Tool Builder - Startlight (app building)

If you’re currently at your home within the United States, Starlight can use your device’s location to determine your congressional legislators. Alternatively, you may search for your legislators by entering your home’s full street addresses in the search box.   ––Startlight Congress


Find Your Legislator Starlight-Upcoming Bills

“Find Your Legislators” – How can I become informed on upcoming bills?

Starlight is an iPhone app that uses a device’s location data and provides contact information for Representatives and Senators as well as information on upcoming bills. The app can be found here:

See what Mark Murray, the Starlight developer, says about his cause and development process. Mark uses the Ten Questions for this post-development reflection.

#Ten Questions For Participatory Politics
###### Mark Murray, Jan 13, 2017
###### Author of the Starlight Congress iPhone app

### 1. Why does it matter to me?

> Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted. All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions.  
> — Pres. Barack Obama

Building Starlight is my way of contributing to our democratic institutions, by better enabling US citizens to engage with congress.

### 2. How much should I share?

As citizens, we should all freely share information and tools. Our opinions and viewpoints, however, we should share with our representatives. There is a place for debate, but not when it is divisive. 

Please share Starlight as much as you want! It will always be completely free.

### 3. How do I make it about more than myself?

By building a bipartisan tool to encourage any US citizen by empowering them with public information. I could not have built Starlight without the data available from Open Congress, GovTrack, and the Sunlight Foundation. All US citizens should have free and ready access to this information at any time.

### 4. Where do we start?

There are numerous web projects with a similar concept, but have limitations for being browser based. As general research tools, a lot of work and programming talent has gone into these and I didn't want to be redundant. The most central value that I identified that could be provided with a native mobile app is an automated location-based lookup option to find legislators, and the ability to save the results to the device. This is where I started.

### 5. How can we make it easy and engaging for others to join in?

The purpose of the app is to facilitate engaging with congress. There's a lot more to that than just finding contact information, such as legislative research and staying informed with vote results.

The project is open source and visible on GitHub. I built a contact form into the app itself to listen for issue reports and feature requests. The app store download link can be easily shared and is available to anyone with an iPhone using iOS 10.0 or later.

### 6. How do we get wisdom from crowds?

That's the whole idea behind representative government! The group tells appointed individuals how to act in the collective best interest. Tell your congressional legislators what you want them to enact!

As for the app itself, there is a whole subspecialty of application development that deals with measuring user engagement: collecting usage data, collating issue reports, and passing along feature requests and ideas to the production team. I haven't built these tools into Starlight quite yet so I'm entirely reliant on personal responses to know how it's being received. There's an email form under the About tab. Tell me!

### 7. How do we handle the downside of crowds?

It's easy to think in a large enough group that an individual's actions are insignificant, that our voice or our vote doesn't really count for that much. But it does! It counts just as much as anyone else who expressed themselves in the same way.

### 8. Are you pursuing voice or influence or both?

Voice. Literally. I want US citizens to make phone calls to their legislators to express their views to congress. 

### 9. How do we get from voice to change?

Career politicians who care about reelection care about satisfying their constituents—if you're a US citizen, that means you! As we saw with the [reversal of gutting the Office of Congressional Ethics](, public outcry _can_ affect congressional decision making despite partisan control.

### 10. How can we find allies?

All US citizens should see each other as allies in exercising our representative democracy. We should come together, despite differing viewpoints, with all those who believe in empowering active citizenship.

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