Waldo Jaquith

by Waldo Jaquith

The basic concept behind The State Decoded is both simple and obvious: Create a platform to display laws in a nice, understandable way, using the data already present in those laws. So why hadn’t anybody done it before? Because it’s too hard to do perfectly. The State Decoded is not perfect, by design. Its definition [...] more »

by Waldo Jaquith

On Greater Greater Washington, Tom MacWright recently wrote a blog entry highlighting the problems of access to the Washington, D.C. Code. There is, first, a legal obstacle: Washington D.C. claims copyright over their laws, which is to say that it is illegal to reproduce them without permission of the city. Then, second, what is perhaps [...] more »

by Waldo Jaquith

Version 0.6 of The State Decoded is now available on GitHub. This release is a really exciting one — it establishes a public API for State Decoded sites and creates a standard XML format for importing laws! This is an important release of The State Decoded, one that stands to increase significantly the accessibility of [...] more »

by Waldo Jaquith

Version 0.4 of The State Decoded was just tagged on GitHub and bundled up for download, the result of six weeks of work. The State Decoded is a platform that displays state codes, court decisions, and information from legislative tracking services to make it all more understandable to normal humans. This release is dedicated (almost) [...] more »

by Waldo Jaquith

The State Decoded project is putting U.S. state laws online, making them easy to search, understand and navigate. Our laws are organized badly, but The State Decoded is reorganizing them automatically, connecting people with the legal information they need with the ease of a Google search. In implementing many of the features necessary to provide [...] more »

by Waldo Jaquith

Throughout the planning process for the State Decoded project, I have made the basic assumption that the primary source of traffic for the software would be from search engines. People typing in things like “boundary law in kentucky” or “grand larceny illinois bad checks,” would be led directly to the law in question, presented within [...] more »

by Waldo Jaquith

Semantically, legal codes are smooth, shapeless balls of text. They’re programmatically inaccessible, useless to software — and most people. There’s simply nothing on which to get a purchase. As qualitative data, they’re inaccessible to quantitative analysis. This is the problem that the State Decoded project seeks to solve. The State Decoded’s job is to turn [...] more »

by Waldo Jaquith

A rich source of information about laws is found in the history data that accompanies each law in most states, but you’ve probably never noticed it. For example, Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act has a series of exemptions spelled out in § 2.2-3705.1 which has a cryptic series of numbers listed below the law, in [...] more »

by Waldo Jaquith

There is a common belief that since laws are the result of legislation, then surely one can automatically assemble an amended version of the code based on the bills that have passed the legislature. This is both a really cool idea and a wrong one. Your standard narrative of how a bill becomes law doesn’t [...] more »

by Waldo Jaquith

Those of us who deal with big data have a tendency to describe working with it in cavalier terms. “Oh, I just grabbed the XML file, wrote a quick parser to turn it into CSV, bulk loaded it into MySQL, laid an API on top of it, and I was done.” The truth is that [...] more »