Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 22, 2014

New App Vies to Become ‘Yelp for Politicians’

Rod Massey, the CEO of iCitizen, is excited about getting his new civic engagement platform into the rapidly texting hands of responsive voters and the social-media-savvy pols they most care about.

“It will show them how their constituents feel about the actions they’re taking,” Massey told HOH of the fledgling application that allows folks to keep tabs on what their elected officials are up to and “rate” the legislators accordingly.

Per Massey, the initial version of the new tracing tool — feted at 6:30 p.m. tonight at an invitation-only soiree (free cocktails and hors d’oeuvres) at the Ronald Reagan Building at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — is configured to work on iOS 7-enabled iPhones. He said the company hopes to launch an Android version in early 2014.

Currently, users are able to select overall ratings for individuals on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. But those scores can fluctuate based on different impressions, new legislative actions or plain old buyer’s remorse.

“Individuals have the ability to change that at any time. So think it more as a flag,” he suggested.

That’s why his programmers are hard at work on an iPad version designed specifically to provide elected officials with real time data (an “analytics dashboard,” Massey called it) to chew on. Once released, most likely in early 2014, registered lawmakers will be able to view how their ratings have risen or fallen over time — a snapshot of reactions to their every political move.

“We’re more like social media with a purpose,” Massey said.

Will any poll-fatigued politicians willingly sign up to receive even more feedback from a severely disillusioned electorate? It’s too soon to tell. But the concept was novel enough to attract the support of former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., who participated in early design workshops.

Meanwhile, Tennessean Massey said he reached out to home-state Reps. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican, and Jim Cooper, a Democrat, to help with the official rollout.

Massey declined to say exactly how many users had added the new tool to their smartphone arsenals. But he noted that since landing in the app store on Oct. 31, the downloads have been ahead of where Pinterest was three weeks in.

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