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Introducing Congress.gov!

Today’s post is one that I have been very excited to write for some time now.  My favorite posts involve talking about tweaking, tweeting, revamping, or updating THOMAS.gov.  Today marks the launch of the biggest project that I have been a part of in my professional career.  Today is the launch of Congress.gov, a new resource for United States legislative information.

Congress.gov is the foundation for all of the big changes we dreamed of making to THOMAS but couldn’t because of the older, fragile infrastructure.  You can now search across all of the content in the system (as of the launch, this includes bill text, summary and status, and Member profiles), refine your results, quickly see the status of a bill on a timeline, and view the new Member pages with legislation sponsored and cosponsored.  It is also designed to dynamically fit the size screen you are using, which is very helpful if you are like me and will look at Congress.gov on a monitor, tablet, and phone.

I want to give a special thank you to Tammie who has served as the project manager over the last year.  It wouldn’t have been possible to get this much done in this short period of time without her continuously pushing us forward.  I’m hoping to interview several of the other great people who helped make this dream project a reality over the next few months as well as provide posts about using the new system.

This project will be ongoing; we will be incorporating additional content to Congress.gov (with the Congressional Record up next) in batches over the next year.  Today also marks the first public announcement of the eventual end of THOMAS.  It isn’t going away today or tomorrow, but sometime in the next year.  It won’t fade away to Monticello until we have migrated content from it to Congress.gov and officially retire the beta.

We will continue to use @THOMASdotgov to tweet about legislation and what is happening in Congress but will shift the focus to Congress.gov.  Eventually the Twitter account might get a new name too.  If you would like to tell us what you think about the new site, please send a tweet our way, using the hashtag #Congressdotgov.

Stay tuned.  Today’s launch is only the beginning as we continue to work on enhancing Congress.gov and informing democracy.

9 Comments

  1. Daniel Schuman
    September 19, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    The Congress.gov beta website is very impressive, and the entire team that’s worked on it for these many months should be commended for their hard work. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I think that the public should be move involved in identifying specs for Congress.gov, and that there should be bulk access to the underlying legislative information, but I hope you get a chance to enjoy your accomplishment before getting back to work.

  2. Tom M.
    September 20, 2012 at 9:01 am

    Beta.congress.gov looks nice, and it’s great to see you giving the legislative information system an overhaul.

    I have a request, though: please, please, please include on congress.gov a central page (like THOMAS has) specifically for past and present appropriations legislation. (For THOMAS, it’s at http://thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/app13.html

    Thanks!

  3. Sr. Maria Gemma
    September 20, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Congratulations on the unveiling of Congress.gov!

    I have been tracking a bill through Thomas for several months, and stumbled upon the unveiling through your Twitter Feed. Very nicely done! I like the layout, and I daresay it is easier to search and use than Thomas (although I’m a bit wistful about Thomas fading away… I feel as though I finally figured out how to navigate the site!).

    The legislation section of the website is excellent I like how the pages for specific bills is laid out. It is very easy to access and locate information for the general public.

    I look forward to exploring more features of the site in the future! Many thanks and kudos to all involved.

  4. Mary Woytowich
    September 20, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Hi, excited about the new site but it seems your ‘subscribe’ is not working for the RSS feed.

    Thanks for keeping us informed!
    Best,
    Mary

  5. r_bowley
    September 24, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Please remove the “Rep.” and “Sen.” titles before member names. Makes it impossible to, for example, hit the “N” key to go to members with last names starting with “N.”

    Also, I do not like the structure for searching past Congresses. The focus on the current Congress makes sense, but it is done in a way that makes research into older legislation more difficult.

  6. Dan
    September 25, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Wonderful job! I like the responsive design. It looks like the search engine Apache Solr? Are you going to open source any of this project, like the search engine front end, etc.

  7. r_bowley
    September 26, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    Here is a perfect example of why this new site still has a lot of growing pains. I was looking up a bill tonight for work…I didn’t know the number, but I knew the sponsor, so I hunted through the list to find the Senator (I can’t just hit the first letter of their last name anymore because they all have “Sen.” or “Rep.” in front of them for some reason). Finally found them and the site brought up every bill they ever sponsored and cosponsored…for every single Congress. I had to select 112th, and then select “sponsored.” Despite the fact that I had it set to sort from “newest to oldest,” stuff from much earlier in this Congress, including amendments, showed up in basically a random arrangement. I then selected “bills”…while the other stuff dropped out, it still was not in the order I had requested. Finally I had to go and select the topic the legislation was under. There were like 11 pieces of legislation listed, and even though this bill was just introduced last week, it was the 3rd or 4th one on the list. That same search under LIS or Thomas would have taken only a few clicks.

    The new site makes it easier to find “everything,” but harder to find a specific piece of legislation. Return the default search back to the current Congress. Strip “Sen.” and “Rep.” from the lists of member names so we can go back to hitting letters to jump to a letter group. Also, you should have a “master search” page similar to the “Search Bill Summary & Status” page in Thomas. This was a great feature.

  8. Mandi
    September 27, 2012 at 9:31 am

    This new website is great. As a law student conducting a large amount of research, this updated system will be very helpful. I am sharing the exciting news with my fellow law students here! http://ncjolt.org/library-of-congress-introduces-new-search-engine/.

  9. Andrew Weber
    October 3, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    Thanks for all the feedback! In preparation for the new site we reviewed thousands of comments from THOMAS users and conducted interviews with a variety of our users. Congress.gov will continue to evolve over the next year as we strive to remove the beta label.

    @Tom, we have updated the Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2013 link in “Bill Searches & Lists”
    on Congress.gov to go to http://thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/app13.html

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