Out in the Open: Hackers Bring Lawmaking Into the 21st Century

Wired: “Have you ever thought you could do a better job writing the laws of our country than those jokers on Capitol Hill? Or have you at least felt the urge to scratch a few lines out of a bill and replace them with something else? Here’s your chance.
Every bill currently being debated in the U.S. House of Representatives is available from a single website, and anyone can comment on the legislation or annotate it.
The site is powered by Madison Project, an open source software platform for writing, publishing, and annotating legislation. Like the site itself, the software was created by the OpenGov Foundation, a non-partisan, nonprofit organization co-founded by Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican from California….
Any government agency or advocacy group can use Madison to gather public feedback on legislation. It’s slated to be used in Baltimore and San Francisco, where everything from building codes to LSD laws will be open to public comment. Meanwhile, CrunchGov, a tech politics site run by the blog TechCrunch, and a lobbying firm called the Internet Association use Madison to gather policy ideas from the public.1
Madison is a lot like a wiki or content management system such as Drupal and WordPress, but instead of juggling blog posts or technical documentation, its users manage policy.
For now, the San Francisco and Baltimore sites only let you comment on laws using Disqus (Kraft describes this as a “baby step” toward a full Madison roll-out). And though the CrunchGov and House of Representatives site let you edit policy as well, the changes you make to a bill or law can’t yet be shared with others. Kraft says future versions will include tools for sharing custom versions of a law and a Wikipedia-style system for tracking changes. He also says it will integrate with GitHub, a site originally designed for software developers to share and collaborate on code but now used for a wide variety of other purposes, from wedding planning to public policy.”