This is What Open Government Aught to Look Like

The New York State Senate has created a new website for themselves as part of their commitment to open government and civic participation at The new site bases itself around the “Web2.0” style technologies that are expected of modern websites, rather than trying to stick stuff into an existing site with duct tape. Lets run through some of the more impressive features:

The front page is nice and crisply styled with an eye towards the blues and muted fades that made so popular and continue to make a successful site. As a web designer, I look to a front page to immediately inform the reader what a site is about and give them instant access to the things I want them to see. On the Senate site, the first non-navigational thing you see is a form that allows you to look up your Senator, with another form for getting updates immediately below that. There’s lots more information on the front page, including the latest happenings in the Senate, video clips and popularly-browsed subjects.

One of the more interesting facets of the website is the Legislation Markup feature, which allows users to view and comment on all pieces of legislation currently under consideration. It’s like Thomas meets or something. It’s very nice to see that if I wanted to – and I just might – I could send my readers to comment directly on a piece of legislation before the Senate, rather than having to sign some petition that may never get viewed.

The Reports section lists the most recent officially released reports and the Open Data Reports section includes a lot of study results on budget issues and other more granular details we don’t often get access to in New York.

You can also get deep inside the committee structure of New York’s Senate, a thing which is much more deeply nebulous than it’s name implies and much less discussed than committees in the U.S. Senate, so much the talk of Washington so much of the time.

I’m sure there’s lots more stuff to look at, and you’ll all be able to very shortly: within an hour or two. Stay tuned!

By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.

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