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Site updates as GovTrack turns four years old

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  • Josh Tauberer
    (Also a hyperlinked version here: http://www.govtrack.us/blog/2008/09/09/govtrack-updated) This month www.GovTrack.us hits its four-year anniversary. It’s
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 9, 2008
      (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
      community project.

      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
      - GovTrack.us


      "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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