Bankrupting America Wants To Crowdsource Shots Of Wasteful Federal Spending
BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Thursday, December 6 2012
The group launched a new mobile app Thursday that encourages smartphone-wielding citizens to snap photos of projects that they think are a waste of taxpayer money, and send them in for the group to post online. The Washington, D.C. non-profit's staff aren't going to let themselves get punked, though - they're going to sift through the submissions.
"Since more and more people have smartphones these days, you've got more of an opportunity to be a freelance journalist, and we wanted to take that ability and give them the opportunity to come back with examples of where the government has spent incorrectly, whether that's federal, state or local," said Jack Barger, Public Notice's new media coordinator.
They're hoping that the more fiscally-minded among us will spot examples that the public might otherwise miss, such as the infamous $16 Amtrak hamburger, Barger said.
In addition to the photo-taking aspect of it, the app uses geolocation to deliver fiscal news of local interest to subscribers, and ports some of Bankrupting America's infographics over to illustrate some of the group's points on the country's out-of-control spending.
But that's the whole problem with the app -- instead of thinking afresh on how to present the complex jungle of information that is the national budget, and perhaps providing dynamic data visualization tools and scenarios where users could make taxing and spending decisions for themselves in order to better understand the process, this app seems to move online assets it already has into the mobile medium. That renders the app slightly less useful since much of the typography on the static infographics are sometimes too small to see clearly on a phone screen.
What would be more useful is if Bankrupting America took the annual appropriations legislation from Congress, asked the public to ferret through those numbers and go out and take photos of the locations of proposed spending projects, and then annotate the bills with those photos.
Jim Landry, a spokesman for Public Notice, said that the group is taking in feedback and would consider improvements.
The app was developed for Bankrupting America by Browser Media.