Thursday, March 5, 2009

New on OpenCongress

Hi everyone,

We're very excited to announce four new features today on OpenCongress.

1. Big news- we're going Wiki!

2. Video footage of Congress, it's smooth.

3. Compare and comment on the official text of bills, it's powerful.

4. Tell Congress to Read The Bill First!

More info below, or to get right to it, check out our blog post today:


1. Announcing the OpenCongress Wiki -- this is something we've been aiming to do since starting the site, and we are really happy to integrate the incredible information that was formerly housed at Congresspedia. Now, OpenCongress has publicly-editable wiki pages for every senator, representative, major bills, and much much more, written by people like you. Dive in through the brand new wiki

Wiki pages for senators and representatives include lots of biographical info, and tidbits such as their official Twitter and YouTube accounts (for those that have them):

Wiki pages for bills include useful narrative description of lengthy and complicated legislation, for example:
Plus, the wiki makes it possible for the community to create their own special projects, such as:

So far, this is just the beginning of what the wiki makes possible for sharing the best info about Congress -- we'll make follow-up announcements in the weeks to come with more ways to use this wealth of wikified content. Check it out and get started contributing wiki knowledge about Congress!


2. Videos -- we're pleased to bring in new videos of Congress from Metavid, which opens up government video footage in much the same way OpenCongress opens up legislation:

We've also embedded videos from the YouTube hubs for the House and Senate. Now, OpenCongress automatically displays up-to-date video clips for every senator, representative, and hot bills. For example, check out a sample representative's page of relevant floor speeches and official announcements:

...for bills of interest, here's some sample video coverage of heated floor debate on the major Stimulus Bill:

As with the wiki, this is just the beginning of our video integration -- such vitally important and engaging video of Congress in action has never before been as open and searchable as it is now through Metavid. As we build, you can help expand public access to video of Congress by heading over to Metavid and participating in their wiki project.


3. Comment On and Compare Bill Text -- when it comes to bills, the details matter. Now, for every bill in Congress, you can do more than just read the full text -- you can permalink to any paragraph of any bill, post inline comments on any paragraph, and compare the bill text with previous versions.

For example, you can jump section-by-section through the Stimulus Bill and skim any of its 3,244 changes, helpfully displayed in different color type, by visiting its full bill text and clicking the link to "Show Changes":

Or to make your voice heard, you can post your comments on specific provisions in the $410 billion Omnibus Spending Bill, passed by the House and heading to the Senate:

Delve deep into the actual substance of bills, track revisions at-a-glance, and post comments with your thoughts and opinions.


4. Tell Congress to Read the Bill First! -- too often, controversial bills are voted on just hours after coming to the House or Senate floor. There is no time for Members of Congress to read the bill, and no chance for interested citizens to weigh in on the legislation. We're proud to be part of the Read The Bill campaign, launched by the Sunlight Foundation with many other endorsers, where you can sign a petition encouraging Congress to post bills online for at least 72 hours before debate begins:

To support this important reform of Congressional rules, OpenCongress dug into legislative data and created a continually-updating page of Rushed Bills already considered in this session of Congress:

To be alerted to future bills that don't meet this common-sense 72-hour rule, simply subscribe to the RSS feed on that page. Visit ReadTheBill to learn more and help this collaborative effort to watchdog Congress.


Enjoy the wiki and the videos - comment on bills you care about - and as always, let us know what you think!


David and the OC Team

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