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GovTrack announces major updates

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  • Josh Tauberer
    (Apologies for cross-posting. This revises an announcement I made to the GovTrack list in September.) GovTrack announces major updates
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 21, 2008
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      (Apologies for cross-posting. This revises an announcement I made to the
      GovTrack list in September.)

      GovTrack announces major updates
      ================================

      For immediate release! :-) Dec 21, 2008

      Hyperlinked version:
      http://www.govtrack.us/blog/2008/12/20/site-updates-in-september-december-2008/

      This fall GovTrack.us, the Congress-tracking website, entered its fifth
      year. 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 20,000 people a day and sends out
      1,000 email updates a night when Congress is in session, 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. 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.

      As we head into the new session of Congress starting in 2009, we have a
      bunch of new site updates to share:

      Bill Text
      ---------

      The bill text view has been completely overhauled by Kevin Henry, thanks
      to a grant from the Sunlight Foundation. Bill text pages now have
      hyperlinks from tables of contents to the sections later on, collapsible
      sections for large bills, highlighted and side-by-side view modes for
      viewing changes to the bill over time, the ability to compare any
      version to any other version of a bill, showing only sections with
      changes, permanent links to a particular paragraph within the bill,
      pop-up bubbles to show a bill in the context of the U.S. Code it
      modifies, and the ability to embed a particular paragraph of a bill on
      your website with a widget.

      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, 1,200 question and 1,000 answers have been posted. Since
      December, you can now subscribe to a feed for the discussion just for
      individual bills.

      Compare Voting Records
      ----------------------

      Following on the heals of OpenCongress, you can now make a comparison of
      the voting records of two members of Congress, from the roll call votes
      page. You can also more easily get the voting record of a single member
      of Congress now. Since the summer, votes pages have included some cute
      pie charts, and, also, the time of day when the vote happened, in case
      you’re doing some deep research.

      Bill Search
      -----------

      The advanced bill search page now lets you search by sponsor or cosponsor.

      Maps
      ----

      The Members of Congress Google maps mash-up now has a link to let you
      add the congressional district color overlay to your own Google Maps.

      Members of Congress
      -------------------

      The pages for Members of Congress now link out to Metavid for videos of
      floor speeches and list some financial statistics (top contribution and
      net worth $$$) from the Center for Responsive Politics (this is
      semi-working). Pages for representatives now also show a little map for
      their congressional district and a listing of the counties and towns in
      the district (since earlier this year).

      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! This was added earlier in the year.)

      I have written a page on Tips for Commnicating With Congress. Should you
      write your rep? What should you include? Take a look. (This was added
      earlier in the year.)

      Bills
      -----

      Bills pages now show related pages based on what GovTrack users have
      selected as trackers (hat tip to OpenCongress who did it first). This
      will help you find legislation that has superseded the bill you are
      looking at, for instance. (This was added earlier in the year.)

      The pages for bills now have a new section for committee assignments,
      and have new popup help bubbles for some explanation to what parts of
      the page mean.

      Appearance & Widgets
      --------------------

      The appearance is all new! Thanks to Dan Gabriele, the site now looks
      pretty professional, I would say. We rolled out initial changes in
      August and pushed a second update in December.

      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. As
      mentioned above, there is a new widget you can use to embed a single
      paragraph of a bill into your webpage/blog.

      For Developers
      ---------------

      The congressional district look-up API now supports lat/long, addresses,
      ZIP codes, and ZIP+4 codes and now reports the current representative
      for a district. You may not know about the three other APIs either: see
      the source data page. (Some of this was added earlier in the year.)

      Looking to help in the development of GovTrack or get involved in
      civics? See the Help Us link at the top of GovTrack.

      ----

      Thanks for everyone's continued interest in the site.

      GovTrack.us is a non-commercial and non-partisan website run by me and
      isn't affiliated with any other group. The site gathers the status of
      U.S. federal legislation and related information from official sources
      using automated processes and synthesizes something new out of it.

      --
      - 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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