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Announcing "My Political Notebook"

November 17, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

As Congress returns today for one last session this year, we are excited to announce “My Political Notebook”: a new way to save and share your favorite political content, from OpenCongress and around the web.

My Political Notebook allows you to grab news articles, blog posts, YouTube videos, and more and save them to your personal page in a matter of seconds. You’ll have gathered a unique portfolio of everything you’re following in the world of politics. It’s a simple way to remind yourself of articles and opinions that are of interest to you. For example, you can use “My Political Notebook” this week to collect all kinds of information about the Big-Three Bailout and the economic stimulus package into one convenient place.

Here’s how it works. Everyone with a free “My OpenCongress” account now has a new tab in their profile, called “My Political Notebook”. Login to your “MyOC” account (or register a new account if you don’t have one yet), then, in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, click the link for “My Political Notebook” to visit the page where your content will be saved.

There are three ways to add content to “MyPN” :

1) The “MyPN” Bookmarlet – In the upper-right hand corner of your notebook page, there’s an image called “Create a bookmarklet” — simply drag this into your browser’s toolbar, and then anytime you’re on a webpage with something you want to save, just click on “+MyPN”. The bookmarklet will automatically fill in the title of the webpage you select, but you can edit it and add your own written description and tags. You can also choose a political issue area from our customized pull down menu, which directs you to the “hot bills” in Congress related to the content you are saving.

For example, let’s say you’re reading a blog post about the economy that you think is important. Click the bookmarklet to save it to your notebook, where you can add notes on why you think it’s important. From the optional drop-down menu “Issues”, you can, for example, select “economy”. That way, when you click save, the blog post will appear in your notebook alongside a link to view the hot bills affecting the economy in Congress. In this way, MyPN works to connect large-scale issue areas you’re reading about (e.g., the economy) to the important details of the bills that directly affect them in Congress (e.g., unemployment extensions, or financial system bailout bills). It’s about making the news concrete in the substance of bills.

2) Info From OpenCongress – Another way to add info to your Notebook is directly from OpenCongress pages themselves. Let’s say you’re reading about a bill on OpenCongress and you want to have it handy for future reference. Click the “+” sign at the top of the page next to the bill’s official number (see example), and you’ll be able to add it either to your page of My OpenCongress Tracked Items, or to Your Political Notebook. You might choose to use the former when you’re following the latest actions & official details of a bill, and the latter when you want to be able to add your own opinion or comment on the bill in your Notebook. As with your Tracked Items, Your Political Notebook can be shared with your friends and online communities — anyone can subscribe to your personal RSS feed of MyPN content and read your accompanying notes in their RSS readers.

3) Add Other Types of Content Manually – Finally, you can add all kinds of content manually using the links at the top of your MyPN page. As seen there, there are four types of content that can be added to “My Political Notebook” :

  • links
  • videos
  • notes
  • files

Links can be any page on the web – newspaper articles, blog posts, groups formed from social networking sites, policy statements from a campaign… anything out there. Videos can be embedded in your notebook from sites like YouTube,, and others … political satire welcomed. Notes are simply notes-to-self, giving you a context-rich place to jot down all the thoughts you want to remember or to state your opinion on a topic for your friends to read. Files can be any valid file uploaded from your computer — documents, polling reports, party platforms, whatever you want to save & share.

To get a sense of “My Political Notebook” in action, take a look at my page and the mix of content saved there. Feel free to follow along as I posts new content by clicking on the orange RSS icon in my “My Political Notebook” tab. By using an RSS reader such as Google Reader or My Yahoo, you’ll get automatic updates every time I post new content to my notebook (more info on how to use RSS here). Coming next, we’ll be making “My Political Notebook” into a free widget for your website, a Facebook app, and more, so stay tuned.

UPDATE: For a few more examples of MyPN in use, check out the notebooks of Nisha, Ellen, Paul and Gabriela of the Sunlight Foundation. Between those four, there are tons of excellent links and videos in there on government transparency, technology and politics in general.

If you’re using MyPN send us an email at writeus at opencongress dot org and we’ll highlight your notebook on our blog.

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  • u234me 11/17/2008 11:05am
    Link Reply
    + -1

    when are they gonna sign in the unemplotment extension bill were staving out here in the cold

  • Sparhawk2k 11/17/2008 11:05am

    It’s great that you can grab an RSS feed of the items. It would be even cooler if I could populate it from one of my RSS feeds. I’m currently using the shared items in Google Reader quite a bit. I don’t know if this is even possible but it would be amazing if I could have My Political Notebook filled with those items as well as ones I add separately when they don’t come from a feed I’m reading. That might be a bit beyond the scope but I was just thinking it would be nice to have a single place for my friends to find all the political stuff I find interesting…

  • Anonymous 11/17/2008 11:37am

    Big Three!

  • JoeGermuska 11/17/2008 11:52am

    I was thinking along the lines of Sparhawk2k : it would be nice to have the notebook able to monitor my behavior elsewhere and add things without me having to do double-entry. Of course, the RSS feed that provides is the RSS 1.0 (i.e. RDF) form, which is probably not what Google Reader “shared items” provides.

    But for Delicious integration, for example, what if I could just enter feeds for one or more of my delicious tags that I would like integrated. For example, I could enter (or more likely, or something I’d use specifically for this)

  • jackroberts 11/17/2008 1:24pm
    Link Reply
    + -1

    This blog is more nice and interesting. The ways which are given to add content to “MyPN” are very good.

    Jack roberts

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  • goochiegirl 11/17/2008 1:57pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for!!! You guys are awesome! :)

  • Remixer96 11/17/2008 4:30pm

    It’s an interesting feature, but I can’t see too much in it that I can’t already do at Facebook, FriendFeed, and Google Reader.

    I think it’s a great start, aside from import as other mentioned, what features could be added that take advantage of what OpenCongress has in a uniquely?

  • MadamaAmbi 11/18/2008 7:11am

    I need something like this, but, not sure this is for someone like me. I’m positioned between people who stay on top of Congressional action and people who are either not yet participating in political process or who are participating in other ways. This feels somewhat top-down to me, but I could be wrong and I will try it out.

    I’m an activist feminist artist and I want to bring women into the process who right now are not as savvy as your apparent target group for this application. However, I think it’s fantastic that you have put this together, and thank you for your great work.

  • rcdjbp 11/20/2008 5:49am

    This thing doesn’t work at all for me and my email requesting help has gone unanswered. The so-called bookmarklet does not snap to my IE7 tool bar and when I try to add a link manually, the applet loops looking for a title, even though I have already manually typed a title.

  • davidmoore 11/20/2008 9:24am

    Hi JB, David with OpenCongress here, had your email open for a reply & saw that you also posted here. No problem, we’ll get it fixed. The bookmarklet should work in IE7 if you right-click and “add to favorites”. If you add a link manually, MyPN should indeed auto-find the title, though you can edit it. I’ll write you individually to find exactly which link was giving you an error.

    To MadamAmbi, thank you also for your note, we do hope that MyPN is a useful tool for you to save & share the articles that you think are important with your community. We definitely want to encourage political engagement of the type you describe.

    To Remixer96, thanks for the feedback – agreed, those services have overlap w/ MyPN, but for a lot of people who don’t have RSS readers or a bookmarking service, MyPN gives them a way to track all their political interests in the context of other information on OpenCongress (e.g., useful user comments).

    Also re: the above from our friends Sparhawk2k & JoeGermuska: I could type at length about this, but in the months to come we’ll work to integrate MyPN more with services of the type you describe (we strongly support open standards on the web) and add features to make MyPN more directly relevant to political content on OC. Ultimately our goal is that if you’re reading a blog post about the economy anywhere on the web, saving it to your MyPN or MyPN-linked accounts of choice will allow you to have handy access at your fingertips to relevant bills & issues in Congress & options on how you can communicate your opinion and have an impact. More feedback welcome, let us know what you think, and more MyPN improvements to come:

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