Category Archives: Littlesis Development

Measuring “contagion” effect of political donations using LittleSis data

While the LittleSis website is a useful tool for researchers, academics, journalists, and activists to explore and map networks of powerful people and organizations, our data is available for anyone to use for free under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license. This means that anyone can use the data in our database for whatever they like, so long as they credit LittleSis and make their own content freely available as well.

Vincent Traag, a researcher at Leiden University in the Netherlands, recently used the LittleSis database to track how decisions to donate to political candidates spread through social networks.

Continue reading Measuring “contagion” effect of political donations using LittleSis data

All about that data

Well-tended profiles on LittleSis can be chock full of interesting and useful information, but where do you begin? A few months ago we rolled out a new tab designed to help you isolate only the information you want to see. Now it’s time for a formal introduction.

Every profile page for people and organizations now has a ‘Data’ tab.

GS 1

This will allow you to filter the information on the profile page by relationship category, entity type, industry, and interlocks with other people or corporations. You can even just use it to view the current board of directors or executives.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 11.09.49 AM

We applied this same tab to lists. Now when viewing a list of individuals you can use the data tab to sort the list members by entity type, industry, and common interlocks. For example, there are 373 names on the Obama 2012 Bundlers list. You can now use the data tab to more precisely filter those connections.

list data 1

Super cool feature alert: When in the data tab, use the drop down menu from the ‘Lists’ box to see how many individuals are on different lists across the database. Select a list and the individuals connected between the two lists will show up.

List interlocks

You can click the “link” button to link to this filtered view of the data. Or if you want to work with the data in a spreadsheet format, click “Export CSV.” The data from that view will automatically download, and you’ll be able to mark it up and analyze it to your heart’s content.

Oligrapher updates: home page, interlocks, and more

We have some exciting updates to share about Oligrapher, the LittleSis power mapping tool.

First, it has a brand new home page. Check out all of the amazing visualizations created with Oligrapher since we introduced the tool last year, create a map or sign up for an account, and share the page far and wide! Map all the graft…with Oligrapher.

And some new editing features:

Oli multi shot 6
Continue reading Oligrapher updates: home page, interlocks, and more

Introducing Oligrapher: power mapping on LittleSis

The Endless Chain

A single example will illustrate the vicious circle of control–the endless chain–through which our financial oligarchy now operates:

J.P. Morgan (or a partner), a director of the New York, New Haven, & Hartford Railroad, causes that company to sell to J.P. Morgan & Co. an issue of bonds. J.P. Morgan & Co. borrow the money with which to pay for the bonds from the Guaranty Trust Company, of which Mr. Morgan (or a partner) is a director. J.P. Morgan & Co. sell the bonds to the Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company, of which Mr. Morgan (or a partner) is a director. The New Haven spends the proceeds of the bonds in purchasing steel rails from the United States Steel Corporation, of which Mr. Morgan (or a partner) is a director. The United States Steel Corporation spends the proceeds of the rails in purchasing electrical supplies from the General Electric Company, of which Mr. Morgan (or a partner) is a director. The General Electric sells supplies to the Western Union Telegraph Company, a subsidiary of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company; and in both Mr. Morgan (or a partner) is a director…

– from Other People’s Money and How the Bankers Use It, published by Louis Brandeis in 1914

The “endless chain” of power elite relationships that we track on LittleSis can be challenging to represent in the space of a paragraph. Reading through a list of relationships is often a confusing and mind-numbing exercise; writing such a list can have a similar effect on the author. It is, however, extremely important that we find effective methods of representing these relationships and informing the public about them. Stories of power, corruption, and undue influence revolve around relationships and networks, and exposing this information can have significant policy impact.

Continue reading Introducing Oligrapher: power mapping on LittleSis

NewsShift: Watchdog Journalism With a Long Tail

Every year for the past few years, Knight Foundation has conducted a News Challenge that awards about $5 million in funding to a selection of projects that

  1. Use digital open-source media
  2. To distribute news and information
  3. In a geographic community

As Kevin recently noted, this year we finally got our act together and submitted a concept called NewsShift, a collaboration with our friends David and Mushon at ShiftSpace. In an attempt to provoke an escalating war of compliments, I will point out that the ShiftSpace folks, whose work we’ve followed for years, are highly talented designers and engineers, and ShiftSpace is a real beast waiting to be unleashed.

Continue reading NewsShift: Watchdog Journalism With a Long Tail

New Ways to Follow the Money on LittleSis

Faithful readers may have noticed that a good chunk of our recent research has centered on analysis of campaign contributions made by various power players:

This has been made possible by a new tool we’ve built that makes it easy to match people in LittleSis with campaign contributions compiled by

Ever since OpenSecrets opened its data earlier this year, we’ve been working on a useful little tool to let our analysts import campaign contribution data from OpenSecrets straight into LittleSis. This tool allows users to quickly determine which political candidates a given person has donated to since 1990, and how much has been given to each. It’s easy, for example, to see exactly how Senator Rockefeller likes to spread the wealth.

Our team has been putting it to the test for a couple months, and we’re finally ready to open it up to wider use.

Continue reading New Ways to Follow the Money on LittleSis

LittleSis Goes Open Source: An Offering and an Invitation

As you may know, LittleSis is built entirely with open-source software, out of necessity as well as out of principle. Over the years the growing OSS movement has given budget-strapped organizations an ever-expanding suite of free and powerful tools to implement ambitious technology projects, as well as the support of a generous community of developers always eager to teach and counsel.

Continue reading LittleSis Goes Open Source: An Offering and an Invitation

Democrats still fighting for public option

Sen. Chris Dodd says he and key Democratic leaders in the Senate haven’t given up on a public option yet. (Reuters)

Health insurance CEOs are firing back against the Senate Finance Committee‘s health bill, saying it will cost them more in the long run. (WSJ)

White House aides David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel are calling out the latest round of Wall Street executive bonuses. (NYT)

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski from Alaska has indicated she may back a “cap and trade” climate change bill. (Reuters)

Raj Rajaratnam, the hedge fund manager arrested last week in the U.S.’s largest insider trading case, may have given money to fund Tamil Tiger rebels. (Reuters)

Almost There! Only $115 to go on Bay Area Funding

After about six weeks of drawing interest, building new friendships, and researching our brains out, we’ve managed to collect 27 donations from organizations and individuals who are rallying behind the Bay Area Research Project.  The result?  We’re inspired, and working harder than ever to close the funding gap, and publish our final research.

Why Donating Is Important

Hitting the $800 donation goal is more than a matter of pride for us.  Achieving our goal proves that ground-up, community-oriented projects are viable means for LittleSis to sustain itself in a future where grants and traditional sources of funding are scarce.

Cool Stuff We Have Already Done

If you haven’t donated yet, take a look at what we’ve already produced from our research:

How to Donate

Visit our pitch on, and click I’ll Donate $20. Don’t worry – you can donate as much or as little as you’d like.  Even $5 helps.

Tell Us What You Want

Is there something specific you’d like for us to research?  Email us and let us know.

Do you like our new look?

You may have noticed late last Friday we updated the LittleSis look. For months we’ve been asking our designer friends for help developing a site redesign plan, and we finally made our first steps towards implementing it. The changes so far aren’t exactly radical, but looking at the old design now makes us cringe a bit. Consider us relieved. If you don’t feel the same, we want to hear about it!

First off, we should recognize our main muses: Han Yu, Ali Felski (of Sunlight Foundation), and Mushon Zer-Aviv. If you don’t like the new design, blame us; if you like it, blame them. They’ve thrown some great ideas at us, many of which are still unrealized.

Continue reading Do you like our new look?