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The First Iterative Update to Congress.gov

The three weeks since we introduced Congress.gov have flown by.  In my initial post on the new system, I mentioned that we will continue to enhance Congress.gov.  The first set of enhancements has gone live.  Jeanine has updated the About Congress.gov page to include:

October 2012

Status of Amendment Facet

Minor updates were made to the system that included:

  • a new citation normalizing filter that recognizes variants of citations for bill number searching (e.g., H.R.1, HR1, H.R. 1, HR 1);
  • the addition of a “status of amendment” facet to the amendment tabs on legislative and amendment detail pages; and
  • inclusion of glossary term links in the transcripts for all legislative process videos.

In a post on the Library of Congress blog, Gayle mentioned one of the items that we updated based on user feedback:

  • Appropriations legislation now links back to the separate appropriations listing on the THOMAS.gov site. Several comments pointed out the THOMAS site maintains detailed history for current and prior years that is useful.

These are the changes most users can see.  There is a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes to make changes that most people will never notice.  What you will experience are the results of these changes, such as increased speed, more reliability in the system, and better search results.

Our interviews with the people behind Congress.gov provide insight into the roles people play on our team and the wide variety of skill sets they have.  So far we have interviewed Meg (Information Architect), Rich (Information Technology Specialist), and Barry (Web DevAdmin).  Stay tuned for more interviews in the coming weeks.

I’ve been reading everything I can find that people have written about Congress.gov.  The Library of Congress Blog and  Teaching with the Library of Congress were quick to let people know about the new system.  AALL’s Washington Blawg asked “What do you think of Congress.gov?”  I just received their initial feedback.  I’ve also read things on Speaker Boehner’s blogMashable (with an overview video), Slaw, O’Reilly Radar, Information Today, iPhone J.D., the Washington Post, Sunlight Foundation, TECHPRESIDENT, ABA Journal, Federal Computer Week, the New York Times, The Hill, and many other sites.

You can also provide us with feedback directly on Congress.gov. We put a link to the feedback form in multiple places on each page because we really do want to hear from you. This is still a beta site and we are trying to refine it, as shown by this first set of enhancements.

2 Comments

  1. Patrick McGarey
    October 18, 2012 at 5:35 am

    I am a near-daily Congress.gov user, and while I am open to change, you have lost some of the great functionality when you launched your beta version.

    For example, you have dropped, or I cannot find an advanced legislative search function.

    I have also found it impossible to access the House and Senate report that accompany bills. The “Overview” and the “Major Actions” lists the report number, but the number is not live, so you cannot access the report. If you copy and insert the report number into the search function, the result is a public law that carries the same number as the number of the report.

    Of course, I can use Google as a work-around for these flaws, but think that the American public deserves to access these features through the Congress.gov search engine.

    If you restore access to the House and Senate reports, please be sure to do so in PDF (as well as other formats). If I am sharing legislative information from your site with others by my e-mail, PDF is the format of choice. For example, you can import a PDF into the iBooks feature of an Apple device, which is the easiest way to store and access such documents on iPad and iPhone.

    Thanks for considering these suggestions.

  2. Andrew Weber
    October 19, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Thanks for the comment, Patrick. We are planning on adding to the functionality of Congress.gov. Congressional reports are on the list of items. Once they are included the report numbers you mentioned will link to the reports. In addition to posting on In Custodia Legis, the About Congress.gov page has a timeline that gets updated.

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