GovTrack announces major updates
- (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
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:
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
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.
The advanced bill search page now lets you search by sponsor or cosponsor.
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 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.
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
"Yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation! Yields
falsehood when preceded by its quotation!" Achilles to
Tortoise (in "Godel, Escher, Bach" by Douglas Hofstadter)