31 Mar 2008


A new website was released today by my heroes at the Sunlight Foundation that implements the first step of an open source politics dream I've had for several years, an online legislation app that lets the public comment on and help define public policy. My idea was to put the tax code online and let people humanize, tag and comment on it - open it up via public scrutiny, but this is pretty cool too and will hopefully someday lead to something like the tax code thing.
They call it PublicMarkup.org and they are testing it out by putting a bill that they would like to pass up for public comment, called the "Transparency in Government Act of 2008". They would like this to be a model for all new legislation.

Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

I personally think this should be a model for all of our public law. I think the entire US code should be put online so every American can help look for, translate and point out the loopholes and special privileges built into so much of our law. This website is the first step toward that - asking for public input in an easy to use web app for new laws is fantastic, but the next step is what really excites me - exposing the flaws in our current laws that only get passed because the arcane nature of the process makes our view into such corruptions so opaque that it can be gotten away with. ("gotten away with?" is that a phrase?)
I've been thinking about this for a long time now - I even started writing such an application and sending the screenshots around to see if anyone was interested in the idea some time ago, but it hasn't gone anywhere. Take a look at how similar this app I did in October of 2006 looks compared to the new PublicMarkup.org:
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

Actually, in an odd coincidence, I sent that screenshot to Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry a year and a half ago, who both consult for Sunlight, though I highly doubt it eventually had anything to do with this site.
So, I wasn't involved, but at least it's getting done. I think this is a big step for open source politics and it really shows that good things are coming. It further proves how useful and important the Sunlight Foundation is and I hope to see even more wonderful work from them in the future. Congratulations, everyone at Sunlight!
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