Meta:Guidelines for candidates and campaigns
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Research and referencing
OpenCongress now has candidate profiles for the 2010 congressional elections as part of its "2010 Racetracker" project. The project also include profiles for many of the candidates in the 2008 election.
The staff editors, working in conjunction with the Swing State Project in keeping with the spirit of OpenCongress's purpose to be a "citizen's encyclopedia on Congress" - the profiles are meant to give citizens the best and most complete picture of Congress. The profiles, therefore, should resemble the style of the profiles on current members of Congress and focus more on candidates' positions on issues and, for candidates that have held other elected offices, their votes on key issues than on their biography or rhetoric (see below).
Candidates (and campaign volunteers) are free to contribute "fair and accurate" information about themselves; unlike Wikipedia, OpenCongress has no rule to "avoid writing or editing an article about yourself." Additions to Congresspedia are judged more by their content (including their sourcing) than by who made them.
However, there are a few guidelines that should be followed:
Disclose your relationship to the subject of the article
The OpenCongress community welcomes additions and changes to articles on yourself or people you are connected to, but we ask that you follow a few guidelines that are standard for such edits. Essentially we ask that you disclose your relationship on your user page, not delete factually accurate content and defer to other, less-conflicted editors in disputes (you can always contact one of the managing editors for help). More details can be found here.
Don't turn articles into campaign ads
The most useful information about candidates for citizens, especially in the context of OpenCongress, is background on the candidates' positions on issues and votes and background on their experience and past record and positions. There should be a link back to every candidate's website where citizens can go to read more personal statements, but general statements of values and philosophy are best kept to a minimum. In other words, don't turn the profile into a campaign ad. Citizens come to OpenCongress for distilled and fully sourced facts, not campaign rhetoric, which can go on for a long time without saying much.
Here are some tips on good and less-desirable additions (If you're a candidate and don't currently have public statements like the "useful" ones below, please consider adding such specific information to your campaign site.):
|Useful||Not so useful|
|Gay rights||Joe Schmoe opposes the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, saying, "The bill is an unwelcome regulation of private business that forces owners and executives to override their personal values." Sen. Smith (Schmoe's opponent) voted for the bill.||Joe Schmoe thinks the government should stay out of people's personal lives and allow business owners to manage their operations according to their personal values.|
|Global warming||Joe Schmoe supports legislation to limit the United States' production of carbon dioxide, a key factor in global warming. Sen. Smith has voted against the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007 and other carbon-capping legislation.||Joe Schmoe believes in protecting the environment, especially from the dangers of global warming.|
|Balanced budgets||Joe Schmoe is a fiscal conservative who believes in balanced budgets. As chairman of the Texas Senate's budget committee, he passed a balanced budget out of his committee for the last four years. He has pledged to support "pay-go" restrictions in Congress, which mandate that every spending increase be offset by a spending reduction or tax raise of equal value.||Joe Schmoe is a fiscal conservative who believes in balanced budgets. He thinks spending in Congress has gotten out of control and that it "couldn't balance a checkbook, much less the federal budget.|
Interacting with the OpenCongress community
Take a minute to review the ground rules, particularly:
- Only documented facts should be added to OpenCongress (be fair and accurate): This particularly applies to adding information about your opponent to their profile. Stick to the facts and provide an external source for the information (tips and instructions on how to reference are here. Describe things in a sober, factual manner and steer clear of rhetoric.
- Be constructive, not destructive: If information on a page is factually accurate, don't remove it. You may reorganize things or provide context, but please don't destroy other people's work.
- Play nice: You are likely to run into someone else on the wiki that disagrees with you on values or opinions. That's OK as long as we all have the same facts. Try to leave notes on the discussion page of an article if you're deleting or re-writing some else's contribution. Check the history tab of the article to see if someone has put a lot of work into a page and try leaving them a note on their talk page (which will automatically alert them the next time they show up). Remember to sign your note by clicking on the squiggly button on top of the editing window!
Getting help from sysops and staff editors
The staff editors are here to offer technical assistance, editorial guidance or whatever other kind of help you need. You can contact OpenCongress Site Editor Conor Kenny directly by his email here. We also have a number of super-volunteer "sysops" who help keep an eye on things. These are people who have been active on the wiki for a while and are trusted to help run things, so feel free to ask them for help, too (though they are volunteers, so please don't expect that they will necessarily be able to help you - that's why the staff editors are paid!). A list of sysops can be found by going to here and selecting the "sysop" group.
We require a brief registration with the site to begin editing (this helps deter vandalism and spam), so go here to register and log-in and then you can find all the candidate and incumbent profiles via the 2010 Racetracker. Thanks and let us know if we can help!
Tips for your campaign Web site
In the process of establishing Wiki the Vote, we've seen hundreds of candidate Web sites, from pages made my candidates themselves to multimedia sites that cost thousands of dollars. While Congresspedia doesn't usually offer advice to candidates, we do have two tips to make your site more useful to citizen-journalists, bloggers, reporters and, yes, voters:
- Include contact information in an easy to find place. This should include:
- A physical address, so locals can drop in
- A mailing address
- Phone and fax numbers
- An e-mail address
- Include a headshot of your candidate so that reporters, bloggers and citizen-journalists can easily download and use it.
We strive to make Congresspedia articles as useful as possible, and we think these tips will help citizens and others engaged in the political process interact with your candidate.