Inspiration

We were inspired by Open Budget: Oakland's awesome visualizations of their city budget and decided they could be applied more widely. The lengthy PDFs full of tables and the thousands (millions?) of expense records on UA's website don't provide a very meaningful form of transparency because it's hard to understand what's going on. So we thought we could do better.

What it does

It provides a visualization of the revenue sources and expense categories for The University of Alabama that's interactive and easy to use.

How we built it

We forked Open Budget: Oakland's repository and made a number of changes to it. The primary task was getting the UA data in the right format for consumption by the D3.js code, which was accomplished through a series of Python scripts. The visualization itself also had to be modified in a few ways to make it fit the data better (because the UA data didn't split easily into General and non-discretionary funds as the Oakland data did).

Challenges we ran into

One of the primary challenges was cleaning the data downloaded from open.ua.edu, because the fields containing commas weren't quoted properly. After that we had to understand enough of the D3 and Jade code to modify it to work for our data.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We're proud that the visualization so succinctly displays insights from hundreds of thousands of data records.

What we learned

We learned how to use some technologies such as Jade and Harp.

What's next for Open Budget: UA

The project might move on to other D3 visualizations to help people gain more insights from the data and make public institutions more transparent. Ideally it could also be generalized to make it easier for it to be applied to other datasets in the future.

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