Site updates as GovTrack turns four years old
- (Also a hyperlinked version here:
This month www.GovTrack.us hits its four-year anniversary. It’s been an
incredible four years. Really. When I first rolled out the site in 2004,
after around three years of on-and-off development, I didn’t know if
anyone was going to want to use it. I thought the “selling point” was
merely email updates, but I had no idea that the project would turn into
something a bit bigger. Today the site is viewed by around 15,000 people
a day and sends out 1,000 email updates a night, but it is also a data
provider to neat sites like MAPLight.org and Follow The Oil Money which
track the correlations of campaign contributions and votes and
themiddleclass.org, an advocacy organization. Through the site, I have
also gotten into government data policy and am making small inroads in
improving how our government publishes raw data. Most recently, I have
been lucky to have been joined by others in the task of improving
GovTrack, as the site moves further in the direction of being a
Here are the recent changes to the site:
* The appearance! Thanks to Dan Gabriele, the site now looks pretty
professional, I would say. We are going to roll out another set of
visual updates next month.
* Community Question and Answer: You can now find on bill pages a
box to enter questions about the bill, and to see what questions other
GovTrack users have posted. Then you can answer them. It’s a community
effort to research legislation and help others get the facts. Take a
look at the list of recent questions and answers and see if you can
answer any (possibly by putting your research hat on). It’s a civic good
deed. Since the feature was added at the end of June, 373 question and
235 answers have been posted. We will expand on this tool in the future.
* You can now look up your congressional district and Members of
Congress by a ZIP or ZIP+4 postal code. (Thanks to public.resource.org
for the data!)
* I have written a page on Tips for Commnicating With Congress.
Should you write your rep? What should you include? Take a look.
* Votes pages now include some cute pie charts, and, also, the time
of day when the vote happened, in case you’re doing some deep research.
* Pages for representatives now show a little map for their
congressional district and a listing of the counties and towns in the
district. See this example.
* Bills pages now show related pages based on what GovTrack users
have selected as trackers. You have to go to the Related Bills page for
a bill. See this example. This will help you find legislation that has
superseded the bill you are looking at, for instance.
* The feed and bill status widgets that you can embed on your
webpage (which by the way we had first) can now be customized easier.
And for developers:
* There is a new Get Involved page.
* The congressional district look-up API now supports lat/long,
addresses, ZIP codes, and ZIP+4 codes. You may not know about the three
other APIs either: see the source page.
But much more is in the works. We’ll be completely overhauling our bill
text page for easier navigation and comparison of bill text and to let
you link directly from your website to particular paragraphs within
bills, and to embed paragraphs in widgets on your own website — to help
you make your case in your own writings. We’ll also be expanding and
improving on the statistics we generate for Members of Congress,
providing a new set of “indicators” to get the big picture on what your
rep is actually doing. Lastly we hope to integrate some campaign
contribution data to get another perspective.
- Josh Tauberer
"Yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation! Yields
falsehood when preceded by its quotation!" Achilles to
Tortoise (in "Godel, Escher, Bach" by Douglas Hofstadter)