Playing With Widgets and Data

Here at Advomatic, we’re getting pretty good at the whole widget thing. The data thing has been our forte for a while, but now there’s the widgets that we keep nailing, and of course we’re still pretty good at the whole the speaking truth to power thing. Let’s discuss:

The non-partisan Drum Major Institute for Public Policy (DMI) issues annual reports analyzing the impact of domestic legislation on America‚Äôs middle class. Literally grading Members of Congress based on whether their votes are for or against “legislation significant to America’s current and aspiring middle class.”

I tend to think that sites like TheMiddleClass.org and MAPLight and other open government websites are incredibly important for the future health of our Republic.

Consider how conservative politicians who serve only the interests of the rich and “act in opposition to the interests and opinions of nine-tenths of their constituents,” have always needed to be called to task – in 1798, the afore-quoted epoch, the job was done by liberal newspapers and liberal Congressmen. Today, this vital function is done online, and now, it’s being done in real-time with TheMiddleClass.org. And it’s being done by average citizens.

This rolling report card works on behalf of us, the other nine-tenths. TheMiddleClass.org clearly shows what Congress is voting on as they are voting on it. And it provides the kind of ‘speaking truth to power’ analysis that DMI is known for. DMI is a name, by the way, coined by Martin Luther King Jr.

If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum major for righteousness.

Advomatic’s opensource ideology is predicated on a few things, but most germane to this site is the opensource dictum that information is free. Like our work with MAPLight.org, DMI’s score card works by importing legislation and legislator information via the GovTrack API, which regularly scrapes data from public site Thomas.loc.gov.

Collecting the data is only half the battle; making sense of it, making it useful, and slipping it inside an excellent design in order to present the scorecard data in a myriad of ways is the big task. We made it so users can view how Congress performed on an individual bill, investigate the performance of the individual legislators in their state, and view the current scores and grade history of any individual legislator — all presented clearly with dynamic infographics built upon the GD Graphics Library.

It’s very nice now that users can dig a little into, for example, delusional political cults of personality and point out to his fanboys that Paul’s embarrassingly regressive and archaic voting record doesn’t reflect any high-minded non-participation with governmental excess/small-government principles, but instead, when objectively seen alongside how many large conservative government bills he HAS voted for, their much-heralded “maverick” crumbles into an unhinged hyper-conservative free-marketeer.

As a parting shot: Paul is the only candidate who stays true to the Constitution, you know, the Real Constitution, the one with provisions for Shrimp Advertising Campaigns.