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Another introduction

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  • James Stewart
    Hi, I joined the list a few days ago and thought I should introduce myself. I m a freelance web developer based in Grand Rapids, MI, but originally from the
    Message 1 of 5 , May 23, 2005
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      Hi,

      I joined the list a few days ago and thought I should introduce
      myself. I'm a freelance web developer based in Grand Rapids, MI, but
      originally from the UK. I've been living in the US for about a year
      now. I used to work for Jubilee 2000 UK, am responsible for http://
      uncharter.org and am involved with the Talk Euro project <http://
      www.talkeuro.com>

      I emailed Joshua earlier today about my interest in developing some
      tools/sites that offer functionality close to that of
      theyworkforyou.com for the US. He suggested I raise it here.

      What I'd ideally like to see is a simple way for a resident of a
      given city to be able to keep track of issues they're interested in
      as they occur as a local, statewide and national level, and then be
      able to find contact details (and possibly use provided tools) to
      contact their representatives at any/all of those levels (similar to
      http://www.writetothem.com ).

      One of my favourite features of theyworkforyou is the ability to post
      comments on given sections of the transcript of parliamentary
      sessions. I don't know to what extent equivalents of Hansard (the UK
      parliamentary transcript) are available, and that's one of the things
      I'd hope to start by gathering data on.

      I've posted up some thoughts at http://wiki.jystewart.net/index.php/
      They_Work_For_You_US and am very interested in discussing these ideas
      further - they're still at a very early stage, and I'm trying to
      gather as much feedback as I can.

      James.
      --
      James Stewart
      Play: http://james.anthropiccollective.org
      Work: http://jystewart.net
    • Joshua Tauberer / GovTrack.us
      Hi, James. Thanks for posting your ideas to the list. ... The local and statewide issues are going to be out of reach until there are volunteers from every
      Message 2 of 5 , May 23, 2005
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        Hi, James. Thanks for posting your ideas to the list.

        James Stewart wrote:
        > What I'd ideally like to see is a simple way for a resident of a
        > given city to be able to keep track of issues they're interested in
        > as they occur as a local, statewide and national level

        The local and statewide issues are going to be out of reach until there
        are volunteers from every state. There are two Scotts on the list
        involved in California information, but that's pretty much it as far as
        state-level info and below.

        > to find contact details (and possibly use provided tools) to
        > contact their representatives at any/all of those levels (similar to
        > http://www.writetothem.com ).

        Our list members on Capitol Hill should weigh in on what the best way is
        to create a contact-your-rep website -- a way that actually results in
        messages being read. The issue with this type of system is that members
        of congress mostly don't provide contact email addresses and instead
        have web forms, so it would be necessary to fine tune the system for
        each of those reps individually -- and that would make me worried that
        many messages could easily go undelivered without that being noticed.

        > One of my favourite features of theyworkforyou is the ability to post
        > comments on given sections of the transcript of parliamentary
        > sessions.

        Here it's called the Congressional Record, and GovTrack is parsing it
        along with everything else (although as it turns out the parser for that
        had stopped working two months ago and no one noticed). See:

        http://www.govtrack.us/congress/recordindex.xpd (This page is new for
        anyone that might be scratching their chin at this.)

        I don't find it a really useful resource. Mainly, it's very difficult
        to narrow in on what's interesting, and that's more of a user interface
        problem than anything else. (Although, a computational problem too in
        figuring out what particular sections are about.) The record is also
        very long, which makes it not something most people are going to want to
        read.

        That's all I have to say at the moment, but I'm looking forward to more
        discussion/collaboration.

        --
        - Joshua Tauberer

        http://taubz.for.net

        ** Nothing Unreal Exists **
      • John DeBruyn
        Hi James: Keep us posted on developments. The Congressional Record is more of a repository than a transcript. Printed remarks are entered into the record that
        Message 3 of 5 , May 24, 2005
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          Hi James:
           
          Keep us posted on developments. 
           
          The Congressional Record is more of a repository than a transcript.  Printed remarks are entered into the record that are not spoken on the floor which includes all manner of materials extraneous to the debate underway at any given time.  My wife was a Senate staffer some 40 years ago and I had a subscription which I read, better said scanned, for about one week.  I switched to the Federal Register which is mainly agency rule-making, a great volume of law, including notices of agency hearings, advisory committee meeting and such.
           
          Perhaps what we need is a way for viewers to respond to CSpan coverage of debates as the watch the telly.  Same for city councils in larger cities but I don't think many state legislatures are broadcast other than audio over the internet.
           
          John
           
          John DeBruyn Denver CO USA
          -----Original Message-----
          From: govtrack@yahoogroups.com [mailto:govtrack@yahoogroups.com]On Behalf Of Joshua Tauberer / GovTrack.us
          Sent: Monday, May 23, 2005 8:20 PM
          To: govtrack@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: Re: [govtrack] Another introduction

          Hi, James.  Thanks for posting your ideas to the list.

          James Stewart wrote:
          > What I'd ideally like to see is a simple way for a resident of a 
          > given city to be able to keep track of issues they're interested in 
          > as they occur as a local, statewide and national level

          The local and statewide issues are going to be out of reach until there
          are volunteers from every state.  There are two Scotts on the list
          involved in California information, but that's pretty much it as far as
          state-level info and below.

          > to find contact details (and possibly use provided tools) to 
          > contact their representatives at any/all of those levels (similar to 
          > http://www.writetothem.com ).

          Our list members on Capitol Hill should weigh in on what the best way is
          to create a contact-your-rep website -- a way that actually results in
          messages being read.  The issue with this type of system is that members
          of congress mostly don't provide contact email addresses and instead
          have web forms, so it would be necessary to fine tune the system for
          each of those reps individually -- and that would make me worried that
          many messages could easily go undelivered without that being noticed.

          > One of my favourite features of theyworkforyou is the ability to post
          > comments on given sections of the transcript of parliamentary
          > sessions.

          Here it's called the Congressional Record, and GovTrack is parsing it
          along with everything else (although as it turns out the parser for that
          had stopped working two months ago and no one noticed).  See:

          http://www.govtrack.us/congress/recordindex.xpd  (This page is new for
          anyone that might be scratching their chin at this.)

          I don't find it a really useful resource.  Mainly, it's very difficult
          to narrow in on what's interesting, and that's more of a user interface
          problem than anything else.  (Although, a computational problem too in
          figuring out what particular sections are about.)  The record is also
          very long, which makes it not something most people are going to want to
          read.

          That's all I have to say at the moment, but I'm looking forward to more
          discussion/collaboration.

          --
          - Joshua Tauberer

          http://taubz.for.net

          ** Nothing Unreal Exists **


        • James Stewart
          ... I think what I d like to see is an architecture that allows for states and localities to be plugged in as volunteers emerge for those areas. Obviously
          Message 4 of 5 , May 24, 2005
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            On May 23, 2005, at 10:20 PM, Joshua Tauberer / GovTrack.us wrote:
            > James Stewart wrote:
            >> What I'd ideally like to see is a simple way for a resident of a
            >> given city to be able to keep track of issues they're interested in
            >> as they occur as a local, statewide and national level
            >>
            >
            > The local and statewide issues are going to be out of reach until
            > there are volunteers from every state. There are two Scotts on
            > the list
            > involved in California information, but that's pretty much it as
            > far as state-level info and below.

            I think what I'd like to see is an architecture that allows for
            states and localities to be 'plugged in' as volunteers emerge for
            those areas. Obviously there'd be upfront work to try and ensure that
            there is sufficient flexibility to allow for differing state and
            local processes, but I suspect results are more likely this way?

            >> to find contact details (and possibly use provided tools) to
            >> contact their representatives at any/all of those levels (similar
            >> to http://www.writetothem.com ).
            >
            > Our list members on Capitol Hill should weigh in on what the best
            > way is to create a contact-your-rep website -- a way that actually
            > results in
            > messages being read. The issue with this type of system is that
            > members of congress mostly don't provide contact email addresses
            > and instead have web forms, so it would be necessary to fine tune
            > the system for each of those reps individually -- and that would
            > make me worried that many messages could easily go undelivered
            > without that being noticed.

            True. I've put a couple of notes about that on the wiki, and it's
            definitely something to consider. WriteToThem.com emerged from
            FaxYourMP.com which, as the name suggests, was fax based. That, of
            course, has many more infrastructural issues around it.

            >> One of my favourite features of theyworkforyou is the ability to post
            >> comments on given sections of the transcript of parliamentary
            >> sessions.
            >
            > Here it's called the Congressional Record, and GovTrack is parsing
            > it along with everything else (although as it turns out the parser
            > for that
            > had stopped working two months ago and no one noticed). See:
            >
            > http://www.govtrack.us/congress/recordindex.xpd (This page is new
            > for anyone that might be scratching their chin at this.)
            >
            > I don't find it a really useful resource. Mainly, it's very
            > difficult to narrow in on what's interesting, and that's more of a
            > user interface
            > problem than anything else. (Although, a computational problem too
            > in figuring out what particular sections are about.) The record is
            > also
            > very long, which makes it not something most people are going to
            > want to read.

            I need to spend some time reading the Congressional Record to get a
            better feel for it. What TheyWorkForYou do is allow a free-text
            search of the parliamentary transcript and then display the whole
            section where a term came up.

            ie. http://theyworkforyou.com/whall/?
            id=2005-03-24.321.1&s=HIPC#g326.5 (term is HIPC)

            There is then a permalink for each speech, and comments can be posted
            on any individual speech:

            http://theyworkforyou.com/whall/?gid=2005-03-24.321.3

            Obviously very few people are going to listen through entire debates,
            but I've used the permalinks before and there does seem to be a
            steady flow of comments.

            http://theyworkforyou.com/comments/recent/

            James.
          • Joshua Tauberer / GovTrack.us
            ... My view on this is that we should all be using RDF, and some common vocabularies where applicable. (I don t know if you re much familiar with RDF:
            Message 5 of 5 , May 24, 2005
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              James Stewart wrote:
              > I think what I'd like to see is an architecture that allows for
              > states and localities to be 'plugged in' as volunteers emerge for
              > those areas.

              My view on this is that we should all be using RDF, and some common
              vocabularies where applicable. (I don't know if you're much familiar
              with RDF: http://www.govtrack.us/articles/20050302rdf.xpd)

              But, I don't think we can approach this usefully until there is at least
              one state that we have real data for. (Nudge nudge.)

              --
              - Joshua Tauberer

              http://taubz.for.net

              ** Nothing Unreal Exists **
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