First Congressional Facebook Hackathon Starts Today

By Jennifer Moire Comment

Facebook developers, Congressional staff and members of Congress, transparency experts and digital innovators, will be welcomed to Capitol Hill today as Congressional leaders host the first Congressional Facebook Developer Hackathon.

The bipartisan Hackathon was announced by the offices of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

According to a press release, the event will, “explore the potential connections between legislative data, constituent correspondence, and social media.”

The format of the four-hour Hackathon will include general sessions and breakout sessions on a range of topics, from casework and constituent services, legislative workflow (floor operations and committee meetings and how they’re structured), and press and public relations.

According to Stephen Dwyer, director of online communications for Whip Hoyer, the organizers had to close the event after registering 250 people. The organizers will release a report after the Hackathon, since the event will not be streamed online.

And in late-breaking news on a related Facebook issue, the House passed H.R. 2471 Tuesday – – a bipartisan bill that would enable Netflix customers to share their rental history on Facebook.

The legislation was highlighted by the two companies’ Chief Executive Officers Reed Hastings and Mark Zuckerberg at this September’s f8 developers conference.

Despite early opposition in the House, the bill ultimately passed today.

Matt Lira of Leader Cantor’s office shared this statement with us about the Hackathon:

Leader Cantor and Whip Hoyer are excited to bring together programmers, software developers and Capitol Hill stakeholders to discuss ways to improve Congressional operations. Since announcing the event, the reaction from the public has been very enthusiastic; in terms of turnout, regardless of the final number, I’ll be happy so long as the people who do participate are interested in solving problems together.

Democratic Whip Hoyer also shared his thoughts with us via email:

Online technologies are transforming our society, and that includes Congress. By utilizing social media platforms like Facebook, we can keep our constituents informed of how we are working for them, and stay informed ourselves so that we can better serve them. However, there is still a lot of work to be done, and I’m pleased that both parties have a chance to come together with industry leaders like Facebook, as well as individuals who bring new ideas to the table on how we can keep the legislative process as open and accessible as possible.

Do you think it’s a good idea for congressional staffers and Facebook developers to work together in this way?