Sunlight Foundation's Eric Mill Scouts Out New Developments in Government

Jason Hibbets | | August 1, 2012

...Scout rapidly searches all kinds of government activity—bills, regulations, speeches—at the state and federal level, and can notify you about all of it. This is an immense amount of information. Scout's goal is to quickly find the needles within that haystack that are relevant to you. If you care about an issue, be it as an environmental activist, a hunting enthusiast, or a legislative affairs director for a company–this is a vital function.

I built Scout as part of my work at the Sunlight Foundation, and we created it in part for our own use: Sunlight's policy team follows all sorts of open government issues, from campaign finance to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and they want to know about new developments as soon as possible.

Part of this is following simple keywords, like "FOIA" and "lobbying". But our policy team, like many professionals, have the expertise to know that certain kinds of changes will be accompanied by very specific legal language. We engineered Scout to be able to search very quickly over large amounts of legal text. This has already directly led to successes in their work, and we think Scout will be extremely helpful for citizens and professionals around the country...