Dan Schneiderman

Summer with PPF

24 August 2011

This Friday marks 3 weeks since my last day working at the PPF (Participatory Politics Foundation). I had originally found out PPF around after their announcement of OpenGovernment.org. It caught my eye after finding out that the site was in collaboration with the Open States project (the project I had worked on the summer before at the Sunlight Foundation). After a couple of emails and an interview, I was all set up to intern at their home in NYC for the summer.

The summer started off with dedicating two weeks to learning Ruby on Rails, learning the back-end of OpenGovernment.org, and attending a mix of conferences (OGCamp NYC, PDF 11, and OGCamp DC). From there I went to researching replacement methods of drawing district lines for state districts. Around this time, I started working on plans to create a metrics site following AARRR (http://www.slideshare.net/dmc500hats/startup-metrics-for-pirates-long-version) values, but with slight differences aiming more towards non-profit organizations. However, I was only able to get though the design and early programming stages before being switched over to Formageddon.

Formageddon is a part of the latest version of OpenCongress.org released last week. Its goal is to connect contact forms from every congressman (and delegates) to one central system. All the user has to do is pick an opinion on a bill, enter in their address, and customize one letter that will then be emailed to their Senators and Representative.

My job was to connect each of the sites into the system and fix bugs that would occur with the system. I have to admit that going though most of those sites was tedious, but the end result was well worth it. The painful part about going though every congressman’s site was seeing how badly some of the sites were set up. A number of them had pop-up videos of the congressmen walking onto the screen and introducing themselves to the user. Other site had “Freedom News Letter” and more buzzwords than I could count. However, it felt rewarding being part of a launch of a new site for the first time.

It has been a satisfying summer here in NYC. I look forward to bumping into PPF again at one conference or another.