Open data enthusiasts at the OpenGov Foundation are making a big bet that Maryland, and Baltimore city, will serve as fertile ground for trying out the newest iteration of a collaborative web platform that lets private citizens read — and make changes to — legislation being proposed by public officials.
Project Madison 2.0 will be rolling out in Baltimore and Maryland sometime this August or September, said Seamus Kraft, 28, cofounder of the OpenGov Foundation. The open-source platform allows users to leave comments and append changes to draft legislation.
First launched in 2011, the original Project Madison was used to solicit voters’ opinions on the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN Act), an alternative to the at-the-time proposed SOPA and PIPA bills. It was just one project introduced by Darrell Issa, Republican congressman from California and the founder of the OpenGov Foundation.
“The OPEN Act was the first crowdsourced bill in history,” said Kraft.
At the federal level, yes. But Madison 2.0 will mark the first time Project Madison’s interface will be tried out on the municipal and state levels. The Knight Foundation has committed $200,000 to the endeavor, money that will be used to test Madison 2.0 in several states and municipalities over time.
“Madison moves people from just participating in government to co-creating in government,” said Michael Maness, vice president of journalism and media innovation at the Knight Foundation.
Watch a video about Project Madison:
In Maryland, the approach with the second iteration of Project Madison will be slightly altered. The Baltimore- and state-specific versions of Madison 2.0 will be integrated, respectively, with BaltimoreCode.org and MarylandCode.org, two websites developed by the OpenGov Foundation that distill Baltimore’s City Charter and Maryland’s State Code into easy-to-read, XML formats online.
Kraft said that means people will be able to view precisely how proposed legislation will change articles in the city or state law books. In addition, a “draft from scratch” feature will allow people to write their own legislation and submit it to elected officials via Project Madison.
Launching Project Madison 2.0 by September will allow OpenGov three to four months of “iterative development” before the 2014 Maryland legislative session.
“What we really want to do is to have the platform out there, and beat up, and fixed, and debugged and adjusted,” said Kraft.