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Announcing "My OpenCongress": Network, Comment and Vote on Congress

January 13, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

UPDATE: Help us out by Digging this announcement!

As Congress returns tomorrow to start a new session, OpenCongress is excited to announce a major update that will put all the bills and votes at your fingertips. It’s never been easier to track what’s happening with your government.

Now you can build a personal profile on OpenCongress of the bills and people you’re tracking, network with other users, comment and vote on bills, and much more.
To get started, create your own “”">My OpenCongress" profile, it’s free and only takes a minute.

“My OpenCongress” — You’re Your Own Best Watchdog

Register an account with OpenCongress using your e-mail address and you’ll receive a profile page — “My OpenCongress” — that provides a personalized view of all the information you want about the laws being made in Washington. Users can track any bill, senator, representative, or issue area on the site, simply by clicking “track this” at the top of any page. Back on your profile, you’ll have assembled a one-stop platform of everything you’re watching in Congress, with a continually-updated stream of their latest actions.

Network — Make Friends Over Congress

My OpenCongress is the first-ever social network designed for people who care about Congress. Users of My OpenCongress can find friends throughout the site, from finding people in your district and state to noticing someone on a bill’s comment board (see below), and users can invite new friends to join them on OpenCongress. Your friends’ profile pages can provide a valuable window into finding just the bills and votes that most directly affect your issues. And if you want to organize a call-in day to let Congress know what you think, you can easily get in touch with other constituents in your district and mobilize your wider friends network. It’s an easy-to-use, peer-to-peer way of sharing the most useful information about Congress, perfect for bloggers and membership groups.

Discuss — Comment on Congress

Now there are comment boards on pages for every bill, senator, and representative on OpenCongress. These comment boards allow real-world people to discuss the details of legislation, share links, evaluate political landscapes, and give their opinions. Boards are designed to “filter up” the comments rated “most helpful” by the user community, using a simple slider bar located next to each comment. What’s more, each user builds up a site-wide rating for all his or her comments, so there is an incentive for people with helpful insights, expertise, or “insider information” to comment more frequently. Plus, every user has the ability to set a personal ratings filter which can be set higher, to see only the comments rated most-helpful, or lower, to see every comment on the page. The more comments you rate, the better the comment boards work for everyone!

Evaluate — Rate News and Blog Coverage

We’re making our flagship feature even more useful. OpenCongress users can now rate the helpfulness of all the news and blog coverage on the site by using the slider bar located next to the link. Together, we can uncover and share the very best news and blog coverage about bills and Members of Congress available on the web — then export this valuable user-generated data back out to the world.

Vote — Share Your Position on Bills, Senators and Reps

A fundamental goal of OpenCongress is to make it possible for people to be able to state their opinions on laws, and and the people making them, with all the context and information available on the site. Now, OpenCongress users can vote “aye” or “nay” for every bill in Congress, give a personal approval rating to Senators and Representatives on a scale of 1-100, and see the total votes for each bill and Member. Coming soon, this data will be aggregated in a unique, sortable forum of all user votes sitewide, so stay tuned. By themselves, a user’s votes offer a powerful soapbox for her opinions; together, users’ votes tell Members of Congress exactly how the OpenCongress community stands on an issue.

To check out these new features, create your own account. It’s free and only takes a minute. We’ve also put together these suggestions on how to get started with “My OpenCongress.”

OpenCongress is a joint project of the Sunlight Foundation and the Participatory Politics Foundation. Our work is free, open-source, not-for-profit, and non-partisan.

We look forward to hearing your feedback and hope that you’ll help spread the word about these new features. Drop us a note with any questions or comments: writeus at opencongress dot org. Thanks!

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