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"My OpenCongress" in Action (so far...)

January 15, 2008 - by David Moore

Just yesterday OpenCongress launched a set of new features, and already people from a variety of backgrounds are joining the conversation about bills and issues using their “”http://www.opencongress.org/register">My OpenCongress" accounts. Here’s a quick round-up of some of the responses to our launch from around the web, and links to some examples of “My OpenCongress” users engaging with government and sharing info through these new features.

Lots of new users first met “My OpenCongress” through this post on BoingBoing yesterday (thanks Cory!). We were pleased to get a shout from Craig Newmark, a mention in yesterday’s “Daily Digest” on techPresident, and Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation posted a terrific run-down of our “New Insanely Useful P2P Features”. Another cool bit of press: Gabriela Schneider, the Communications Director for the Sunlight Foundation, did a live interview with the XM Radio show POTUS ’08” about “My OpenCongress”, and you can listen to the audio of her segment here (about 5 minutes or so, with a really excellent summary of the new tracking features). Thanks to everyone who wrote about our launch yesterday on their websites and blogs, hope you’ll continue to help us spread the word.

Already, our open user community is diving into the haystack of Congressional legislation and using these new features to to get to the bottom of bills, share their interests, and state their opinions on issues. For example, one of the more active bills on the site so far is the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 (H.R.1955), which is also the second most-viewed bill on the site over the past week. The first wave of OpenCongress users has spoken out clearly in opposition to this bill as proposed, with 30 votes “nay” and only one vote “aye”. Users contributed several comments articulating their opposition and debating the substance of the new powers proposed. Here’s another one of note: a new user contributed a comment to the
National Defense Authorization Act for 2008 (H.R.1585) with his concern that the bill excludes veterans such as himself from certain benefits. Donny Shaw of the OpenCongress Blog was able to follow-up with a look ahead to likely next steps for the bill, which was vetoed by President Bush last session, and with a link to a news article with more analysis. Elsewhere, Gabriela Schneider of the Sunlight Foundation chipped in a helpful comment detailing why she supports the the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act (S.223), and a follow-up comment pointed the way to more illuminating materials about the bill from both an official Senate site and a Senate watchdog group.

Finally, “My OpenCongress” users are just getting started in finding friends already on the site, finding other users in their same congressional district, and inviting their social networks to join them on OpenCongress. To get rolling, feel free to send a new Friend invitation to Donny Shaw, who writes the daily OpenCongress Blog and tracks a number of hot bills on his profile.

All that’s just a start — if you haven’t already, join the effort to build open public knowledge about Congress by creating an account. It’s entirely free, and you can login right away to access new features that bring you closer than ever to the bills you want to know about and the issues you care about. Contact us anytime with questions or feedback by sending us a note: writeus at opencongress dot org. We’ll have more regular summaries to come of what’s hot with our users, more user feedback to share over the course of this week, and even more new features to roll out in the weeks ahead, so stay tuned by joining our low-volume e-mail list. Thanks for using OpenCongress!

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