Thursday, October 11, 2007

Congresspedia and Wiki the Vote

Take a look at this new wiki resource. I don't know how helpful or informative it may turn out to be for the kinds of research law librarians want to do. It's kind of interesting and cool, though. Congresspedia is described on the site,

citizen-driven project on Congresspedia to build profiles on the hundreds of challengers for congressional seats, which will compliment the existing profiles on every member of Congress. The project is non-partisan and, in true open-source fashion, is free for anyone to participate - even the candidates themselves.

Even for official party nominees, information on challengers is usually woefully inadequate and information on primary challengers is often nearly non-existent. The explosion of citizen blogging in the last few years has created a wealth of individual opinions and perspectives, but what has been lacking is a central repository of collaboratively produced, in-depth and accurate information. The Wiki the Vote project, due to its easily editable wiki format, will be just that.

It is our hope that by having citizens work together to collaboratively build fully documented profiles, a central profile of each candidate can be created that will serve not only to educate citizens but also to give bloggers and diarists useful information to enrich their writing. We are also providing support from professional researchers (who also do some fact-checking) to assist the citizen editors.

We've started with nearly 300 basic profiles of candidates (snip)

# Unlike Wikipedia, Congresspedia has no rule to "avoid writing or editing an article about yourself." We feel that contributions are best judged by the character of their content, not the identity of the person who contributed it. As long as these folks identify themselves on their user pages and their contributions are fully sourced and "fair and accurate," candidates are free to contribute information about themselves (or their opponents) and, in fact, is a good way to reach more citizens.
# Congresspedia is designed to cover politics - Wikipedia's profiles of members of Congress and candidates are generally considered biographies of those individuals, with an emphasis on their life story. We could care less where a member of Congress grew up or who they married (unless that spouse was a lobbyist). We have also set up custom feeds from databases of congressional information (with more to come in the weeks ahead!) to combine data with narrative contributions and employ professional editors both to assist citizen editors and to provide a fact-checking function.

Congresspedia is not without its own political agenda, though, so be aware. It's actually hosted by Sourcewatch, which in its turn is sponsored by the nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy. Center for Media and Democracy claims its mission is
strengthens participatory democracy by investigating and exposing public relations spin and propaganda, and by promoting media literacy and citizen journalism, media "of, by and for the people."
and they describe themselves:
a non-profit, non-partisan, public interest organization that strengthens participatory democracy by investigating and exposing public relations spin and propaganda, and by promoting media literacy and citizen journalism. (snip)

The Center serves journalists, researchers, policymakers and citizens at large in the following ways:

* Countering propaganda by investigating and reporting on behind-the-scenes public relations campaigns by corporations, industries, governments and other powerful institutions.
* Informing and assisting grassroots citizen activism that promotes public health, economic justice, ecological sustainability and human rights.
* Promoting media literacy to help the public recognize the forces shaping the information they receive about issues that affect their lives.
* Sponsoring "open content" media that enable citizens from all walks of life to "be the media" and to participate in creating media content.
The Center's website has a nice long list of topics to use as a navigation tool. You can browse for media audio by artist, title and year. And they have a search tool by keyword that does not seem to work yet, or else has nothing to search yet. Clicking on a few of their topics likewise brings up the message that there are no posts on this topic yet. The main page seems to be a blog combined with an aggregator. The post du jour is about the Center denouncing local television stations airing "fake news" reports. Clicking the hyperlink for "fake news" takes the reader to a wikipedia-like entry on the Center's reports on the phenomenon. There are other links that take the reader to further wikipedia style entries. They include resources at the end of the entry, including links to news stories about the subject.

Might be a useful resource for law librarians.

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