Scout, in Open Beta


We’re opening a new tool to the public today for beta testing, called Scout.

Scout is an alert system for the things you care about in state and national government. It covers Congress, regulations across the whole executive branch, and legislation in all 50 states.

You can set up notifications for new things that match keyword searches. Or, if you find a particular bill you want to keep up with, we can notify you whenever anything interesting happens to it — or is about to.

Just to emphasize, this is a beta – it functions well and looks good, but we’re really hoping to hear from the community on how we can make it stronger. You can give us feedback by using the Feedback link at the top of the site, or by writing directly to

To bullet-ize it for you, here are the core features:

Notifications via email, SMS, RSS, and JSON. For whatever alerts you set up, we can send emails (either daily digest or as stuff happens) or texts to your phone. We also maintain feeds for any of your alerts so that you can plug them into whatever tools you already use to keep up to date on things.

Searching for keywords and phrases in bills, speeches, and regulations. When you search for a keyword on Scout, it searches through years of text from bills in Congress and the states, speeches given on the floor of Congress, and federal regulations from the entire executive branch. If you narrow your search to a specific set of information, you can add filters. For example, if you’re following the issue of broadcasters putting their public files online, you can set up alerts for regulations from the FCC about the public file.

Detailed activity on specific bills. If you find a particularly interesting bill (for example, the DATA Act), you can follow it to get a notification when it’s about to hit the floor, and when anything new happens to it. We also can notify you about any activity or votes on state bills.

Scout is built on free, public data from our Open States, CapitolWords, and Real Time Congress services, and is itself open source.

We wouldn’t be able to provide these services without the data and APIs published each day by people inside and outside of the government – for more information on our sources, we have a more detailed description.

Scout is a simple tool, but it ties many of the ideas and technology that Sunlight thinks are important together into something we hope will be useful to professionals, activists, and citizens around the country. We’ll be growing this product rapidly, and your feedback will be instrumental in that process. Thanks for your help.