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Help - Before 5pm ET Today

March 21, 2013 - by David Moore

Update, Friday March 29th: This “feedback” phase of the Knight NewsChallenge ends at 5pm ET today, so please help now. Let’s bring We The People style petitions to every U.S. city government for accountability and engagement.

The OpenCongress team has submitted a proposal to the Knight Foundation NewsChallenge for open-government projects: – a version of “We The People” for state, city, and local governments

Questions to elected officials on (draft)… thanks to mentions from friends-of-PPF like Chris Hayes, Zephyr Teachout, Reihan Salam, and others, as of this writing we’ve risen in the ranks to the bottom of the first page of most-viewed projects overall. Currently ranked 20th (Monday 3/25/13 update: 16th!) most-viewed of 825 proposals, not too shabby – and we’re sixth most-applauded overall, which is awesome popular support. Lots of great #opengov submissions, more on that below. (Right: a sample of our new, clean design for Q&A on OG.)

But while we’re only about 25 votes behind the two projects ahead of us, we’re only about 25 votes ahead of the two projects directly behind us, which would bump us off the first page. Our goal is to remain in the top half of the most-viewed projects page, or top-10 overall — we’re only approx. 500 views behind that, which is approximately what we got yesterday, so it’s eminently possible.

We’re a tiny non-profit team without any paid marketing or dedicated fundraising staff, unlike some of the leading projects in the NewsChallenge – OpenCongress is maintained by the equivalent of just one staff-person. We’ve received an average of four million visits & 11 million pageviews over the past six-plus years for Congressional info on OC, with just one staffer to keep things running. (On that front, please help us keep OC alive!) This NewsChallenge is a major funding competition for us and we really need your help.

You can support our #opengov work by the following:

1. Publishing an update on FB or Twtr to encourage more views & applause of our proposal, suggestions below:

Just gave applause to in the #NewsChallenge – “We The People” for every level of government:

Click “applaud this” for @open_gov in the #NewsChallenge – “We The People” for every level of government:

… a new visitor first clicks “applaud” and then either registers a free OpenIdeo account or signs-in via Facebook Connect; once confirmed in his or her email, the user can then return to our proposal page and applause & views will count immediately. It’s not too onerous.

2. Commenting on our proposal in the NewsChallenge contest, to elucidate the use cases of open Q&A w/ city government. After all, haven’t we all seen a We The People petition receive a positive response (e.g. with reducing gun violence), or tie-in to a national news issue (like the #CISPA spying bill), or go (forgive me) viral on social media? We’re building the open-source code for the same healthier relationships in city & state government.

3. Forwarding this blog post over email to your wider networks, to encourage more views of our proposal. I’m still doing outreach… I’ll emphasize that our code will remain open-source and open-data, and we’re coordinating our development of OG for cities with several other #opengov non-profits, so it’s all for the public benefit. More background on the niche we’re seeking to fill – and how this model has been proven popular & effective over the past five years in other countries – on my OC Blog post from last week.

… also, we’re not the only proposal for big-time work in open-gov & open-data – while you’re logged-in, please also applaud these NewsChallenge proposals that will be mutually-beneficial for OpenCongress & OpenGovernment ::

Legislative Open Gov’t Data Standards – by OG Technical Lead James McKinney of Open North. PPF is proud to support the open Popolo Project – you’re invited to join the discussion. Really clutch for rolling out OG for Q&A with thousands more U.S. municipalities. 

Democracy Map API – by our friend Phil Ashlock, one of the five most-viewed projects – another vital piece of infrastructure for finding & contacting everyone who represents you in government, as we were hoping to build with our original back in 2010-2011 (as a version of OpenCongress for all 50 U.S. state legislatures, in partnership with the Open States project). His fourth time submitting, this time I think you got the pitch down, buddy, haha. We’ll aim to move forward together and hopefully use a robustly-supported Democracy Map API on the new version of OpenGovernment at local levels.

eCitizens – a commercial startup led by Jerry Hall, looks cool, their legislative alert features could be useful (hopefully they remain open-source) for OG’s planned features to offer public discussion forums & Q&A surrounding city council agendas.

Making Meetings Matter – from my friend Frank of the non-profit OpenPlans, where I am glad to rent workspace in NYC. The OpenPlans team does self-evidently high-quality work and has truly admirable wide networks among open-data, civic engagement practitioners in cities across the country. Widgets for displaying agenda info would go far towards making city-level deliberation more widely accessible, among other features of their proposal.

We look forward to showing previews as we build towards re-launch this May, and hopefully with NewsChallenge support we can scale up to offer Q&A on OG in hundreds more U.S. cities. Follow @open_gov on micropublishing for updates, if you’re into that service & the Twtr lifestyle. Let me know what you think – david at, I’m easy to reach and eager to chat over our plans for user-friendly government accountability.

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