Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican from California, is quickly becoming known as the most outspoken proponent of a free and open Internet, and according to a new Fast Company profile, his tech-savvy could reshape how Congress writes laws. Nicknamed Project Madison, Issa's new crowdsourcing platform takes an open-source approach, that borrows ideas from how developers write software like Mozilla Firefox and many Android smartphone apps. Fast Company's Gregory Ferenstein explains:
Project Madison is a stripped-down interactive blogging platform, which allows citizens to select individual passages of legislation, and strike or add their own language, with comments for each suggestion. Citizens are encouraged to like or dislike each change, with the most popular suggestions rising to the top. Each page also has embedded Facebook and Twitter buttons that link to individual amendments.
This sounds like a good idea in theory but it's unclear who would take the time. But Issa much interested in making it easier for more Americans to read and interact with our leaders and their work. "Effectively what you have is a hearing with every single one of the individuals who wants to participate there,'" Issa said. "You would have had every tech company able to weigh in with their comments and potential changes in the bill." It looks like this:
If you'd asked us two months ago how popular we thought an interactive government site would be during the legislative process, we might've guessed a few thousand would tune in to Project Madison's streaming video of the event and a few hundred might leave some comments. We would also be very wrong. Issa's office said in a press release over the weekend that the site saw nearly 200,000 unique visitors during the marathon 12-hour-long Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) markup session on December 15 alone.
Ferenstein is careful to point out that all of Issa's efforts come with some clear political benefits. By pushing back hard against SOPA and authoring his own alternative version, dubbed OPEN, Issa is quickly becoming famous for his pro-technology point of view. VentureBeat's Jolie Odell just posted a few charts showing how Silicon Valley is quickly catching up to the entertainment industry lobbyist dollars. Silicon Valley companies, by the way, have a lot of money.