney, Special Projects Coordinator Erin has worked with a diverse group of students and communities to hold government and other institutions accountable to the people and ideals they serve.

Ellen Przepasniak, Communications Czar Ellen is a print journalist trying to make her way in an increasingly newspaper-less world. She has worked as a writer, editor and copy editor all over the globe, but still loves her hometown of Buffalo.

Kyle Stone, Outreach Coordinator Kyle is a web producer and community organizer who has created high-visibility online content in non-profit, for-profit, and academic environments. Kyle is interested in new media ethics and expanding the internet generation's capacity for critical thinking.

Technical Advisors

Allen Gunn – AspirationTech
Josh Ruihley – Sunlight Labs
Phillip Smith – Community Bandwidth

A project of the Public Accountability Initiative. More about LittleSis. Read the disclaimer.

Data Summary 987,047 Citations
.. 329,389 Relationships
.. 62,571 Persons
.. 24,555 Business Persons
.. 19,583 Organizations
.. 11,110 Lobbyists
.. 6,836 Businesses
.. 5,323 Political Fundraising Committees
.. 5,062 Political Candidates
.. 2,121 Elected Representatives
.. 1,941 Individual Campaign Committees
.. 1,613 Other Campaign Committees
.. 1,323 Lobbying Firms
.. 1,259 Schools
.. 1,220 Government Bodies
.. 1,162 Public Officials
.. 1,101 Other Not-for-Profits
.. 1,091 Public Companies
.. 759 Philanthropies
.. 552 Private Companies
.. 497 Lawyers
.. 441 Academics
.. 365 Membership Organizations
.. 218 Media Personalities
.. 212 Industry/Trade Associations
.. 167 Political Parties
.. 160 Policy/Think Tanks
.. 114 Law Firms
.. 92 Cultural/Artses
.. 80 Public Intellectuals
.. 77 PACs
.. 60 Media Organizations
.. 54 Consulting Firms
.. 41 Professional Associations
.. 28 Labor Unions
.. 22 Public Relations Firms
.. 15 Social Clubs
.. 11 Government-Sponsored Enterprises

The text being discussed is available at http://littlesis.org/team


TrueValueMetrics (TVM) is an Open Source / Open Knowledge initiative.
It has been funded by family and friends plus donations from well wishers who understand the importance of accountability and getting the management metrics right.
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