Congressman uses social media to collect health care reform feedback

Houstonians can participate in open review and debate using SharedBook’s technology

Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) is taking transparency to new levels. Culberson is using technology from SharedBook to invite his constituents to participate in, comment on and debate the pending health care bill in the House of Representatives (H.R. 3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009).

The congressman’s office today posted the text of the current bill on Culberson’s Web site. Constituents can visit to review the House bill and share their feedback in an open forum with other constituents, using ShareBook’s annotation technology. Interested citizens outside the congressman’s district will be able to review the bill and the comments but will not be able to submit their own comments.

SharedBook, based in New York, is a provider of content transformation technologies for consumers, online publishers and enterprises that let constituents and other interested parties electronically annotate and comment on government documents -- including legislation, policies and procedures -- in a detailed way. The subsequent document can then be published, complete with the original text and all the comments and annotations included.

“H.R. 3200 will affect the lives of all my constituents. This new technology will give my constituents a voice in the health care debate and help restore the public trust in government by raising the level of openness, order and discourse,” Culberson said.

Culberson, who attended the Gov 2.0 Summit held in Washington earlier this month, was looking for technology such as SharedBook “because he wanted, particularly on the health care bill, to get it out to his constituents and he wanted to hear what they had to say,” said Caroline Vanderlip, chief executive officer of SharedBook. “So he is the first in the government sector to use this,” she added.

SharedBook is a 6-year-old company with an impressive list of firms using its product, including, Encyclopedia Britannica, HarperCollins Publishers and Random House.

However, SharedBook just introduced the technology into the government market a few weeks ago, Vanderlip said. At the Gov 2.0 Summit, chief information and chief technology officers from at least a dozen agencies spoke with SharedBook officials about using the software  for public comment, but more importantly for internal discussion, she said.

“They felt it would be extremely valuable, particularly because it could handle as many or as few users as they chose to invite,” Vanderlip said.

For example, some spoke about the need to get feedback about documents from multiple people across government. For the most part, a current capability, such as using Microsoft Word to track people’s comments, becomes much too cumbersome after they’ve tracked the second user, she said. So agency IT managers see SharedBook as a way to get feedback internally that they can then incorporate into subsequent documents, Vanderlip said.

“We’re pursuing those discussions” with agencies, she added.

SharedBook's platforms facilitate the dynamic transformation of digital content into customized and personalized formats, such as flipbooks on the Web, downloadable PDF files or professionally printed books.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


  • 2020 Government Innovation Awards
    Government Innovation Awards -

    21 Public Sector Innovation award winners

    These projects at the federal, state and local levels show just how transformative government IT can be.

  • Federal 100 Awards
    cheering federal workers

    Nominations for the 2021 Fed 100 are now being accepted

    The deadline for submissions is Dec. 31.

Stay Connected