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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Applying to BetaSpring

BetaSpringI’m in the middle of applying to the most important opportunity that I’ve ever had with CapitolBuddy. BetaSpring is a start-up accelerator here in Providence that I’m hoping will give me some mentorship and resources to help the evolution of CapitolBuddy. They also provide some funding and a space to work.

I see what is currently just an iOS app of some states’ legislators transforming into the tool (perhaps the platform) where all capitol workers, from the non-profit advocates to the legislative assistants, can accomplish their work more effectively. Not only will they know everyone in the building better, but they’ll be able to collaborate more, take better notes, and then share those notes with clients and constituents just as easily as you share a Facebook post now.

Speaking of Facebook… please go “like” my application for BetaSpring and make me look impressive.

CapitolBuddy started because I was working at a non-profit advocacy group in Missouri where we spent much of our time talking to legislators at the capitol. Our main goal was usually stopping anything bad from happening to the state’s best renewable energy laws. Through all our efforts we always wanted a better way to take notes, share info amongst each other, and simply get the basic info like where a legislator’s office was and who their assistant was.

Eventually those struggles led to my creating the first version of CapitolBuddy. And my heart is still with those small and medium-sized non-profits that need to do work at state capitols to advance their causes.

“I want to help the local Sierra Club’s and the Environment America’s and labor unions and teacher associations.┬áBut even more ┬áthan them, I want to help the small non-profits I haven’t heard of yet.”

At the moment, I can offer these groups a sweet iPhone/iPad app with a lot of great info and functions. But eventually it will be much more. I plan to extend the service to a desktop web app, accessible from the capitolbuddy.com (as you can see, this option is not there yet). Users will be able to sign up and add colleagues to their team so they can easily share info. And taking it a step further, clients and constituents will be able to access updates from the users that allow it via private access codes. I’d like to even offer live video feeds from the sessions, if I can get the states on board.

It’s all very exciting, and there are so many things to do. But right now, I truly want to focus on the basics of what these advocates need to succeed in their work.