IBM Research recently released Many Bills, a new companion project to their wildly successful Many Eyes visualization tool set. Many Bills is billed as a visual bill explorer. More accurately, Many Bills is a web based, color coded visualization of 2009 U.S. congressional legislation. At its very heart the site tries to reveal what the different parts of a bill may be about by using computer learning to analyze and categorize the text of a particular piece of legislation. Because the analysis comes from a computer, they assign confidence scores to each section based on the likelihood that the categorization is correct.
While the default view can be a bit overwhelming at first, I've found that the "minified" view is a great way to review a series of legislative revisions/versions at a glance. More importantly, it also provides a quick and easy way to see where potentially unrelated legislation has been tacked on to a bill. For example, it is possible to see where the unrelated provision allowing visitors to U.S. National Parks to legally carry licensed, loaded firearms was inserted into the Credit Card Act of 2009. Just imagine if we could look at pending legislation in this "minified" color coded categorical view!
Sunlight recently spoke with the creators of Many Bills and offered a variety of feedback and suggestions for future features and options. We think there is a lot of potential for this project and we are really looking forward to the evolution of the Many Bills product. Congratulations to our friends at IBM!