Published Feb-06-10

A web-based application that keeps track of which senators are using delaying tactics to block legislation.

The Sunlight Foundation, United States

The Story:

Filibusted Since the concept of open innovation first swept through the corridors of corporations in 2003 it has continually proved its mettle by helping companies find new ways of solving their most urgent problems, allowing them to speed up the product development phase and steal a march on their competitors.

Scientists, technology gurus, and freelance geniuses have all lent their brain power to the corporate world. And increasingly ordinary citizens are being encouraged to get in on the open innovation act.

Open Innovation and Democracy

Apps for America is an open innovation mashup contest organized by Washington DC-based Sunlight Foundation (a non-partisan nonprofit organization that uses the Internet and cutting edge technologies to make government more open) that seeks proposals for ways to harness the Internet and government data in the public domain to increase transparency in how the United States is run.

The first Apps for America contest was held in 2009. “We received more than 40 solid, open source applications that moved the ball forward to open up government information and provide new methods of communicating with our legislative branch,” said Clay Johnson, director of Sunlight Labs. “Every entry presented showed an amazing commitment on behalf of the developer community to open their government.”

Assessments of the submissions were made based on a number of different criteria including the originality of the application and its potential usability.

Prize Money for Contest Winner

The Grand Prize Winner of this open innovation mashup was Andrew Dupont, a web interface developer and writer. He received a check of $15,000 for his very clever “Filibusted” application which uses data from to track Senate votes. It highlights which senators use delaying tactics and parliamentary procedures to block votes on legislation. The prize money was for further development of the project.

The mysterious and sometimes unfathomable details of what takes place in the U.S. Senate are recorded on a daily basis by GovTrack which then puts them into a machine-readable format. Every night Filibusted has a look to see what the Senate voted on that day, who voted which way, and if there were any associated bills or amendments. The information is stored and Senators are ranked according to how they have tried to stop policy changes from becoming law.

The second prize and a $5,000 check went to Legistalker which displays the online activity of Congress Members including news mentions and the legislator’s Twitter and YouTube activity.

Impressed by Open Innovation

Sunlight Foundation was impressed by the sheer intelligence of the ideas, and believe that the mashup contest is helping to make government more transparent and accountable.

“All the developers who participated in this contest deserve great praise for their contribution to our country,” said Peter Corbett one of the judges. “The work they're doing is laying the foundation for a more transparent, efficient and participatory democracy in America."

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