The Mass Dump
Lights Out Mass
100,000 Documents and Counting (with Nathan Story)

100,000 Documents and Counting (with Nathan Story)

Nathan Story introduces State Reference — a huge, growing collection of Massachusetts public records that will be indispensable for journalists and researchers
A screenshot from the computer game Baldur's Gate depicting the Candlekeep Library, a huge stone building covered in dark-blue steeples and surrounded by a flower garden and several fountains.
Like the Candlekeep Library in Baldur’s Gate, Nathan Story’s new website, State Reference, is a huge and indispensable collection of knowledge.

“It’s really fun to send out FOIAs. It’s just really cool — you send an email to a town clerk or a police department or whatever, and you ask for something, and then they give it to you. It feels very powerful. It feels like Christmas when I see one of those emails on my phone.” — Nathan Story

For the sixth episode of Lights Out Mass, we speak with Nathan Story, the programmer and records aficionado behind State Reference — a huge, searchable collection of Massachusetts public records that will soon prove to be an indispensable resource for journalists and researchers.

We discuss Nathan’s old project, Woke Windows, and how it led him to conceive State Reference, the importance of machine-readable text and other seemingly stodgy technical details, how Nathan used web scraping to amass his huge collection of documents, why journalists should show their work, why it’s so goddamn annoying when cities and towns don’t post their email addresses online — and how Andrew is very envious that Jeff and Nathan are playing Baldur’s Gate 3.

Stick around at the end for a bonus discussion of, the infamously infuriating website for state trial-court records.

(Sorry about the issue with Nathan’s audio quality. We fixed it a few minutes into the podcast, so please don’t let it scare you off!)

If you enjoy the podcast, please subscribe to this newsletter, The Mass Dump, for future episodes. You can also find us on Apple, Spotify, and YouTube.

Please subscribe for future podcast episodes and other transparency-related news!

You can support this podcast financially by either signing up for a paid subscription to this newsletter or sending a tip via PayPal.

If you have any feedback, please reach out to us at LightsOutMass at gmail dot com.


  • Make sure you check out Nathan Story’s new website,, and subscribe to the newsletter for updates

  • Nathan’s old website, Woke Windows, contains a wealth of information about the Boston Police Department, although it’s no longer updated

This podcast is hosted by Andrew Quemere and Jeff Raymond:

Our theme music is “Sun Bleach” by Lifeformed. More music available at Bandcamp.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant!

Thanks to everyone who has been listening! It’s definitely been a learning experience, but we’re starting to get the hang of this podcasting thing. We’re taking next week off, but we do have some great guests lined up — including some of the best journalists in Massachusetts. Again, please subscribe so you don’t miss an episode.

If you listen on Apple or Spotify, please leave us a rating and review! And if you’re listening on YouTube, please click the like button and leave a comment!

If you haven’t listened to our episode about the new statewide police complaint database, please check it out.

Also, make sure you check out Jeff’s new story at MassTransparency.

That’s all for now!

The Mass Dump
Lights Out Mass
A podcast about government transparency — or the lack thereof — in Massachusetts. Hosted by Andrew Quemere and Jeff Raymond.