New Features on "My OpenCongress"February 27, 2008 - by David Moore
Last month, OpenCongress launched brand new features for tracking and sharing the best info about Congress. Since then, thousands of people have created “My OpenCongress” accounts to engage with the bills, Members of Congress, and issues they care about — but this is just the start.
Here are a few recent additions that bring you closer than ever to what’s really happening in Congress. To best see these new features in action, take a moment to login to “My OpenCongress” or create a new account, it’s free and takes less than a minute.
First, we made it easier to follow all the actions of any “My OpenCongress” user — for example, their comments and votes on hot bills. On the top of any user’s page of “Actions”, you can now find an RSS feed that delivers all of that user’s activity: the full text of his or her comments, all votes on bills, new friendships, and more. This feed offers a valuable and focused way of getting straight to the heart of your interests: for example, opinions from your favorite bloggers, analysis from users with expertise, or position statements from members of your issue-based groups. To see an example, visit the page of Actions for Donny Shaw, who writes the OpenCongress Blog, and subscribe to the feed at the top. For more pointers on how to use RSS to keep your community in touch with the latest developments on Capitol Hill, visit our updated About RSS page.
Second, we made it easier to follow the recent activity of all your friends directly from your own “My OpenCongress” profile. On the top of your page of “Friends”, you can now view a wider variety of your friends’ participation: more comments, votes, approval ratings, and friendships. To view an example, visit the page of Donny Shaw’s Friends, where his friends’ recent actions are displayed at the top with a link to “see more”. Also, we made it easier to find friends on OpenCongress by providing a direct link to other users in your state and Congressional district — see if people near you are tracking similar bills and issues! What’s more, we’ve added the ability to invite new friends to join OpenCongress by importing contacts directly from your G-Mail, Yahoo!, or Hotmail address books. To see these options and how they work, login or create a new account and click on “My Friends”.
Third, we built in RSS feeds for individual comment boards, allowing you to follow the latest buzz on any bill, Senator, or Representative. For example, view the comments section for the bill that is currently the most-viewed on OpenCongress, the economic stimulus package (H.R. 5140), and subscribe to its comment board’s RSS feed. Comment feeds bring you a continually-refreshing stream of opinion and analysis from site visitors on each of the specific bills and Members you’re tracking. Or if you prefer a more focused stream, “My OpenCongress” users can set a personal ratings filter to view only the comments rated “most helpful” by users on any page — to try it yourself, visit our How-To Guide.
Finally, as mentioned in a previous site update, we’ve reciprocated links on bill pages back to MAPLight.org, a fantastic resource on campaign contributions in Congress. To see an example, visit the page for the big-ticket economic stimulus bill and scroll down past the news & blog coverage to find the link to its corresponding page on MAPLight. (Such links are in place for every bill page that is available on MAPLight, not every bill on OpenCongress, but most “”/bill/hot">hot bills" are covered.) On MAPLight, you can see a list of various groups that support or oppose the bill, along with a timeline of contributions to Members and their votes on the bill. It’s all part of our mission to aggregate all the best info about Congress, so that when you link to a bill page on OpenCongress, you’re providing access to the whole story: the bill’s official data, informative context from news & blog coverage, and real-world insight from our open user community.
Whether or not you have a “My OpenCongress” account, you can help make our site more useful by taking our new user survey. We hope you’ll take a few minutes to fill out its questions about how you use OpenCongress and what types of new features you’d like to see — it’s really valuable in making our site more useful for you.
These are just the highlights of recent additions
- we’ll continue to improve “My OpenCongress”, and we have much more development in the works for the short and medium-term.
It’s been exciting to watch this open user community create discussions throughout the site over the past weeks. Your feedback, feature requests, and testimonials are welcome, send us an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, you can stay in touch with site news by subscribing to our Blog’s RSS feed, and of course, don’t forget to create a new “My OpenCongress” account. Thanks for using OpenCongress!