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PublicMarkup.org’s First Week

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The first week of PublicMarkup.org's launch has exceeded our expectations.

As I write this post, there are now 63 comments on our draft legislation, which you can now keep track of through an RSS feed. While many of the posts come from allies familiar to Sunlight, we're delighted to find excellent, new ideas throughout the comments. Interest in congressional information reaches well beyond the inside-the-beltway advocacy community, and we're happy to provide a forum for substantive reform ideas.

Talking with members of the press has been really enjoyable too, especially as they try to use traditional approaches to writing about legislation. The initial questions tend not to quite fit with a model of advocacy that is entirely open, so questions like "who is sponsoring it?" or "when might they vote on it?" tend to miss the mark. Questions like "What would constitute a success?", or "Why aren't other organizations doing this sort of thing?" might be better starting places. Conducting advocacy in the open is a rather new idea, though, so we'll have to develop some new ideas together about what constitutes consensus, success, and a productive drafting process.

As it stands now, though, we're happy to not have all the answers about where the bill is going. Just like legislation itself, we're not pretending to know the best strategy for the bill, and we recognize that best ideas will be the ones that can benefit from a large community of experts and stakeholders.

One thing is clear: if PublicMarkup.org's second week is anything like its first, our reform ideas -- and the open advocacy strategy we're using to develop them -- will both have very bright futures.

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Linking to Sections

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In Sarah Lai Striland's write-up of PublicMarkup.org's launch yesterday, on the Wired Threat Level blog, she manages to do something rather remarkable. She links to one of the bill's provisions:

One idea from Sunlight that all journalists are sure to welcome: Limiting the time government agencies can delay fulfilling Freedom of Information Act requests. Sunlight suggests implementing a rule that would force government agencies to fulfill such requests within 60 days of the requests' original due dates.


All she did was hyperlink, which is regular fare on blogs. This is rather extraordinary, however, because the links takes you to the actual provision of a piece of legislation. As Congressional legislation is currently published, this is nearly impossible, as bills are published in html or in pdf formats, erecting a barrier to substantial analysis and discussion. Would legislation be different if all news stories and discussion of them were easily traced to the actual text of the bill, or if you could find your way from the bill other relevant analysis and context?

Small, useful, practical steps online lead to enormously different results, and make new kinds of engagement possible.


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