Recently I’ve begun work on a new project here with a very simple idea: tell us the issues or keywords that you’re interested in, and we’ll let you know right away when something happens in state or federal government that you care about.
A straightforward idea, but very powerful. If you’re a reporter focusing on immigration, you can know as soon as a state introduces a border control bill. If you’re an environmental activist, you can learn right away of all the attempts in Congress to give or take away power to the EPA.
This is all free, public information, but the amount of data out there is massive and changes every day, and there isn’t any free, public service out there that will help you keep track of it all. Services for proactive notifications around government information exist, but are usually very pricey, and targeted at big companies, newsrooms, lobbying shops, Congressional offices themselves, and other satellites orbiting the federal government and statehouses around the country.
They’re for professionals, and cost professional amounts of money. Even LobbyIt, which bills itself as a populist lobby shop, charges an extra $1,000 per month for email alerts alone. The not-yet-launched BillTrack50 plans to give you keyword alerts for state legislation at the cost of $100 per bill per state. That adds up real quick.
One of the things we’ve taken away from working on our Congress app for Android is that regular people actually enjoy being notified right away when things happen that they care about. We think that there’s a large population of citizens, activists, and smaller newsrooms and professional organizations that would appreciate a free service that lets them know right away when something happens that they care about, through email, SMS, and webhooks for developers.
But informally, we’re hoping to include many other sources either at launch or immediately after, such as upcoming committee hearings, the Congressional Record, proposed federal regulations and their public comments, and the many scintillating reports by the Congressional Research Service, the Congressional Budget Office, and Government Accountability Office.
The project doesn’t have a name yet, but it will by the time we put out a public beta in January. In the meantime, we’d like to know – would you use something like this? Would your organization? What sort of information would you find useful?