A Report Card on Politicos

A Report Card on Politicos

Maria Yuan said IssueVoter can give people a clearer picture of whether their elected officials actually support the issues that got them into office.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

The White House Wants Innovators

The White House Wants Innovators

Smita Satiani, (l) director of engagement for the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, took the stage with Andrew Stroup, (r) director of product and technology for the program, which recruits technologists, developers, designers, and entrepreneurs, then pairs them with federal agencies to help update and improve services they offer.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Making It Easier to Vote

Making It Easier to Vote

Kate McCall-Kiley, a Presidential Innovation Fellow, talked about working with Vote.usa.gov, which helps to get more citizens registered to vote, by streamlining the process through forms they can download and offering them info on voting.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Getting Government Data to Developers

Getting Government Data to Developers

Jeff Meisel, chief marketing officer with the U.S. Census Bureau, spoke about a software development kit from the agency and making data more readily available for developers to create apps for their communities. For example, he said Heat Seek NYC wanted to overlay demographic data with complaints from New Yorkers about lack of heat during winter to show which parts of the city were most affected.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

One Year Later with New York's CTO

One Year Later with New York's CTO

Minerva Tantoco made a return appearance, marking one year since she was announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio as New York's first chief technology officer last October at New York Tech Meetup.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Saving Time on Research

Saving Time on Research

Wonder CEO Justin Wohlstadter demoed his on-demand personal research assistant, which he said can save users time by submitting questions, for a fee, at AskWonder.com to a network of researchers. When a question is posed on Wonder, the researchers who picks it will outline the resources and references cited in their answer.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Using Spare Change to End Hunger

Using Spare Change to End Hunger

Andra Tomsa, CEO of Spare, demoed her app that rounds up the user’s bill at participating bars and restaurants in the city, then donates the spare change to help feed hungry New Yorkers. “It takes just 25 cents to feed someone through the Food Bank of New York City,” she said.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Taking the Plunge Into Coding

Taking the Plunge Into Coding

Co-founders Nathan Bernard (l), CEO, and Chirag Jain (r), CTO, presented Lrn, an app that teaches people how to code via interactive mini-quizzes, even folks with no experience at all. At the moment the app has just two courses, which introduce users to JavaScript and Ruby, but more content is on the way, Bernard said.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Hack of the Month: Hyperlax.tv

Hack of the Month: Hyperlax.tv

Tylor Crane demoed Hyperlax, which creates a feed of Instagram’s Hyperlapse time-lapse videos, automatically threads them together, and combines them with music.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Bringing Down a Barrier to College

Bringing Down a Barrier to College

Plucked co-founders Jonathon Mejias (l) and Denisha Kuhlor (r) presented their Web app that lets high school students avoid paying multiple college application fees, which can keep some potential candidates from even pursuing schools they are interested in. The participating schools can set criteria to determine which students qualify to apply for free.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Gotta Be In It to Win It

Gotta Be In It to Win It

Co-founder Pete Sullivan demoed Jackpocket, an app that lets people buy official state lottery tickets, through retailers, from their smartphone, and then check to see if they win.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Teaching Paper New Tricks

Teaching Paper New Tricks

FiftyThree Co-founders Georg Petschnigg and Andrew Allen gave an update on their app Paper, and digital stylus Pencil, which early on were used for sketching on mobile devices. They have since developed new features, including algorithms that will autocorrect drawings and let people work more quickly.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Seeing through the murky veil of politics gets harder and harder as rhetoric rather than results make headlines. At last week’s New York Tech Meetup (NYTM), there were a couple of examples of ways technology can help government be more efficient (see slideshow)—and one demo that could call out politicians for ignoring their constituents.

Maria Yuan said she founded IssueVoter to give people an equal voice in the political system. She previously served as a campaign manager in Iowa, which is often an early battleground on the road to presidential elections. Yuan said people often get interested in candidates and government during election season, but then stop interacting with and watching government the rest of the year.

There were many other demos at NYTM this month not related to government—including a Web app that helps high school students get around paying multiple fees to apply to colleges—but the current political climate, heightened by next year’s presidential election, made IssueVoter.org stand out.

At the website, voters can find the elected officials who represent them, and see if they supported or rebuffed issues that are important to the voter. “As the two party-system becomes more and more polarized, it’s individual issues that matter,” Yuan said.

In addition to showing how politicians actually vote, IssueVoter will send alerts to users when bills related to topics that matter to them get introduced. “Consider it your cure for political FOMO,” she said.

The site summarizes the legislation, and shows pros and cons, as well as recent news related to the matter. IssueVoter users can then send their opinion on the bill to their representatives. People can keep track of whether the bill passes, and which way their representative voted. “You can see what percentage of time your rep is representing you on the issues you care about,” she said.

It can be laborious for voters to keep track of the action their representatives take. Given that their salaries are paid with tax dollars, Yuan compared this to hiring an employee and never really seeing their work. “That’s essentially what happens when we vote and reelect,” she said. “Incumbents are reelected more than 90 percent of the time. If they’re not representing you that’s ridiculous.” In a sense, IssueVoter is a way for the public to essentially see whether they are getting their money’s worth.