The Aaron Swartz Memorial Grants

Overview

Aaron Swartz was an internet activist whose work was instrumental in creating PlainSite. He took his own life on January 11, 2013 due to events related to the wrongful criminal prosecution of his activities attempting to make public information freely available to the public.

In his memory, Think Computer Foundation is sponsoring a number of grants to improve access to public information, in cooperation with the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University.

Grants 1-3: RECAP

RECAP (PACER backwards) parses expensive ($0.10 per page) PACER dockets and uploads their contents to the Internet Archive so that they can be accessed for free. These dockets keep PlainSite up to date. Unfortunately, for various reasons, recent development on RECAP has slowed. The browser extension is only available for Firefox, and it has a few limitations.

Three grants worth $5,000.00 each are being made available related to RECAP. Each grant is worth $5,000.00:

  1. Grant 1: Develop and release a version of RECAP for the Google Chrome browser that matches the current Firefox browser extension functionality
  2. Grant 2: Develop and release a version of RECAP for Internet Explorer that matches the current Firefox browser extension functionality
  3. Grant 3: Update the Firefox browser extension to capture appellate court documents, and update the RECAP server code to parse them and respond appropriately to browser extension requests

All code must be released under the GPL license, per the original RECAP terms. Applicants can apply for multiple grants.

You can find the RECAP Extension for Firefox Github repository here and the RECAP server-side Github repository here.

We now have a development instance of the RECAP server running, which you should use for testing your code. In the Firefox extension, we define the server URL here:

https://github.com/citp/recap/blob/5c5e9a44610b311da1e504177c6ec5af61cd77cf/content/common.js#L33

You should, instead, use http://dev.recapextension.org/recap/. This is true if you're making changes to the Firefox extension or if you are creating your own new extension.

PLEASE DO NOT RUN YOUR CODE AGAINST RECAPEXTENSION.ORG (the production server)

If you upload files to the development server, they will (after processing and uploading delay of up to a few minutes) appear on the Internet Archive, prepended with "dev.". Here is an example:

http://archive.org/details/dev.gov.uscourts.cand.262493
http://archive.org/download/dev.gov.uscourts.cand.262493

Grant 4: Visualization

PlainSite has a lot of data, but sometimes it can be hard to connect the dots. We would love to see some cool visualization tools to help people make sense of it all. Judges will be chosen from legal informatics specialists and the experts at Stanford Law School and Harvard Law School.

  • First Place: $2,500
  • Second Place: $1,500
  • Third Place: $1,000

We'll plan to have the judges make their decisions by April 30, 2013.

How to Apply

In order to apply for any of the above grants, you must register your team, which can be an individual or group, by no later than January 31, 2013 at 11:59 P.M. Pacific Time.

Deadlines

Teams must be registered by January 31, 2013 at 11:59 P.M. Pacific Time.

Grants 1-3 will be awarded on the basis of which entry meeting all feature and quality criteria is submitted first. Feature and quality criteria will be evaluated by the RECAP team at Princeton University. Grant 4 entries will be evaluated on the basis of quality by a panel of judges to be announced on this page at a future date.

All project entries are due by March 31, 2013 at 11:59 P.M. Pacific Time. Your project will be considered submitted once you send an e-mail to help@plainsite.org with a valid URL linking to your project or with a working version of your code as an attachment.

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