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Google "congressional committees project," or "adopt a committee," and you get us.  The very first hit is a project that we started about one week ago.  The participation level we've already reached is astounding, and points to incredible potential for the project we've begun.  

If you've missed what has been happening, or if you're looking for an overview and update of the Congressional Committees Project, you're in the right place.  I'm going to lay out what happened this week, what we've accomplished already, what we're working on for now, and where we're going, and what we need from you.

This project can become participatory democracy at its finest, but only with participation, so check out what we are, and where we're going!  There's a place for everyone...

Last Saturday, November 11th, I wrote a diary entitled "What we won, or dkos sends out it eyes."  In that diary I laid out my plan, what was then just an idea, that we should be capable, as a community of informed, interested citizens (around the world) to be able to do a better job than our media.  I proposed that we should each find a congressiona committee that we're interested in, and commit ourselves to following that committees'actions, acting as agents of the community as whole.  

By watching as individuals rather than as a community, we can acheive a much greater level of legislative awareness.  As it looks now, this awareness is going to probably go far beyond a simple watchful eye being assigned to each committee in the Senate and House.  It has the potential to become participatory.  The force of hundreds of devoted watchful eyes, becoming constantly more capable and knowledgable, can certainly exert some pressure on our congressional committees, and affect their actions, right?  Especially if we make our presence known, and become organized, knowldegable, and share our resources.  We're a huge community, and since there are experts in our midst who know everything about any topic you could possibly bring up, a little specialization and organization could really step up our impact, right?  Don't you think?

Apparently you do.  My initial diary, after an initial lukewarm reaction, promptly shot up the recommended list, and garnered support from a huge portion of our community.  I quickly began work on our wiki,a project whose undertaking I really didn't understand.  My goal was to make a chart that would have each committee on the left and the person volunteering for it on the right.  I phoned a friend at Carnegie Mellon who understands this type of thing, and he explained some very basic chart-building html to me.  

What happened next is really a testament to the amazing power of this community.  As I got to the third and fourth sections of my (ugly, rather inept) chart, I realized that it was changing behind me.  DailyKos users with an understanding of wiki page creation had started to clean up what I was doing, following behind me, fixing my chart as I went.  This was just the beginning.

As I have said elsewhere, everything I've done regarding this project has seen my hands quickly multiplied by fifty.  I (nervously, with feigned confidence) act; I jump, pretending to know what I'm doing, while acknowledging that I don't, and hope that some understanding activist hands will reach out and guide me.  

Do you ever!  The redesigned html in the wiki's chart was only the very beginning.  We now have a detailed, rather professional-looking wiki page complete with an area to organize every single committee and sub-committee of congress!  We decided that a wiki page for every single committee and subcommittee would allow for a place for volunteers to organize, share resources, and create a home base for watching their claimed committee.

After about a week, we have over 4,200 hits on the wiki.  As I said above, we are now the #1 hit on google for "congressional committees project."  Over half of the committees have at least one person signed up for them, and many already have their own wiki pages with piles of information, committee schedules, and members lists.

We are now beginning to address some of the challenges that we're going to face in moving forward.  I'd like for us to create solid relationships with individual staff members on each committee, so that we can garner as much support and cooperation from our government as possible.  Access to committee transcripts and recordings will be invaluable, so we've got a draft started in the wiki for a request to Senator Reid and Congresswoman Pelosi asking for help in gaining access to that information.  Mp3s, videos, and written transcipts of committee hearings and markup sessions will go a huge way toward making our monitoring project a big success.

Getting staff members inside each committee to be aware and cooperative with our project will also go a huge way toward helping the project.  As we decide to start contacting people, we need to be sure that we're not harrasing them, so the organization of our project is extremely important.  To be recognized as a qualified citizen's media group, we have to have professional capabilites when it comes to our own organization.

Our goal throughout this project has been to keep it as decentralized as possible.  We'd like this to continue to be  a project that has grown out of the community and proceeds therefrom: heavyhanded moderation could quash your creativity or willingness to be involved.  To that end, we're committed to keeping this project transparent, with the organizers being available to everyone.

We have created a yahoogroup (basically a group email service) where we have been discussing organizational issues and ideas.  We may split this group into two: one for organization, and one for those monitoring committees, but for now the email volume is low enough that one list still makes sense.

I am deeply grateful to everyone who has expressed interest in helping with this project already, and especially thankful to have found Annan, SimonF, and Abou Ben Adhem, who have already committed a pile of time and creativity to our project.  I'm also indebted already to Markos, whose amazing webpage and dkosopedia have created this opportunity for all of us.

As far as where we're going, that's up to all of you, as a community.  We have a lot to do, and first on that list is keeping our community involved and inspired.  We have a lot of room for contributors, so if you're interested in helping with a committee, or interested in helping in an organizational capacity, let us know!  Go to the wiki if you're interested in signing up, and edit yourself into the page.  If you'd like to help organizationally, go sign up on the yahoogroups page.

We'd appreciate any suggestions that you all may have.  

Finally, I'd like to restate those things that I think are important for us to develop soon, so you all know where we stand, and the direction in which we're all aimed.  

-We need a better understanding of what will entail to monitor a committee.  We're reading up on how committees work, and have ammased a huge pile of links to governmental resources regarding committees.

-We should work on our relationsips with staffers on each committee.  I feel that this is extremely important, and I think we should only take this step when we feel organized, and when we're confident about what we're asking for.

-We will continue to improve our accessibility for new members.  We're working now on an FAQ section for the wiki, and there are now several explanations to help you edit the wiki page as you desire.

-The wiki is the central organizational feature of our project, and helping everyone to understand editing the wiki has been quite an undertaking.  There are now links on the wiki to help you learn how to edit it, and the discussion page is also a great asset for inquiries of this sort.  The committee-specific wiki pages will become the real staging grounds for all of our efforts, and I'm really excited to see so many of those under construction.  Excellent work!

Thanks to all of you who have helped get this project off the ground!  We're really moving, and I'd like to keep our momentum as we move to the next stage in organizing ourselves.  I'd appreciate any comments you may have, and will be hanging around the comments section for a little while to answer questions.

Originally posted to greenreflex on Sat Nov 18, 2006 at 11:23 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

    •  MySpace Idea? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CSI Bentonville

      You said you are using yahoo to email back and forth... but as a suggestion something like MySpace might work better.  You can create a "group" for each committee, utilize their message boards, have a "group" leader post bulletins and update the "group" page.  You can also make it a non-open group (meaning the leader has to invite people) and non-public (so people cant randomly view it).  Or make it public so people CAN view it.  Whatever.  Having a "group" leader would also keep the committee itself organized/centralized (to prevent harassment, as you stated) but will be independent from the network of committees as a whole.  If someone is concerned about privacy they can create a dummy account with fake information and just use it to log on and communicate with your committee group.

      •  Interesting idea. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CSI Bentonville

        There has been discussion of having blogs for each committee, but no one has suggested myspace so far.

        The people in charge of each spefic committee are welcome to create whatever sites or gathering places they choose, but the wiki page probably has several advantages over starting other things, at least at first:  it is accesible to users on this page, and is run by someone who is probably in favor of our goals.

        The wiki page is also easy to edit, and easy to sign up for.  If people want to create other gathering spaces for themselves, I'm all for it!

  •  Amazing work, just amazing (4+ / 0-)

    People powered politics - yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Thanks for all your work, you are an inspiration.

    Please, please recommend this diary - a real action diary in making our goverment accountable to the people.

  •  Recommending you, this diary, and all the effort (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sobermom, ctsteve, greenreflex

    everyone has put in so far.  I can't wait to see where it all goes, I am optimistic.  I've visited the wiki, and it looks great.I've played with the Pelosi and left comments.  I'll do what I can.  To that end, people should read this diary.
    It is so to the point of what is the point of this community.  Are we activist bloggers, or are we just playing reality based community on these tubes?  

    "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." Albert Einstein

    by dkmich on Sat Nov 18, 2006 at 11:43:05 AM PST

    •  thanks for the link (4+ / 0-)

      that diary has some great commentary.  I've said this elsewhere before, but it bears repeating.  

      I don't trust democrats, just because they're democrats.  If you're a democrat, that means we probably share a lot of viewpoints and opinions, but that doesn't mean that I trust you.  A little involvement and a lot of oversight are exactly what our legislators need!  

      By seeing bills while they're still in committee, we'll be able to exert pressure before the media narratives are written, because we'll be part of that narrative, and even part of its subject.

  •  something else that I didn't include (3+ / 0-)

    I have been thinking a lot about the potential uses for the internet.  We've got huge amounts of specialized intelligence, and huge numbers of people just looking for something to do.  

    We vote on cnn polls, and idly chat about the goings on of the world, relaxing in each other's company, waiting for those things that may divide us so that we can weigh in and differentiate ourselves.

    There are probably so many ways to use the internet that we haven't discovered yet.  For example, we have tons of people in the US trying to learn foreign languages, and people from around the world learning english.  Doesn't it make sense to connect those two groups?  I wish I could do it!

    So many eyeballs, so much intelligence, waiting for direction!

  •  I think that I'd like to (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greenreflex, CSI Bentonville

    remove myself from the subcommittee I am on, and just be a sort of roving stats geek.  This will be especially necessary if my job interview on Monday goes well, as I will then be full-time employed, rather than 80%, as now.

    But please do ask me stat questions about this!

    What are you reading? on Friday mornings

    by plf515 on Sat Nov 18, 2006 at 01:03:16 PM PST

  •  we do seem out there: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greenreflex, CSI Bentonville

    Google "congressional committees project," or "adopt a committee," and you get us.  The very first hit is a project that we started about one week ago

    I noticed in googling $250,000 robocalls to see if there was any coverage yet that you get my diary on it first of about 90,000 mentions in blogistan... I am a total clueless person, I don't know why mine was the same thing in news, though, you get a mere 5 news stories, which is terrible.

    I wish the MSM would cover real stories like voter suppression techniques more, as we do here. Because I don't think a high percentage of voters read online...

  •  Start drafting bills and laws (0+ / 0-)

    Let's participate by drafting, vetting, refining and submitting legislation to change government to our representatives.

    This is what an open source think tank can do ...

    Reality has a well-known liberal bias.

    by m00nchild on Sat Nov 18, 2006 at 03:19:31 PM PST

  •  Freaking amazing (0+ / 0-)

    Thanks for not being a slacker like me. This is how it is done.

    We will fight. We will win. This machine kills fascists.

    by Elvis meets Nixon on Sat Nov 18, 2006 at 04:30:09 PM PST

  •  Thanks for mentioning (3+ / 0-)

    this in WYFP tonight or I would have missed it.  I'm grateful for all of the assistance that I've received so far.  At times the project feels overwhelming but then I remind myself I just have to deal with one link at a time and that there is a net in place for those of us who aren't geeks.  I've already learned a ton of things in the first week and I'm nowhere near set up yet.  Thanks for kicking off the idea.  I always felt bummed about not being a rescue ranger or election diary rescuer or top comment collector.  But this came up at just the right time and I'm glad I could join in.

    "For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, and the dream shall never die." Ted Kennedy

    by sobermom on Sat Nov 18, 2006 at 06:06:59 PM PST

  •  Great Diary (0+ / 0-)

    Past the time for Recommending.  But I just want to express my amazement at how this project has grown and developed in such a short time.  I have started putting up information in the two committees I signed up for, and have been so impressed with the all the ongoing background structural work that has been happening all around me.  It is like decorating your room before and while the house is being built.  I haven't posted (on dkos) any update on my committees, yet, so I can't complain about others not letting everyone know what they're up to, but I'm looking forward to hearing the updates and reports.  I appreciate the preset search links that are now up on the front page of the CCP wikipage that allows you to click and search for recent entries with the appropriate keywords.  Lots of good work going on.

    I do hope this project maintains a real grassroots contributory feel to it, and does not get taken over by professional gatekeepers of some sort.  There are plenty of opportunities for professionals to start up their own blogs and webpages to display their expertise.  To me, this CCP should remain a kind of wilderness, growing organically.  

    I'm looking forward to hearing more about what people are learning.

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