Members of the United States House of Representatives and Senate -- or, more likely, their interns and aides -- spend an awful lot of time editing Wikipedia entries. Not just entries about themselves, either: the list ranges from autobiographical changes to this crucial edit involving President Barack Obama shaking hands with a minotaur. We'll spare you the obvious, "so that's what the United States Congress spends its time on!" joke (or was that it?), and jump right to the credit. A new Twitter account named "congressedits," set up by self-described "web developer/armchair activist" Ed Summers, scans for Wikipedia edits across a variety of IP addresses associated with Congress. Summers got the idea from a similar robot in the United Kingdom. Other versions have since sprouted in Canada and Sweden.
"There is an incredible yearning in this country and around the world for using technology to provide more transparency about our democracies," Summers wrote on his blog this week. While the tracking hasn't revealed any bombshells thus far, we're all for free, easy ways to make our elected officials' actions even a smidgen more transparent. Summers is hoping for more from the project than more transparent government. Here's his "thought experiment" take on the project:
"Imagine if our elected representatives and their staffers logged in to Wikipedia, identified much like Dominic (a federal employee at the National Archives) and used their knowledge of the issues and local history to help make Wikipedia better? Perhaps in the process they enter into conversation in an article's talk page, with a constituent, or political opponent and learn something from them, or perhaps compromise?"
High-minded and idyllic? Sure, but that's how we like our internet-based political action.
[Image credit: Shutterstock]