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What Congress.gov Means for a Congressional API

BY Nick Judd and Miranda Neubauer | Wednesday, September 19 2012

The Library of Congress today unveiled beta.congress.gov, a new web platform offering legislative information that is expected to eventually replace the existing THOMAS system and the congressional Legislative Information System.

House leadership has promised to offer access to the underlying data that fuels THOMAS and has repeatedly expressed a commitment to doing it. They just haven't committed to doing it during this Congress. And the lack of action on something that seems to them to be eminently doable has advocates kind of frustrated.

Gayle Osterberg, Director of Communications for the Library of Congress, seemed to indicate in an email that the Library of Congress is ready to cooperate. They just need Congress — meaning the House and Senate both — to give them the go-ahead.

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For Members of Congress, Ryan's VP Nomination Raises a Tweet Dilemma

BY Miranda Neubauer | Thursday, August 16 2012

Various tweets by House members reacting to Rep. Paul Ryan's selection as the Republican vice presidential nominee may have violated Congressional rules, the Sunlight Foundation* reports. Read More

Two Congressional Staffers Move to Twitter's @Gov Team

BY Miranda Neubauer | Tuesday, June 19 2012

Bridget Coyne, digital director for Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sean Evins, a staffer on the House Administration Committee, are moving to the Twitter Government and Politics team, according to a tweet from @gov. Politico had reported Evins' move last week. He told Politico Influence that he would be "acting as a liaison between Twitter and elected officials and helping them better communicate with their constituents." Read More

What Congress Might Do With All Those Emails

BY Nick Judd | Friday, June 15 2012

The Republican House leadership is experimenting with tools that might make it easier for members of Congress to more easily understand what all the emails they get in a day really mean. There are also tools that track messages headed outbound towards Congress, like PopVox, that hope to give perspective on what representatives are hearing from the outside looking in. In this video, Dan Beckmann from the technology firm ib5k describes how his company's platform, Correlate, is designed to solve one aspect of the problem. It is now in use by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer — a Democrat — and may appear elsewhere within House leadership soon, Beckmann says. Read More

For Transparency Advocates, the Honeymoon with House Republicans May Be Over

BY Nick Judd | Friday, June 1 2012

When John Boehner promised at the start of his turn as House Speaker to make the House of Representatives far more transparent, and to use technology to do it, advocates for an easier-to-understand Congress were cautiously optimistic. But House Republicans are poised to take a move that transparency advocates see as kicking the can down the road on the single most crucial thing the 112th Congress could do to open up the business of lawmaking. Read More

Let's All Talk About Congressional Email

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, April 5 2012

What is the flood of emails pouring into Congress doing to national politics? Matt Glassman, an adjunct professor of political science at Catholic University, thinks it might be creating reasons for individual members to focus less on local politics and more on attention-getting national issues. Read More

Republicans in Congress More Effective on Twitter, Study Finds

BY Miranda Neubauer | Thursday, March 22 2012

Image: Shutterstock

Congressional Republicans use Twitter more effectively than Congressional Democrats, according to a political analysis of Twitter conducted by Edelman and Simply Measured. The study analyzed 456 Congressional Twitter handles from September to December 2011. Read More

Which Member of Congress Has the Biggest Vocabulary?

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, February 28 2012

Using the Sunlight Foundation's* Capitol Words API, independent analytics consultant Dan Kozikowski has put together a look at the vocabulary of each member of Congress and mapped the results on a Google map.

By his analysis, the most loquacious legislator in the House of Representatives is Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat of Texas, who holds a bachelor's degree from Yale and a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law.

Kozikowski also looked for words said only once in Congress by members of each party since 1996, which is as far back as the data available through Sunlight goes. (Sunlight gets its data from the Congressional Record.)

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Issa's Still Sour On SOPA

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, December 13 2011

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) issued a statement today restating his opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act. Its chief sponsor, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), has introduced a manager's amendment that would alter the controversial anti-piracy legislation; Issa doesn't think it's enough. Read More

Capitol Hill's Dec. 7 Hackathon Means Government's Getting Geekier

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Monday, November 28 2011

Photo: Elliott P. / Flickr Software developers, Capitol Hill staffers and transparency advocates will brainstorm about what's to come in this field at Congress’ first-ever hackathon on Dec. 7 at the Capitol Visitors ... Read More

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NY Study Shows How Freedom of Information Can Inform Open Data

On New York State's open data portal, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation has around 40 data resources of varying sizes, such as maps of lakes and ponds and rivers, bird conservation areas and hiking trails. But those datasets do not include several data resources that are most sought after by many New York businesses, a new study from advocacy group Reinvent Albany has found. Welcome to a little-discussed corner of so-called "open government"--while agencies often pay lip service to the cause, the data they actually release is sometimes nowhere close to what is most wanted. GO

Responding to Ferguson, Activists Organize #NMOS14 Vigils Across America In Just 4 Days

This evening peaceful crowds will gather at more than 90 locations around the country to honor the victims of police brutality, most recently the unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on Saturday. A moment of silence will begin at 20 minutes past 7 p.m. (EST). The vigils are being organized almost entirely online by the writer and activist Feminista Jones (@FeministaJones), with help from others from around the country who have volunteered to coordinate a vigil in their communities. Organizing such a large event in only a few days is a challenge, but in addition to ironing out basic logistics, the National Moment of Silence (#NMOS14) organizers have had to deal with co-optation, misrepresentation, and Google Docs and Facebook pages that are, apparently, buckling under traffic.

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NDI Launches Open Source DemTools for International Development

Yesterday the National Democratic Institute launched a suite of web-based applications created for their partner organizations, mostly pro-democracy groups and political parties around the world. These “DemTools,” which are ready-to-use but can also be customized, will give organizations in developing countries some of the capabilities that political activists and parties in the United States have had for years. Moreover, since the National Democratic Institute (NDI) is making the promise to host partner organization's applications in the cloud essentially forever, they hope these applications will help usher in a period of more sustainable tech.

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