What’s new in version 1.7

You may have updated CapitolBuddy to the latest version on Friday. If so, getting news on legislators at the capitol just got easier — I’m happy to introduce Public Notes.

Public Notes

Think of it as a place to share your good news and bad news on legislators, hearings, and anything going on at the capitol. News stories are always a good thing to share, maybe news on an upcoming vote, maybe congratulate a legislator on an award by letting everyone on CapitolBuddy know. The options are open for how you use CapitolBuddy.

Reorganized Menu

The old menu didn’t really put the emphasis on the right features. I saw users struggling to create teams, usually they didn’t even know it was a thing. Now it’s right in the main menu and the screen includes some instructions to get you going. The whole thing could probably use a tutorial still, but we’ll get there, when necessary.

District Lookup

Thanks to the Sunlight Foundation API and Google Maps API, it’s very easy to look up the state legislators for an address. So District look-up has also been added to the main menu — that’s a feature people are often looking for.

NEW District Maps

No more PDF maps on your iPhone. The new map section is a legitimate apple map, with overlays of each district. You can search to find a specific one and tap the pin callouts to be taken to a legislator’s profile. The very first time it loads, the maps will take a while because the app has to download the boundaries for every district. But after that first load, you’ll have quick and easy access to interactive district maps.

 

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May 8th RI Capitol Notes

For my second observation day at the Capitol this week, I tried to talk to a few more people about the app and their work. But mostly I just watched people.

I think one of the most interesting things to note is which groups were there. Today’s focus seemed to be a children and developmental disabilities. I saw two press conferences, but there may have been more. One was on developmental disabilities funding. They had a press conference just outside the entrance to the building with several legislators and candidates present, including Sen. DiPalma (D-12) and Rep. Hull (D-6) (Yes, I did use CapitolBuddy to store notes on those two — I even made them public, so everyone can see).

I believe the other press event had to do with Home Care services. And some children’s groups like RIght Now for Kids had booths set up.

The most exciting piece of news is that CapitolBuddy will be getting a place in the State House Library’s info stand. Ask and ye shall receive.

I did watch the lobbyists mingle outside the door after the gavel rang to start the floor meetings, as I has planned. It’s not much to gaze upon — but it would be a good time to tap a shoulder and do a user interaction survey. So that’s my goal for next week, get some feedback and watch people interact with the app.

Home care press conference

Home care press conference

5/8 at the Capitol

5/8 at the Capitol

A vision for working around legislatures

When I worked around a state legislature…

I spent some time at Missouri’s state capitol as part of my work with Renew Missouri, but more often I heard about the struggles from my colleagues, who at peak times, might have to make the trek to Jefferson City 4 out of 5 business days. And when I went myself, there was always a maelstrom of making appearances in offices, handing out info, calling to get meetings, etc. One colleague had a book of all the officials and would actually take notes in there messily in the margins as we made the rounds. Then there’s my boss who usually just scribbled on whatever piece of scrap paper he had lying closest to him, and sometimes that note made it into Evernote later  — if I could get my hands on it.

It seemed like there was a better way and that perhaps other people and organizations had similar issues with keeping organized and on top of everything at the capitol and with the legislature in general. In fact when I first started at Renew Missouri as an intern in 2010 — one of my first fun projects was asking if my brother could make an app that had all the legislators’ info in it. Well I talked with my brother about it and long story short, we both let that project drop until 2012 when I decided to learn to code and just do it myself. So now I have CapitolBuddy — everyone’s friend at the legislature.

And I think CapitolBuddy could be the solution to a lot of the small but inconvenient struggles of capitol life. I think it could be a hub of communication and a great learning resource for those just getting their feet wet working in the legislature. You’ll still need to know the right people and still need to do the hard work, but in a centralized way. Keep your notes with your legislator ratings and scorecards. Make a count of the votes for an upcoming bill with their past voting history available for comparison. Get important notes on a bill or legislator out to everyone in your coalition, where they can make comments and give feedback. CapitolBuddy can be the place where you do all of those things. [Note: not all of those features are available currently, but they’re in my vision.]

Check the video:

 

Web App in Development

I’ve created a functional prototype of the web app. I don’t feel like it’s quite ready to share for real and open it up for the public, but there are some screenshots below.

Upon stating what it is that I’m trying to do with CapitolBuddy in last week’s post, I gained some real focus and determination in progressing to the next step of making a more complete capitol advocacy tool.

I mentioned that I wanted this to be a place where users could share notes with constituents too. The way I see that happening is by creating a new role of user that will just have access to read the notes that others have shared with them. For instance, if some related non-profits are splitting the cost of a lobbyist: They can all get logins to go view the lobbyists’ shared notes — for individual legislators, or just all the recent ones, or just all the ones related to a certain bill. And those notes would have comment sections where the non-profit users can give their input/feedback.

The Vote Count feature is the biggest challenge for the online version. In the iPhone app it’s easier to incorporate because of the built in tags to count each category and the swipe recognizers. For the web version, I may take a drag and drop approach to organizing the votes.

Take a look at the screenshots and tell me your thoughts on the whole idea.

What’s new in CapitolBuddy 1.5

Last week, I released an update for CapitolBuddy that adds some key features. The “News” section is the most obvious addition. But there’s also an updated interface for notes. And Vote Count is a little more sophisticated. See more about each of the big changes below.

News

photo 1

Unread news in in blue

photo 2

Click the folder icon at the bottom to save a news link

Read something interesting about a legislator? Go find it in the news section and attach the link to their notes. There are some automatic feeds when you first open the News section, but it is totally customizable if you click on “Edit” in the right, upper corner. Add your favorite political news sites (even if it’s not an RSS feed). Or just search google news for a particular story to add to legislators’ notes.

When you read a story, it becomes greyed out — your unread stories have the “NEW!” label on them.

When you’re ready to attach a link to a note, click the folder-looking icon on the bottom of the news story. Then scroll/search through all the lawmakers to find your destination. Tap their name and choose whether or not to save your link with those notes. See the screenshots from Missouri’s legislators to the left.

Updated Notes

Links, dates, and addresses are clickable in Notes

Links, dates, and addresses are clickable in Notes

Since we’re attaching links to the notes, it’s only right that notes are clickable. Now they are! Links, emails, phone numbers, dates, and addresses are all clickable in the notes view. See the screenshot of Sen. Keaveny’s (MO-4) notes on the left.

Because clicking on the notes might mean you’re trying to click a link, to edit anything, first touch the pencil icon in the corner. Fun, right?

Vote Counting adds some short cuts

New ratings options for organizing vote counts

New ratings options for organizing vote counts

Quickly organize your vote counts by the rating you’ve given someone. And of course if you want to give someone a rating quickly, touch the (i) logo by any legislator to quickly get to their profile, notes, and ratings. See the new vote organizing options on the left.

CapitolBuddy puts legislators in your hand [video]

If you work at a state capitol in any capacity, you likely need to know the lawmakers around you, and you also need to take well organized notes on those lawmakers. CapitolBuddy gives you the info you need to succeed. Take a look at Rhode Island’s info for free by downloading the app on your iPhone or iPad to test it out — and even luckier for you if you live in Rhode Island. Missouri, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Ohio are also available for only $24.99 each.

Remember you’re not just getting the info with CapitolBuddy. You’re getting tools like vote counting, note organizing, and a new feature that quickly lets you attach news links right in the app. Stay tuned for more on that soon.

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, the new website, or the subscribe box on the right side of this screen.

(Video made with Prezi and iMovie.)

Pennsylvania is for sale

The roll out of new states continues for CapitolBuddy. We’re working to help our state capitol people become more efficient one state at a time. Pennsylvania, you’re up! This new product includes the normal info for each legislator, same note taking, and same vote counting — still only $24.99.

Here's a sample screenshot for a PA Senator.

Here’s a sample screenshot for a PA Senator.

Here’s a list of the info included for Pennsylvania:

  • Photo
  • Name
  • Party
  • District
  • Phone
  • Email (sometimes a web form)
  • Office (capitol room number)
  • Staff (only for the House)
  • Hometown
  • Committees
  • Short Biography