Meet “Whip Watch”

Yesterday congressional Democrats releasedWhip Watch,” an app that provides the public (and congressional staffers) a real-time mobile view into the Democrats’ whip operation. Most notably, it includes a live floor feed showing upcoming votes, with links to bills and amendments, and an extensive list of job announcements for House Democratic offices. Also included are the daily and weekly whip notices and a session calendar. While much of this information has been available previously, it has not been published in a mobile format.

What’s new from a content perspective are the job announcements. While the House of Representatives does publish jobs announcements, this list appears to be more extensive and seems to mirror the announcements sent around internally to Democratic offices. Its publication likely will replace third party services that charge job seekers for access to jobs announcements. In addition, from a UX perspective, a fair amount of time-sensitive legislative scheduling information is now accessible in one location–a necessity for on-the-go staffers and their harried bosses.

For this app to work, information about congressional activities that previously only has been published as a PDF must now be created in a structured data format. While there is no indication the information currently is being published to the public in bulk as or as an API, the creation of the app indicates it would be a logical next step. It’s something we would expect to see, and in turn, would empower other clever uses of this information.

The most notable analog to the app is Capitol Bells, a third-party service that provides alerts when floor votes occur and has a social media overlay. Whip Watch is another small step towards making the operations of Congress more transparent to the public and making it easier for staff to do their jobs.