Our Common Good
If your elected officials suddenly seem less clueless, you might thank Beckmann and Hallaran, creators of Congressional analytics dashboard, Correlate.

“It takes a long time for the offices to get any understanding of what’s in their correspondence,” Beckmann says, noting that in the best-case scenario correspondence is organized and delivered to the relevant staffers two weeks after it has initially been received, and it’s not very analytical. As a result, one of the most important aspects of our democracy—the ability for any citizen to write their Congressperson with their concerns—has become a slow, cumbersome, and often disregarded process.

Correlate allows the feedback to be viewed through a real-time dashboard. At any moment, a member of Congress or someone on his or her staff can pull up the tool to see how a particular piece of legislation is moving by the hour, day, week, month, or year. The dashboard also allows each office to focus in on patterns in specific cities and areas in their district.

Dan Beckmann And Tom Hallaran’s Plan To Bring Big Data To Big Government | Fast Company


Well there goes Tumblr


“The bill is sweepingly broad, and would make it a crime to communicate via electronic means speech that is intended to ‘annoy,’ ‘offend,’ ‘harass’ or ‘terrify,’ as well as certain sexual speech. Because the bill is not limited to one-to-one communications, H.B. 2549 would apply to the Internet as a whole, thus criminalizing all manner of writing, cartoons, and other protected material the state finds offensive or annoying.”

…you don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.
NPR’s Ira Flatow interviewing famed climate scientist Michael Mann on how climate scientists need to buck-up and engage in promoting and defending science. (via climateadaptation)

This report investigates how email and the Internet are affecting office procedures in Congress. The findings are based on a survey of congressional staff which was conducted between October 12 and December 13, 2010. The survey had 260 respondents. CMF researchers also collected mail volume data from ten House and Senate offices.

Key Findings

  1. Mail volume in congressional offices continues to increase exponentially. Senate offices reported a 548 percent increase in mail volume since 2002 (including one office that reported a 1,422 percent increase from 2002 to 2009); House offices reported a 158 percent increase. All offices reported a significant spike in volume in 2009 when Congress considered many high-profile issues.
  2. Congressional offices are using email to reply to constituent email. An increasing number of congressional offices are answering incoming email with an email in response, rising from 37 percent in 2005 to 86 percent in 2010.
  3. Constituent communications are consuming more time from congressional offices. A majority of staff report they spend more time on constituent communications than two years ago (58 percent); and 46 percent report shifting resources to manage increased volume.
  4. Constituent mail is taking a significant amount of time to respond to whether or not there is a prepared text available. A sizable percentage of staff (42 percent) report it requires more than three weeks for the office to draft and approve a response to a constituent raising an issue that previously has not be raised, and 41 percent report it requires more than a week to respond to a constituent email even if a prepared text response has been drafted and approved.
  5. When it comes to answering constituent mail, the biggest problem still remains controversial between staff and managers. While senior managers and staff primarily responsible for answering the mail agree on the top three challenges to quickly responding to constituent communications, they do not agree on the most significant problem. Senior managers state that the mail volume is the biggest challenge (35 percent); but, “mail staffers” report that “the review and approval process” is the biggest obstacle (41 percent).


The White House invites you to participate in a live chat about improving government websites today at 4pm EDT.

There are currently more than 2,000 federal government websites. While many of these provide valuable services and information, the volume of government websites can make make it difficult to find authoritative, official information.

In an effort to reduce wasteful spending, government agencies have restricted the creation of new .gov websites and set a goal to reduce number of existing sites by half over the next year. The government will eliminate sites that are no longer needed.

As a first step to understanding what’s working and what isn’t, the White House wants to get your feedback on the existing government websites.

Here’s how you can participate: