360° Coverage : Meet The Civic Hacker Who's Making Congress More Accountable

1 Updates
Meet The Civic Hacker Who's Making Congress More Accountable
Photo Credit: Forbes Business

Meet The Civic Hacker Who's Making Congress More Accountable

Apr 11 2014, 5:32pm CDT | by

“You don’t get many tech people in politics,” says Ted Henderson, a 29-year-old self-confessed ‘nerd through and through’ who’s been programming since kindergarten. The ex-staffer started ‘hacking’...

Filed under: news

 
 
 

28 weeks ago

Meet The Civic Hacker Who's Making Congress More Accountable

Apr 11 2014, 5:32pm CDT | by

“You don’t get many tech people in politics,” says Ted Henderson, a 29-year-old self-confessed ‘nerd through and through’ who’s been programming since kindergarten. The ex-staffer started ‘hacking’ Congress in 2013, reverse-engineering a radio signal which alerts congressmen that it’s time to vote in the House. He built out an app around it, Capitol Bells, which became a popular go-to for congress members and their staffers, giving them a quick and easy snapshot of what bill was being voted on when and where without having to be glued to CSPAN 24/7.

Now he’s gone a step further, creating a platform allowing the public to voice their opinions on bills and see how they compare to their congressman. You can review the bills within the app that Congress are voting on and upvote and downvote them, like on reddit, instantly creating an anonymous, visible record of your position. You can also tap the bill number or title to follow the hashtag on the bill to a conversation about it on Twitter.

Henderson hopes the app will bring voters back into a decision-making process he feels has squeezed them low on the priority list. When congressmen vote they hear from their colleagues, lobbyists (who were probably also at one time colleagues), party leadership and trade and advocacy groups, he says.

“There are a lot of broken incentives,” says Henderson. “The last people who really factor into decision making are the constituents because they’re the farthest away.”

This disconnect between constituents and the politicians that represent them is starkest at election time, says Henderson. “I think that’s one of the hardest things when you go and vote – other than saying this guy’s a Democrat, I’m a Democrat, this guy’s a Republican I’m a Republican, you really have no idea what they’ve been doing for you, unless you remember one big thing or one big scandal.”

“You have no idea what the record was, you have no idea how well he represented you which is the job that he’s been hired for, we’re electing them to be representatives,” says Henderson.

Henderson’s vision is utilizing a data layer which works both ways – allowing people to discuss and question what a bill means to them while at the same time giving congressmen and advocacy groups clear messages on their constituents.

“When we’re talking about voters it’s good to know how many people there are, where they’re from, what it is that engages them – is it death panels that got them riled up? Was it preexisting conditions?” Henderson is building a platform he hopes will give a clear quantitative answer.

“Polls are useful but I also want to have a system of tickers of bills in a way,” says Henderson. “So it’s like, here’s the way this bill is trending across the country. Here are the messages that people are listening to, here’s how candidates are tracking, here’s how members of congress are tracking. This is how well a member of congress is performing, here’s how well the bill is performing.”

Henderson expects adding a ‘data layer to democracy’ will be a means of generating profit. So far it’s just him and a part time programmer who works remotely. The 29 year old raised a seed round of $30,000 and now he says he’s looking for around half a million to scale up operations and hire more programmers.

“That kind of data is whether you’re a campaign or advocacy group is something that could be useful to you and campaigns in the US are a multibillion dollar industry.”

Henderson has a vision for Capitol Bells as the main online political gateway. It would have been particularly useful, he says, after the Sandy Hook shooting when no one knew where to direct their concerns aside from writing letters to their Congressman. “This is where people weigh in on whether people buying guns should get background checks,or figure out who you should be voting for,” says Henderson.

“There’s no standardized data for campaigns in the US. It’s all proprietary tools, proprietary data sets and it’s all kind of lousy,” he laughs. “It’s time for the nerds to come to DC.”

Crucially the enterprise adds accountability. With Capitol Bells a member of Congress would have to “explain what he wants to do first and get approval to do it rather than get approval and explain afterwards,” says Henderson./>/>

 
Update
1

8 weeks ago

Khazanah throws MAS RM6b lifeline

Aug 29 2014 5:01pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 30, 2014 1:15 AMKHAZANAH Nasional will inject RM6 billion (SS$2.4 billion) over three years to resuscitate loss-making Malaysia Airlines (MAS) under a recovery plan that includes even an Act of Parliament. Other key moves are migrating its operations, assets and liabilities to a new company (NewCo) and slashing the workforce of 20,000 by 30 pe ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore
 

 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Fat food items that one should eat
London, Oct 28 (IANS) Whether we're trying to lose weight or just avoid gaining it, many of us think steering clear of dietary fat is the first step. Contrary to common belief that fat is not good for body, one's body requires certain kind of fat for growth, development and glwoing skin.
 
 
New app to help you water your lawn
Washington, Oct 28 (IANS) If you find watering your lawn a bit troublesome, here is an app to make your task easier.
 
 
Strict social hosts help curb underage drinking
New York, Oct 28 (IANS) Teenagers are less likely to drink at parties when they live in communities with particularly strong social host laws, finds a US-based study.
 
 
Windowless plane to take off soon
London, Oct 28 (IANS) Imagine flying in a plane sans windows! Your imagination may soon become a reality with a British company working on such a plane.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Snoring masks don't kill sex life: Study
New York, Oct 28 (IANS) A common therapy to tackle obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) does not become a hindrance between the sheets, says a study, allaying fears of OSA patients who believe the therapy interferes with sex...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Nine alive buried in China landslide
Beijing, Oct 28 (IANS) Nine people were buried alive Tuesday by a rain-triggered landslide in southwest China's Yunnan province, authorities said. The disaster struck Xiaoxin village in Dongchuan district of...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Skin allergy makes Fox miss 'Teenage...' premiere
Beijing, Oct 28 (IANS) Actress Megan Fox was forced to skip the premiere of her film "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" here after she developed skin allergy. On Sunday morning, the actress joined producers for a press...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Advanced hearing aids distort music more
New York, Oct 28 (IANS) The more advanced an hearing aid is today, the worse experience it would offer to music lovers who use such aids, says a study. Less sophisticated hearing aids might actually be more compatible...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Hair disorder could signal dental decay
Washington, Oct 28 (IANS) If you are experiencing hair fall problems, your teeth may require extra care as researchers have found that hair disorder could increase risk of dental decay. Keratins, proteins associated...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Three Red Cross workers cleared of Ebola in New Zealand
Wellington, Oct 28 (IANS) Three New Zealand Red Cross healthcare workers have been cleared of possible Ebola infection after being put on "self-monitoring" since returning from working in Ebola-affected countries in...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Hugh Jackman has third session of skin cancer treatment
Los Angeles, Oct 28 (IANS) Actor Hugh Jackman has been treated for his third basal cell carcinoma in 12 months. The actor had a basal cell carcinoma removed in November 2013 as well as in May this year. The actor's...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
MIT survey reveals sexual assault on campus
New York, Oct 28 (IANS) Nearly 17 percent of female and five percent of male undergraduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have revealed that they were sexually assaulted on the campus, said...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Flashlight apps stealing your data?
New York, Oct 28 (IANS) Do you use a flashlight app on your smartphone? Security experts warn that free flashlight apps are secretly recording sensitive information from your phone. According to a US-based security...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
People flee as lava reaches Hawaiian village
Honolulu, Oct 28 (IANS) Many residents of a Hawaiian village have fled their homes, threatended by the flow of lava from Kilauea Volcano, a media report said Tuesday. People at Pahoa are running away as the lava from...
Read more on Politics Balla