Congressional Committees Project: Help Getting Started

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Thanks for your interest in helping us increase our awareness of our government at work! This page is intended to help everyone get started with the Congressional Committees Project. A few easy steps will get you on your way to participating in congressional oversight. Since this page is currently under construction, I'm going to explain what I can, and we'll get any gaps filled in soon. Please read the rest of the information on the front page after seeing the advice in this section before you attempt to contact representatives or staffers. If you do make contact, please do so as an interested citizen, and not as a representative of this project, since we're still in an organizational stage.

Contents

Create A Dkosopedia Login

Since our home base is on the dkosopedia, a collaborative webpage called a wiki, you need to get a dkosopedia login to be able to edit yourself and your knowledge into the pages you want to help with. This seems complex at first, but is actually similar to making comments on daily kos, except that you can edit, even after submitting, and that you edit whole pages, or sections of pages at a time, rather than just adding comments on the end. In order to contribute, you need a dkosopedia username and password, which can be the same as your name on dailykos (unless someone already took it--unlikely). This process is very brief, and takes almost no information to complete.

Find Your Committee

Among the first things you should do is check out the information on the committees you're interested in. Consider watching committees you know about, or committees that have representatives of which you are a constituent (committees that have Senators or Representatives from your state or District). Start collecting as much information as you can about your committee or subcommittee. Find out the membership, history, jurisdiction, schedule, meeting places, transcript policy, etc. Also notice that there is a webpage for each committee for both the majority and the minority available. Find out as much as you can, and collect it on your specific committee or subcommittee page.

Add yourself to your committee

After creating a dkosopedia login and finding a committee, you're ready to start editing.

There are two ways to edit a wiki page here. You can click on the "edit" tab at the top of any page, and that will give you large text box that has the wiki code for the whole page. This is more difficult, since many wiki pages are huge, and the text can get ugly. It is easier to find the specific section of the page that you wish to alter, and then click on the blue "edit" link on the right side of the screen. This will take you to a box that has the existing code for just that section, so you don't have to wrestle with the rest of the page. Each overall congressional committee is broken into this type of section.

Click the [edit] link for the committee you want to add yourself to; you'll see a form with the wiki markup for that committee and its subcommittees. Find the row for your committee. Each committee and subcommittee will be at the start of a line, surrounded by a double set of curly braces and preceded by a template name, like this:

{{SSubcommitteeRow|your committee name here}}.

Most committees will be followed by the names of anyone who has already signed up, or the word "unassigned". You can add your name after any already there, replacing the word "unassigned" if you're the first. You can use a template to make your name automatically link to your user pages on dKosopedia and DailyKos. Just copy and paste this text: {{dualUser|~~~}} where you want your name to appear. (The three tildes will automatically be replaced by your user name.) If you have different user names on each site, or if your user name has spaces in it, use {{diffUser|~~~|dailyKos= instead, followed by your user name on DailyKos, followed by }}. If your DailyKos user name has spaces in it, replace each space with %20.

Click the Show Preview button under the edit field when you're done, and make sure your name renders correctly in the committee table. (If you have trouble getting the user name template to work, just type your name in plain text after your committee.) If everything looks good, click Save Page.

If somebody else has already signed up, try contacting them to talk about dividing the work.

Create a wiki page for your comittee

If the link to the committee or subcommittee appears in red, its wiki page has not been created yet. Just click on the link, and you will get the edit window. Other, existing, pages have a standard format, and you might want to start by coping it. Open a page for another committee, copy and paste its contents into your page, then change its name, its members and so on.

Your Committee or Sub-Committee wiki page

If you've added yourself to the committee chart, or even if the complexities of the chart have eluded you, you can go on to the wiki page set up for each individual committee. The indiviual committee pages will probably be the most information rich, since this is where the research, links, schedules, members, contact infomation, etc. for each committee and subcommittee will be located, as you create them. The wiki page for each committee and sub-committee can be found by clicking on the name of the committee in the chart on the main page. It isn't necessary to have your name in the chart to access or edit the individual wiki pages, the chart is just for organization and quick visual reference.

There are two main sections to every wiki page: the "article" tab, and the "discussion" tab. I suggest using the "discussion" tab for introducing yourself to others helping with the committee, sharing suggestions, or whatever you want. It is your page to use to help build the best resource you can for tracking your committee or sub-committee, and you can edit it using general wiki editing techniques (which work mostly like building daily kos comments).

Editing the Wiki

For help editing the wiki, you can check out the wikipedia help page, here. If you're more inclined to dive in and try things on your own, I'd suggest a couple of things that have been shown to me over the last few weeks:

-use preview before saving. It saves time.

-for easy links, type a left bracket, then, without a space, type the full web address you want to link to, then a space, and then the word that you want to have appear as the link in the text and then a right bracket. For example, [http://www.house.gov House of Representatives]. The two entities in between the brackets are reversed from what they usually are on daily kos.

-when making a comment you want to sign (which is probably most comments in the "discussion" tab) just click on the signature button over the text box you type into. It is the button to the immediate right of the "anti W" button, which looks like a signature. Clicking it leaves a mark like this: --~~~~. It looks like two dashes and then four tildes when you hit the button, but then turns into a signature like this one: --Greenreflex 22:04, 28 November 2006 (PST)

-when responding to a comment, start on a new line and start the line with a colon  : . The colon indents your entire comment, so that it is clear that your comment is separate from the comment above it.

You can click on the "edit" next to the "Editing the Wiki" section to see what I've typed to get this effect.
This would be a second level of response, and it is indented for clarity and readability. This would be a second level of response, and it is indented for clarity and readability. This would be a second level of response, and it is indented for clarity and readability. This would be a second level of response, and it is indented for clarity and readability. This would be a second level of response, and it is indented for clarity and readability.
This sentence has three colons before it.--Greenreflex 22:08, 28 November 2006 (PST)

-to start a new section, start a new line and make two equals signs, then a title for the section, and then two more equals signs. Hit return, and you'll be on the first line of the new section. (I had to try that and preview it once to see how it works.)

Have Fun!

Collect all the information you can, and build whatever information into your wiki page that you can. Keep in mind that these committee specific wiki pages are ALREADY showing up on the first page of google (it shocked me too. search for some of them!), so you're building something that can already have an impact on awareness. None of us has ever done this before either, so try to enjoy yourself, and remember, whatever contributions you can offer will be appreciated.

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