The Open House Project from The Sunlight Foundation

Suggestions Wall

This is our ‘wall of suggestions’, the place to submit your ideas for making the House more friendly to the internet.  There really are no specific limits on what you can suggest, but there are some rules of thumb.

1) It should be politically feasible.  ‘All elections should be publicly financed’ or ‘Earmarks should be illegal’, while potentially laudable goals, are not really ‘low-hanging’ fruit.

2) Consider a path to implementation.  What institution controls the resource you want put on the web?  What are the politics around the suggestion?  Who are the stakeholders that want this to happen, or don’t?  If you don’t know, you don’t know, and that’s fine.  But think about it.

9 Comments

9 responses so far ↓

  • What’s this about? | The Open House Project // Jan 16, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    [...] We want to figure out ways that Congress can make its content more accessible and useful to the public.  If you have a suggestion, put it on our suggestion wall. [...]

  • chapter1 // Feb 11, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    OK, I’ll bite… I’d like to suggest a simple, technical trick to greatly increase congressional accountability and transparency.

    The trick is to adopt a common programming tool called “Version Control.” As legislators draft bills, they should be stored in a “Bill repository. ” Any member of congress could change a Bill (subject to the usual parliamentary rules for such things), and (this is key) *the whole Internet could see the current version or any previous version.* Advanced software tools would allow people to search for who changed what and when, to view how a Bill evolves, to find pork, and to see how a legislator’s actions compare to who funds his campaign contributions.

    I have written about this at greater length, including my response to possible objections, here:
    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/11/16/61640/452
    and here:
    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/12/12/172359/39

    If you think these ideas might be of interest to your group, I’d be happy to adopt them for an essay for your site. Additionally, if you could put me in touch with anyone who might be interested in discussing further, that would be greatly appreciated.

  • Bluey Blog » Blog Archive » Making the People’s House More Transparent // Feb 15, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    [...] My role will be reaching out to conservative bloggers to generate ideas and suggestions for a final report we’ll be putting together by the end of next month. If you’d like to get involved, you can leave a suggestion here or join the Google Groups listserv. You can also e-mail me directly rbluey@gmail.com. [...]

  • josh // Feb 18, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    I came up with this idea while reading email updates from markup sessions on telecom policy bills, where so many key decisions are made in the blink of an eye. I wondered how we could increase the transparency of that process and get more people watching it at key moments with the power to intervene.

    If you offered a presentation of that session online that included the context of running commentary and solid background information, as well as an opportunity for discussion for all participants at different levels, you would get a lot of people very, very engaged in the process.

    The background research, live commentary, and reports from within the room would all require considerable expertise and person-power, but all of these resources and energy basically exist already for key or controversial policy issues. For the most part you just need to aggregate them and present it all in an open architecture that encourages participation. Since many sessions are already webcast, it would be relatively easy to build this kind of technical infrastructure around that. Then it’s there to use whenever it’s called for, especially on issues in the public eye like immigration, health care, and telecom rewrites.

    If you want, I can show you some time what I’m talking about. Indymedia did this to great effect (especially from 1999 – 2001) with distant, opaque institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. They (we, I should say) presented minute-by-minute reports from IMF and WB summit meetings, concurrent protests, and shadow conferences. Millions of people went to the website at those moments, bringing attention to the process and giving people the inspiration, research, and tools for further engagement.

    In the realm of the markup session, all this proposal would really be doing is leveling the information playing field with the dozens of lobbyists (who cut into the room thanks to the linewaiter system – and not to put those folks out of a job, but you could make the whole process more democratic by offering seats by lottery). They sit there sending regular text messages to the committee staffers, pointing to pre-written sound bites and specific page numbers from carefully-prepared packets of so-called information.

    I’m not saying we should toss the legislative process down a slippery slope of American Idol-style voting, but a little transparency where it really counts goes a long way in this world.

    Here’s my original blog post on this idea: http://josh.fm/2006/04/28/is-this-what-democracy-looks-like/

    Thanks for the helpful work you’re doing.

  • the david all group | Blog Archive » The Open House Project:: websites, online marketing, political strategy, republican // Feb 27, 2007 at 11:04 am

    [...] The best part about this project? You can get involved to make a difference and I would encourage you to do so. To do so, sign-up for the Google Groups listserv, make suggestions on the blog, or if you’re a Hill-staffer, you can participate anonymously. [...]

  • tawodiusdi // Mar 1, 2007 at 11:03 am

    we need more political/state/district information about our legislators…this would save me time

    we also need all the laws ever in any congress…like ‘thomas’ does to the 93rd congress now

  • bolson // May 8, 2007 at 9:51 pm

    I second the vote for using Version Control techniques in legislating. I made an example of the 17th amendment as if it were a source code change under VC. (Actually the whole costitution and all its amendments are there given the VC treatment.)

    This kind of technique works for huge complicated software things (indeed, it makes them possible). It should do at least as well for huge complicated legal things.

  • Joan Friedman // Sep 24, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    I think the companies that are offered or ask for a bail out should accept CEO compensation limits which should also apply to the companies that implement the bailout. The rescued companies should also issue special stock or options that could go into the social security trust fund. If the stock is later worth something then it will help to shore up social security.

  • gail Xandy // Jan 11, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Hey transparent folks, yes I mean to help out but I am really limited in what I can share by my seven year old computer and the fact that I live way the hell out in the country (seventy miles from Austin, Texas). Videos are impossible and down loads of any kind can take hours. So, here’s the deal, keep me plugged in till March when I’m going wireless, dropping my land lines, and up grading my computer. Then I’ll be glad to open a dialogue about how I can help. Right now my domestic partner and I are the token liberals in the Democratic party and there are other Dems who woulld be interested in this movement. See yah Soon, GAX

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