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Great Uses of OpenCongress From Around the Web

March 28, 2007 - by David Moore

About one month ago, OpenCongress opened its doors publicly, and since then we’ve been enthusiastically watching as bloggers and groups have picked up the site and started running with it. Here are some links to great uses of OpenCongress by political bloggers, membership groups, and people looking for an easy way to keep in touch with Congress.

First, in the days after our launch last month we had a good rush of early mentions in news and blog outlets. We especially followed the comments and feedback made on community and social bookmarking sites: Digg, Metafilter, and del.icio.us.

Second, over the past month we’ve had some additional mentions in other noteworthy outlets: journalism site Poynter.org; popular political blog Crooks and Liars; Linkfilter; Deep Links from the Electronic Frontier Foundation; Eric Schmeltzer on the HuffPo; Dave Winer’s The Scripting News; the RedState.org diary of Saul Anuzis, Chairman of the Michigan Republican State Committee; and over 1,000 other individual blogs — be sure to check out our full Technorati results for all the buzz. Our new public resource also received excellent coverage from two nationally-syndicated National Public Radio shows, FutureTense (scroll down to March 1st’s program) and On The Media.

Third, here are links to a few great uses of OpenCongress from around the web. This isn’t intended to be totally comprehensive, but rather just a sample of some of the ways that individuals and organizations can use OpenCongress to track the issues they care about in Congress:

Glenn Reynolds on Instapundit has been regularly linking to bill pages.

On the Huffington Post, both Arianna Huffington and Ari Melber recently linked to bills.

This Metafilter post on Sunshine Week includes a terrific casual link to relevant bill pages.

A blogger on Democrats.org links to the page for the Employee Free Choice Act in a blog post earlier this month. (OpenCongress is a non-profit, non-partisan, open-source resource, so as other partisan sites link to pages for bills or Members of Congress, we’ll be sure to highlight those as well.)

The Well Fed Network, “a compilation of blogs focused on informed, high quality, food and wine-based content”, links it up in this post about the “Farm Bill.”

Tom Bosworth linked to two bills, and wrote in to our e-mail address (writeus at opencongress {DOT} org) to let us know — thanks, Tom!

Political blogger “hilzoy” on Obsidian Wings links in this post to the Iraq Supplemental Bill, one of the most-viewed bills on OpenCongress.

This post on “Pohlitics”, a Michigan-based political blog, pulls together data from Open Secrets, newspaper articles, and OpenCongress to criticize Rep. Mike Rogers’ record on supporting the Iraq War and more. Regardless of whether or not you agree with his conclusions, the post itself stands as an impressive example of research and watchdogging of elected officials.

Billy Mabray, a web designer and blogger at News Goat, grabbed OpenCongress RSS feeds for a very cool project: he created a 2008 Presidential Candidates page on Yahoo Pipes “to see how the candidates are voting (or if they’re voting) in the months before the election.” Terrific use of RSS.

And that’s just a sample of the different ways that OpenCongress can work for you… feel free to drop us a line with links to how you’re using OpenCongress: writeus |at| opencongress dot org. We’re always interested in hearing feedback or questions about the site. We’ll be adding a few innovative new features soon, and we’ll write a post about other tweaks we’ve made around the site over the past month.

As arcane and off-putting as Congress can sometimes be, it’s been very rewarding to launch this new site just as weighty matters in Congress are under debate… taking a look at the most-viewed bills on OpenCongress, it’s clear that public attention is focused on the Iraq War, recent Congressional oversight of the Bush Administration, and more. It’s a significant step forward that now, for each of these important bills, one click on OpenCongress brings you access to all the news analysis and blog chatter out there. Just a few more clicks brings you to campaign finance information about the bill’s sponsors, links to their publicly-editable wiki profiles on Congresspedia, and more. Every day, our Congress Gossip Blog works to summarize the latest legislative maneuvers in plain language — you’re invited to join the effort by submitting a tip. We’ll be keeping an eye out for more pioneering and insightful uses of OpenCongress and other open tools working towards government transparency.

We hope that OpenCongress will continue to serve as a rich resource for political bloggers and anyone looking to get engaged with our all-too-frequently closed-off Congressional process. Thanks as always to our data partners: official government information made available by way of GovTrack, news coverage from Google News, blog commentary from Technorati and Google Blog Search, campaign contribution information from OpenSecrets, the publicly-editable wiki Congresspedia, and others. OpenCongress is a joint project of the Sunlight Foundation and the Participatory Politics Foundation.

To stay in touch with our site development, please sign up for our e-mail list (important announcements only, once per month or so), and be sure to subscribe to our blog’s RSS feed to keep track of what’s really happening on Capitol Hill. Thanks for reading OpenCongress.

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