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Hey y’all (currently in Atlanta, y’know?),

So the impression is that this blog is done and gone, and my work on the Clear Congress Project is also finished.  Not so! I’ve made a number of improvements over the past 2 months. I also want to explicitly outline some of the features I hope to implement soon!

Features Added

First I’ll talk about the passive interface elements I’ve added.  The most important is the legend on the right hand side, which provides some immediate explanation.  I also think it’s important to include some simple initial directions to the user, since it may be hard to determine that the scatter plot can be interacted with.  I will likely change the cursor CSS for the entire canvas to imply more interactivity.  In addition to this, I also added some middle lines across the chart to create quadrants.  I will likely add the option to add/remove these. In addition, I changed the background color to black.  I think it makes the details window pop more and makes the graphic a bit more dramatic.  I want to give the user the ability to change between black and white, and also provide a color-blind viewing option, which affects around 2% of people and almost 8% of all men.

On the interactive side of things, I implemented a few viewing options, such as a jitter/reset option, as well as the ability to show/hide labels and the network graph. I’m still having some performance issues when collision is enabled, particularly with Firefox. I also added the ability to capture an image of the current state of the graphic. I felt that it was necessary to add a time element at the top of the canvas to automatically place each captured image in a temporal context.  Currently it uses the user’s computer’s time, but I will probably make it standard Eastern time eventually.  I haven’t implemented any new filtering options yet, but that leads me into the next section

What’s To Come

First, let’s talk filters. I plan on cleaning up the interface, making each element buttons instead of form checkboxes.  This will be my first big change.  Then I plan on adding more filters. Lots more. So many I’ll need to divide them up accordion style. First I want to add some flexible sliding-bar filters for the derived attributes: the partisanship score and the leader-follower score.  I also want to add some sliding bars for experience in years as a legislator and for age. I’d also love to add income or wealth at some point, but that will require implementation of a new API, so this is likely a long-term goal. Finally, I’d like the ability to filter out all but those connected to the current revealed network.

Now, the largest feature I HAVE to implement is the ability to view changes through time. As one of the few people who check the view on a daily basis, the evolution over the past few months has been astonishing. Basically, the Republicans legislative stonewalling has forced the entire House more and more to the right, with a large number of Democrats now crossing the center partisanship line, some dramatically so. Being able to view these changes fluidly over time will have an incredible impact on the strength of the application, while at the same time creating a complete 365 image/year archive! Yes, I’m excited about this one. You should be too!  I hope to complete this by the end of the summer, maybe sooner if I get someone to help me out!

Finally

I plan on blogging regularly starting today, likely linking an image from Clear Congress Project to a something I’ve read or some relevant news story.  Just a head’s up.

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Well, it’s one month later, and I’ve finished strong.  The defense of the project went well, and I got some great feedback.  Carl DiSalvo considered my ideology methodology a good first pass and suggested expanding upon it.  I hope to do this in the future, but part of the problem was that the ideology axis was actually more a measure of partisanship.  So I’ve changed that axis to partisanship.  I also changed my methodology for determining partisanship slightly but will discuss this in the soon to come Methodology section.

I’ve added a lot more viewing options, the ability to show or hide the network.  But I’ve realized that I need to reconsider the collision algorithm or just abandon it all together.  It just causes too large of performance hit, especially if you’re also drawing an extensive network and labels.  I’m going to instead consider a “jitter” function, which wound add some noise to each circle’s location with each button press.

But overall, the project has a very solid base.  In the next week, I will be migrating the project to it’s new home at clearcongressproject.com.  Posting might be limited this week, but look for the Methodology section and other updates to the structure of the blog.

A final thanks to my advisors on the project, Ian Bogost, Carl DiSalvo and Jannet Murray.  My experience in the DM program has been life altering and was good to have access to such great minds throughout this sometimes rocky process.

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