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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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