My name is Stephen Jackson and I live in the Birmingham suburb of Chelsea, AL with my wife Anita and our three sons. I attended Auburn University at Montgomery where I received my degree in Information Systems and have worked in Information Technology for the past twelve years.
I have a wide range of experience of working within various industries such as telecommunications, energy and utilities, manufacturing, non-profit, and insurance. My technical skill set is just as diverse. I've worked with various database platforms including Oracle, SQL Server, and MySql. I've written programs in C#, C++, Java, PHP, Python, and Ruby. I've also written web applications in frameworks such as ASP.NET, Django, Ruby on Rails, and Codeigniter. I recently rediscovered my love for the Linux OS and it is currently my primary OS of choice (Ubuntu to be specific).
My interest in OpenGov began in 2007. After visiting ALISON (the state's legislative information portal) one day, I was frustrated with the experience because I did not understand how to use the tool. The structure of the site does not lend itself to easy navigation and in particular to individuals with limited knowledge of the legislative process like myself. I was left with the realization that there were many like me who wanted to follow the legislative process but were getting frustrated at how to get to the information. The thought came to me that if I had access to the data I could develop a pretty useful tool for the common guy like myself to track the legislation. So I began writing a process to convert the html from the ALISON site into useful data. I eventually stepped away from the project and put it on the shelf for a while (a new baby will do that sometimes). I later pulled it back off the shelf and completed the data capture portion of the project.
At this time I was referring to the project as AlaGovTracker. In late 2009 I discovered three websites that motivated me to take the project to the next level. The sites were the Sunlight Foundation, GovTrack.us, and OpenCongress.org. Sunlight Foundation is an organization in Washington D.C. dedicated to the government transparency issue. The other two sites are tools to track the US Congress. It was at this time that the name OpenBama was born. I started working on the website in late 2009. I completed the site and introduced it to the public part of the way into the 2010 regular session. The site was well received and was given props by a few popular political blogs in Alabama. Since then I've traveled to DC twice to attend TransparencyCamp (event started by Sunlight Foundation), an unconference for the OpenGov advocates across the country to learn from and encourage each other. Now OpenBama is moving into another chapter in its history with a new site and some new features like the lobbyist list. I am excited to see what additional data can be pulled into the site and combined together to give the citizens of Alabama tools to make decisions and get involved in the political activities of the state.