Thursday, May 07, 2009

NY Senate Website Gets An Upgrade

There's more than enough criticism to go around for the New York State Senate but when they do good, it needs to be reported. Of course when you hire several web and blog-savvy progressives to revamp the Senate website, great things are going to happen. After a few weeks of prepping and planning, the new site is ready to go, and it gives the public more access to their legislators than ever before.

From the State Senate:

The New York State Senate took a very big step forward today by bringing New Yorkers into the legislative process in a way that has never been done before, by going live on the internet with a new website that infuses public participation with new technological capabilities.

"We are working to clean up the mess of the last 12 years and return government to the people of this state, and one of the best ways to achieve that goal is to capitalize on the use of new technology and the ways in which people communicate in the 21st Century," explained Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith.

Under the direction of new Senate Chief Technology Officer, Andrew Hoppin, the Senate has been undertaking a number of exciting new initiatives that will open up the Senate to the public, clean up the mess of costly outside vendors controlling content, and provide an unprecedented level of ease for the public to access legislative information. will host more than 90 unique websites serving all 62 members of the Senate and many committees, utilizing new technology for crowd sourcing, blogging, and linking into social networking sites.

"The previous Senate website was difficult to navigate and didn't provide much to visitors. By comparison, this site was built solely around encouraging public participation in the legislative process. We want to hear what New Yorkers think," added Smith.

The new website, built entirely on open-source software, helps Senators and Committees to more easily share their work with New Yorkers through blogging, the posting of news article, photos, videos, event calendars and public schedules.

The website also makes this information easy to access by providing powerful content search capabilities, RSS feeds, email and SMS text message news signups for all Senators and Committees, and one-click republishing of content from the Senate website to a range of social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The new website also provides a new platform for public participation in government, featuring public commenting on Senate blog posts, "public markup" on proposed legislation, and "crowdsourcing" of citizen ideas about critical pending legislative issues.

The Open Data section of the website is dedicated specifically to publishing data about the work of the Senate in a form that citizens and good government groups can use to exercise oversight over the Senate and other government entities of New York State.

The new website also gives citizens an in-depth look at critical issues that the Senate is dealing with; for example, the Federal Stimulus site gives citizens comprehensive information about how Federal Stimulus Funds are being used in New York State; the MTASolutions site and Plain Language Initiative helps break down the arcane budget of the MTA into a more intuitive form with visuals and analyses.

"This is the future and with Andrew Hoppin on board, the New York State Senate is going to lead legislative bodies across the country in the use of new technology. Part of the reason the Obama Administration has been so successful is because they have helped open the door to the public, and we want to bring people into this process," Smith concluded.

The change in the site is an incredible thing to see. Opening up and simplifying the business of the Senate is an important door that these bloggers have created. Now we as the public must go up and open it, so we can see what the Senate is up to, and either push them when they're going in the right direction or fight back when the opposite is the case.

Again, great job guys!