Political Web Innovations


The political Web continues to grow as new databases are established every week regularly using new technologies to present important information. I came across three new Web sites, one government and two from nonprofits, today and figured I’d pass them along. The first is the Government Printing Office’s online guide to members of Congress. The GPO’s online guide allows users to search members of Congress by a number of categories, including name, hometown, terms served, and more. The database is fairly rudimentary but it does allow someone to do quick searches for members from a particular state or see how many members have served for 5 terms. This is good step for GPO as it shows that they looking towards using the Web to project information; all they need is to add more search categories and more information for the member profiles. More links to more information makes the data more useful.

Second, we have a great collection and presentation of government RSS feeds from Legistorm. Legistorm’s "The Score" is a one-stop shop for up-to-the-minute government information hosting RSS feeds of the floor of the House, reports from the GAO, CBO, Executive Orders, and Statements of Administration Policy, and headlines from the blog Political Wire. The Score also shows the schedule for the House and Senate floors and the schedule for House and Senate committee hearings. For the lighter side of things they also post top political cartoons of the day. It looks a lot like a preset, government information-only Netvibes page. If you’re watching Congress this is a pretty sweet view.

Third, and somewhat of topic, is the new database on carbon emissions Carbon Monitoring for Action (CARMA) from the Center for Global Development. I bring this one up because it is a massive database, containing information on 50,000 power plants and 4,000 power companies worldwide, that is using the Web to provide information to citizens concerned about carbon emissions in useful ways. The site allows for searches in variety of categories. I just typed in my zip code and went to the page for Pepco Holdings, Inc., my power company. The individual page for the power company is a striking way at conveying information, using data charts, Google Maps, and allowing comments (particularly useful for individuals who are directly effected by polluting power plants in their area). While not everyone in America is concerned about finding the latest GAO report they are concerned about the air they breathe and the responsibility of the companies providing energy to their homes. The presentation in the CARMA database goes above and beyond that which I normally see. I would of course love to see this information mashed-up with lobbying records, government contracts and grants, member voting records from these districts, etc…

Conveying information that any American can understand and care about on a gut level, whether it’s carbon emissions or polluted water ways, and matching that to information that makes the powerful accountable for their actions (voting behavior or power of influence through lobbying and campaign contributions) will allow power to decentralize back to citizens and voters. The ProgrammableWeb government page that Ellen just wrote about is a great beginning step to making all government and company information mixable and matchable to suit the needs of each American. As the political Web innovates, politicians will have to become more accountable for their actions.