Thursday, April 9, 2009

OpenCongress: How Useful Can it Really Be?

Earlier this week the discussion was focused on a uniquely innovative Web 2.0 tool called OpenCongress, a Congressional database, content-streaming, tool-housing symposium of academic discussion and citizen participation. But then you ask yourself, "Is this really useful for my field?" The question, of course, plagues the mind of the historian, who throughout his work must explain the imponderables of historical awareness and the realism of bias in information gathering. However daunting this task may be, the historian does have a great sense of intuition for finding unbiased information that is readily available. That is exactly what OpenCongress offers to historians and political scientists. There are three reasons that OpenCongress is such a useful tool for these academic individuals:

1) OpenCongress' variety of bill issue, bill identification, status, and trends allow unparalleled transparency in the Congressional Pipeline.
2) Unbiased, accurate information from reliable sources, such as the THOMAS, Congress' own content streaming web resource.
3) OpenCongress links the community to Senators and Representatives, following trends, sponsors, and most watched bills.

For these three reasons OpenCongress is an invaluable tool for accessing unbiased, transparent information regarding the most important actions happening in the Beltway. OpenCongress even provides contribution information and interest group participation from various categories and from various political parties, which is essential to identifying key political or historical trends or deviations. OpenCongress has been very useful for me personally, in identifying trends in relation to gun control and military doctrine. The most important tools I have found have been the bill issue widget which categorizes "gun control" and "military" so that I can have easy access to the information. For an example of these widgets at work please see the bottom of my blog, and remember Audio Hostem--I hear the enemy. At least this time the enemy that I am listening to is right on my computer screen.

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