LittleSis features interlinked profiles of powerful individuals and organizations in the public and private sectors. Profiles detail a wealth of information vital to any investigation of the ways power and money guide the formulation of public policy, from board memberships to campaign contributions, old school ties to government contracts.
The site currently offers profiles of over 185,000 people and 67,000 organizations in varying stages of completion. These include, but are not limited to:
- Politicians: members of Congress since 1979, governors since 1974, Bush and Obama administration officials.
- Business people: Fortune 1000 executives and directors, members of the Forbes 400.
- Lobbyists who have lobbied on behalf of Fortune 1000 companies.
- Government bodies: US House & Senate; agencies ranging from the Department of Defense to the IRS.
- Businesses: Fortune 1000 companies, lobbying firms, top law firms, and other private companies.
- Non-profits such as foundations, think tanks, and political organizations.
LittleSis offers some data about these people and organizations themselves, but it's focus is on the relationships between them. There are currently 1174041 relationships linking entities profiled in the database. The word "relationship" is broadly defined, and can include:
- Organizational affiliations: employment, directorships, memberships.
- Donations: political contributions, grants.
- Social: family ties, mentorships, friendships.
- Professional: partnerships, supervisory relationships.
- Services/contracts: legal representation, government contracts, lobbying services.
Our focus on relationships distinguishes LittleSis from other important research websites that emphasize biographical narrative and history of abuses in their profiles of powerful people, making it a more powerful and flexible platform for exploring and analyzing social networks. For example, Exxon Mobil's Wikipedia page can offer a strong narrative account of the company, but isn't well-equipped to track historical information on the executives and directors of the corporation, the boards they sit on, and the politicians they support.
Moreover, LittleSis's data model minimizes bias and maximizes its reusability by other projects like mashups and network visualizations. Moreover, relationships can be easily aggregated to reveal patterns, saving users the manual tabulation. For example, LittleSis automatically shows which organizations are linked through common personnel, and which people donate to the same set of political candidates.
Our data derives from government filings, news articles, and other reputable sources. Some data sets are updated automatically; the rest is filled in by our user community.
Making edits on LittleSis is more like adding friends on Facebook than modifying a Wikipedia page. The editing process mostly consists of adding relationships between people and groups. Users don't have to be great writers or learn a special formatting language in order to contribute quality information to LittleSis.
We have made accuracy a major priority for LittleSis; LittleSis implements stricter editing controls than typical wikis. Editors – called "analysts" on LittleSis – must provide a reference link for every update they make, and links must point to authoritative sources. This requirement not only ensures credible data, but also provides researchers with valuable links to further information.
Unlike Wikipedia, editors have to sign in to make edits. Registered users can choose to keep their real name hidden, but are still accountable to the community: all modifications to data are logged, so users that make inaccurate or malicious edits can lose editing privileges. Currently, LittleSis staff members enforce these standards, though the user community will eventually be self-policing.
Much of our data derives from government records and other free services that collect them.