A Couple New Features on "My OpenCongress"January 30, 2008 - by David Moore
“My OpenCongress” is freshly launched, and we continue to improve these new features in response to your feedback. First, here are a couple of new features available on “”http://www.opencongress.org/register">My OpenCongress" and a look at what we’ll be adding in the weeks ahead. Second, check out another round-up of what’s hot on the site — which bills are garnering the most comments and votes from our open user community. (As always, your comments are encouraged!)
Starting off, we’ve created a new personal RSS feed for users that aggregates all actions for all tracked items. Users have always been able to subscribe to separate feeds for tracked bills, Members, and issues, but this new feed combines them all in one master feed. You can subscribe to any user’s master feed (not just your own) on the top of their “Tracked Items” page. For example, at the top of the page for Donny Shaw, our lead blogger & researcher, you can subscribe to the master feed for all his items (15 bills, 7 Senators, 3 Reps, and 2 issues). Of course, users may subscribe to their own master feeds, or choose to track each category of tracked item separately.
Another cool new addition: now users can invite new people to join them on “My OpenCongress” by importing any contact from their G-Mail, Yahoo!, or Hotmail address book. You can send multiple invites in a quick-fast hurry using our smooth, integrated e-mail invite form. Just login to your account (or create one, it takes just a minute), visit your “Friends” page, and click on the link to “Import Friends from Address Books”. (Your account information is not stored — it is processed and discarded immediately.) Now you can invite your friends and family in bulk to create their own accounts and then subscribe to your master RSS feed of tracked bills, Members, and issues. It’s the easiest way to get straight to the heart of what’s happening in Congress.
Looking ahead, here’s what we’re working on to make “My OpenCongress” of even more use in demystifying the Congressional process. Our top priority is to give you access to more valuable suggestions based on your Friends’ Recent Activity — that is, to show you a wider variety of actions from your Friends on your own profile page, such as more of their recent comments. We’re also working on the ability for “My OpenCongress” to make recommendations of other items in which you might be interested, based on your Friends’ tracked items and activity. (This would of course be comparable to other “cloud-like” web services — in this case, something like, “If you liked the intellectual property issue area, you might also be interested in the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, S.223.”). Soon we’ll also be rolling out new RSS feeds to follow comments added to boards on any page on the site, and there’s lots more streamlining planned in the months ahead. Let us know your feature suggestions or wish list: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Moving ahead, here are a few links to what’s hot right now on the site: the FISA reform bill with telecom immunity (which failed in the Senate) earned 45 “nays” and just one “aye” from users… for more on FISA, see our most recent blog post and the recent news & blog coverage for that bill. Rollicking discussion continues in the comments for a proposed “American Religious History Week” — this one is getting lots of play on the blogs (140+ posts!), but not as much in the news, it seems… interesting. Comments on the FHA Modernization Act point the way to helpful, condensed analysis of that housing bill. Sen. Spector’s bill to “restore habeas corpus for those detained by the United States” has earned 17 thumbs-up and only one thumbs-down. Our site statistics show that lots of users are tracking actions for the S. 309, the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act.
Finally, as mentioned in Donny’s post below, don’t forget to track the latest developments in the big-ticket economic stimulus bill (H.R. 1540), which was approved by the House and now moves over to the Senate Finance Committee. Jump in there, give it your vote, and leave a comment discussing why… then share the bill page and all the info with your friends. We’ll be covering the latest wrangling on the stimulus package on our blog, and you can conveniently follow along by subscribing to our RSS feed.