[ddj] Getting quotes on data projects

Matthew Linares matthew.linares at opendemocracy.net
Fri Aug 21 11:34:33 UTC 2015

Hi all,

I wonder if you have any useful advice and resources for getting credible,
comprehensive quotes from developers and agencies on bespoke civic data
projects. As with any IT procurement-type exercise, there are many

In a very short timeframe, we need to cost up a rough specification for a
project which will involve data modelling, wrangling, back-end build,
front-end and other desirables. There are, of course, variables which will
make any estimate subject to change, but we need someone who has worked on
similar projects to attach fees to the tasks we envisage being necessary,
and to augment our task list where we may have missed some.

The *data community* has been very helpful and our first approach has been
to the various developers who have built great products in this field. We
are also talking to related platforms like Kumu <https://www.kumu.io/>.

My questions are:

– Have you taken other approaches e.g. using general web dev agencies, or
posting this sort of work on freelance developer fora?

– Have you found that civic data work requires skills and sensitivities
that are quite distinct from more general web dev?

– Any advice on dividing up the work (data wrangling, modelling, back-end
build) between specialists?

– Thoughts on seeking turnkey solutions versus building your own or
customising existing projects.

– Any other considerations?

Our search continues to get good quotes. If you're a developer who is
interested in an exciting project proposal, please get in touch.

Thanks for your thoughts!

To give more detail on what we're looking for, here's an outline of tasks
we expect will need to be done, with some context:

*Expected dev tasks*

Probably split up between developers with varying specialisms.

*Data modelling*

– Propose an extensible data model, incorporating various data sources
(provided by us), both structured (e.g. theyworkforyou
<http://parser.theyworkforyou.com/members.html>) and unstructured (e.g.
ongoing FOI requests), to serve as the basis for database querying. Should
respect standards, e.g. Popolo and perhaps others
<http://influencemapping.org/data-standards/>. Should facilitate meaningful
relations between various data sources (e.g. parliamentary records and
company data).

– Bring data sources together into the model, cleaning data where
necessary. Creating documented wrangling scripts, etc.. Ensure clarity
about how data model can be extended in future.

– Advise on management, presentation and communication of resulting data
(e.g. "column X is hard to categorise, but we could fuzzy match against Y
to give a sense of what's going on...").

*Backend Application*

– Implement database and admin dashboard to add, edit, delete data
manually, both individually and in bulk.

– Backend supplies responses to front-end and other services, e.g. RSS,
email, etc.


– Gives searchable data on representatives through UX either graph
<https://www.lobbyradar.de>, or drop-down driven list, or other.

– Make search results accessible and exportable, e.g. as pdf or csv, as
image, etc.

Matthew Linares
Technical & Publications Coordinator
openDemocracy.net <https://www.openDemocracy.net>
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