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Re: Limiting votes_download by date and/or amount

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  • Justin Palmer
    Unfortunately, I ve never written a line of python. A little about the application -- The idea is that most of us (If I can generalize for a moment) don t pay
    Message 1 of 4 , Aug 7, 2008
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      Unfortunately, I've never written a line of python.

      A little about the application -- The idea is that most of us (If I can generalize for a
      moment) don't pay close enough attention to our government and issues that matter to
      us. We collect information in passing from various blogs and sites such as Govtrack in bits
      when we "have free time". I'd like to make it easy for myself and others to unobtrusively
      monitor legislators, issues, and bills that are important to us. I'd also like the ability to do
      this when I'm standing in line at the grocery store, waiting on the bus, etc. I believe that
      somehow, if we can fit all of that information in someone's pocket, "having time" is no
      longer an issue.

      With a few clicks, I can see how a Senator voted on a specific piece of legislation. What If I
      disagree with the Senators position? One more click and I can instantly call their office or
      send them an email.

      You could also combine the basics with information from OpenSecrets to find out where
      the money is coming from, or Eventful to find out if there are any events in your area for a
      particular legislator.

      I'm about 1/4 of the way through implementation, and running into some hurdles that I've
      yet to determine how I'm going to proceed. For instance, when looking at the voting
      record of a candidate "HR 1234" doesn't mean much unless you already know what this
      relates too. In order for me to fetch the related bill (and the more descriptive title) I'd have
      to:

      * Request the votes for a candidate
      * Request the roll for a vote (to obtain bill id)
      * Request the bill and extract the title

      I have to run through that list once for each vote and given the inability to limit votes, this
      ends up being a very costly operation (both processing and $ if you're not on an unlimited
      data plan). Fun stuff, but it's coming along nicely so far! :-)

      Here are a few preliminary screens:
      http://s3.amazonaws.com/caged/legislate/legislators.png
      http://s3.amazonaws.com/caged/legislate/democrat.png
      http://s3.amazonaws.com/caged/legislate/republican.png

      -Justin

      --- In govtrack@yahoogroups.com, Josh Tauberer <tauberer@...> wrote:
      >
      > That sounds neat. Would love to hear more about the app.
      >
      > My personal stance on APIs is that, as far as GovTrack goes, since I
      > provide the raw data, I don't want to spend too much time trying to make
      > a comprehensive API as well.
      >
      > Or, well, let's say, I'd be happy to accept code contributions to extend
      > the API, but otherwise it probably won't make it high enough on the
      > priority list to get done soon.
      >
      > Josh
      >
      > Justin Palmer wrote:
      > > Hi,
      > >
      > > I'm in the process of working on an iPhone application using a combination of data
      from
      > > Govtrack, Sunlight, OpenSecrets, etc. The iPhone presents a interesting set of
      challenges, the
      > > primary one being limiting the number and size of requests being made, It drains the
      battery
      > > and hampers the user experience (waiting for information to download).
      > >
      > > A common pattern I'm noticing across the API's and data sets is there seems to be no
      way to
      > > limit how many results you get back and to a lesser extent, page the results. It would
      be
      > > great if I could specify a month along with a year when requesting votes for a
      candidate
      > > (http://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes.xpd?
      month=07&year=2008&person=300090) and
      > > votes.
      > >
      > > Apologies if this is possible already and I've overlooked it.
      > >
      > > P.S. Thanks for the time and effort you've put into Govtrack. It's invaluable.
      >
    • Josh Tauberer
      ... That s quite all right since the site doesn t use Python. :) (For the APIs, it s XSLT and C#.) ... Nice! ... Communication with Congress is tricky
      Message 2 of 4 , Aug 7, 2008
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        Justin Palmer wrote:
        > Unfortunately, I've never written a line of python.

        That's quite all right since the site doesn't use Python. :)

        (For the APIs, it's XSLT and C#.)

        > somehow, if we can fit all of that information in someone's pocket, "having time" is no
        > longer an issue.

        Nice!

        > With a few clicks, I can see how a Senator voted on a specific piece of legislation. What If I
        > disagree with the Senators position? One more click and I can instantly call their office or
        > send them an email.

        Communication with Congress is tricky business. The easier you make it
        for a constituent to communicate, the less seriously it is taken.

        > * Request the votes for a candidate
        > * Request the roll for a vote (to obtain bill id)
        > * Request the bill and extract the title
        >
        > I have to run through that list once for each vote and given the inability to limit votes, this
        > ends up being a very costly operation (both processing and $ if you're not on an unlimited
        > data plan). Fun stuff, but it's coming along nicely so far! :-)

        In this case, what you should try to do is create a server side to this
        so that the data is prepared in a format on the server that is most
        suitable to be loaded by the iPhone. This might involve downloading my
        raw dataset so you can access the whole thing in one shot, rather than
        making a number of API calls (which are somewhat costly on my end) per page.

        > Here are a few preliminary screens:
        > http://s3.amazonaws.com/caged/legislate/legislators.png
        > http://s3.amazonaws.com/caged/legislate/democrat.png
        > http://s3.amazonaws.com/caged/legislate/republican.png

        Looking good.

        --
        - Josh Tauberer
        - GovTrack.us

        http://razor.occams.info

        "Yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation! Yields
        falsehood when preceded by its quotation!" Achilles to
        Tortoise (in "Godel, Escher, Bach" by Douglas Hofstadter)
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