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ProPublica launches tool to track Congressional members, encourages data download!

I’ve had a tab open to this ProPublica post “A New Way to Keep an Eye on Who Represents You in Congress” for a couple of weeks and just now getting around to sharing. Their new project called “Represent” is a great way to track on lawmakers, the bills they consider and the votes they take (and miss). Search for your legislators by address, ZIP code or name. A very handy tool indeed. But 2 things stand out especially about this new effort: 1) “Represent” not only collates data from a variety of government resources (see below) but they also point out to other sites that offer valuable features like individual lawmaker and bill pages on GovTrack and C-SPAN; and 2) They’re making available all the data that they use through their API. Their data sources include:

Check it out, bookmark it, and let your library patrons know about it!

Today ProPublica is launching a new interactive database that will help you keep track of the officials who represent you in Congress.

The project is the continuation of two projects I worked on at The New York Times — the first is the Inside Congress database, which we are taking over at ProPublica starting today.

But we also have big plans for it. While the original interactive database at The Times focused on bills and votes, our new project adds pages for each elected official, where you can find their latest votes, legislation they support and statistics about their voting. As we move forward we want to add much more data to help you understand how your elected officials represent you, the incentives that drive them and the issues they care about.

In that way, it is also a continuation of another project I worked on at the Times. In late 2008, The New York Times launched an app called Represent that connected city residents with the officials who represented them at the local, state and federal levels. It was an experiment in trying to make it easier to keep track of what elected officials were doing.

Because ProPublica is rekindling that effort, we’re calling the new project Represent.

The new Represent will help you track members, votes and bills in the House of Representatives and Senate. We’re also launching a Congress API, or Application Programming Interface, so developers can get data about what Congress is doing, too.

via A New Way to Keep an Eye on Who Represents You in Congress – ProPublica.

Increasing the Reach of Census Bureau Data

A reminder of some of the ways the Census Bureau is using to promote and facilitate use of its wealth of data.

  • Increasing the Reach of Census Bureau Data. By Raul Cisneros, director, Center for New Media and Promotion and Rebecca Blash, chief, Center for Enterprise Dissemination Services and Consumer Innovation (CEDSCI), U.S. Census Bureau. The Commerce Blog (December 19, 2014).

Some of the things mentioned:

  • APIs and newsletter for developers.
  • dwellr. An app that helps users discover cities and towns that fit their lifestyle
  • America’s Economy. App provides real-time updates of 20 key economic indicators
  • Quickfacts. fully interactive, customized tables that let users compare statistics for up to six locations side by side, and to share those statistics in social media

Labor Does More With Less: 175 datasets, 1 API

Labor Does More With Less on Streaming Data, By Joseph Marks, NextGov (June 25, 2013).

When the White House directed agencies to make at least two data services available through a streaming process known as application programming interfaces in 2012, most tech and transparency savvy agencies focused on releasing as many APIs as they could.

The Health and Human Services Department, for example, released 61 APIs connecting to 61 datasets.

The Labor Department took a different tack, releasing 175 datasets through a single API.

Interesting, illustrative, informative, bizarre… polar bears in the Federal Register

The Government Printing Office in a press release today announced a success story in the use of the Application Programming Interface (API) for Federal Register. It is certainly interesting and illustrative of how an API can be used to deliver information to a particular community of interest, but I think you may also find it unexpectedly unusual. A researcher used the FR API to create a tracking system for polar bear protection documents.


WASHINGTON-The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) and the National Archives’ Office of the Federal Register (OFR) report a success story from the Application Programming Interface (API) for FederalRegister.gov. GPO and OFR introduced the API in August 2011, enabling information technology developers to create new applications for regulatory information published in the Federal Register. A researcher utilized the API to create a tracking system for polar bear protection documents. The API tool automatically grabs Federal Register items that mention polar bears from 1994 to present, displays the items in a formatted list with browsing capabilities, and links back to the full text on FederalRegister.gov.

Link to Polar Bear Feed: http://polarbearfeed.etiennebenson.com/

“This is another example of how GPO and OFR continue to find ways in achieving the goal of making Government information more transparent and giving users the ability to adapt Federal Register data to their own needs,” said Public Printer Bill Boarman.

“We are thrilled to see the use of the API source material to develop a live feed on the subject of polar bears. This is precisely how we hoped this information would be used when we made it available to the public. We couldn’t be more gratified,” said Director of the Federal Register Ray Mosley.

The print and online versions of the Federal Register are the official daily publication for rules, proposed rules, and notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as executive orders and other Presidential documents.

UK: National Archives Releases Public API & Government Licensing Policy Extended Making More Public Sector Information Availa

Via INFOdocket:

From Computer Weekly:

The National Archives [UK] has made details of 11m records available through an application interface it published today as part of an ongoing programme to get more official records online.

The API allows anyone to search for and retrieve the metadata that describes records in the archive in XML format. The data can then be used without restriction or charge. But the archive, which is simultaneously an executive agency of the Department of Justice and a government department in its own right, continues to charge £3.50 per document to retrieve actual records online.

More Info on INFOdocket or Direct from Computer Weekly

Also from the National Archives (UK)

“UK government licensing policy extended to make more public sector information available”