Recently the Senate decided to update its website so that it shares roll call vote data with other websites, like GovTrack, in a more technologically friendly way. I’ve been pushing this for the past couple of years, along with others, and it’s great news to finally see this change. Read on for more and other recent press coverage.
The basic idea is that to create a site like GovTrack, you need a good computer-oriented database of legislative information. Congress only makes a sliver of this type of information available in a way that makes it easy for others like me to remix it and transform it into new things (like this website). For the last decade, the Senate actually had a policy against using the latest technology because Senators did not
want roll call vote results to be easily displayed on non-Senate websites. (If you think that’s ridiculous, you are quite right.) I don’t mean to take that much credit, but I’ve worked with some staffers over the last few years on pushing the Senate to get rid of this policy, and in the last few weeks the policy was finally undone. You can read about it in these press accounts:
- 5/11/2009. Columbia Journalism Review :
, by Clint Hendler
: , by Victoria McGrane. (Again, no mention of GovTrack, but I could this as a bit of a personal victory.)
- 5/1/2009. Politico:
, by Victoria McGrane. (It doesn’t mention GovTrack, but I was involved behind the scenes.)
Politico: , by Victoria McGrane
Earlier in the year there were also a bunch of articles about how data can be used to improve government transparency and civic engagement. The first article below, especially, talks about how we (that is, me and some other folks) got the House of Representatives to instruct the Library of Congress to make legislative data better available to the public to build independent sites like GovTrack.
- 3/5/2009. Mother Jones: , by Jonathan Stein
- 2/28/2009. Newsweek: , by Christopher Werth.
- January 2009. The Atlantic
, by Douglas McGray.
There was also a recent article about our experiment with MixedInk in writing group letters to Congress:
- 5/9/2009. Examiner.com
: , by Alexandra de Scheel
And another article mentioning GovTrack:
, by Erika Morphy.