I have always been interested in politics. I was student body president of my high school…as well as band president (I am that cool). In my junior year of high school, I went to the American Legion Buckeye Boys weeklong mock state government and leadership camp. In college, I became involved in student government and a number of political organizations.
This is all to say that I am passionate about – and generally well informed on – national politics and the political process. Through my degree in social studies education, I was confident that I was in the top 10 percent of people in this country knowledge of how our government works. Since moving to DC last month, I have realized that, like Jon Snow, I know nothing. (RIP)
Moving to the nation’s capital from Toledo, Ohio meant I was now among people who have chosen to devote their lives and careers to policy. Back in Toledo, a political conversation might focus on the top story of the week or 2016 predictions. Here in DC, discussions tend to focus on daily events on the Hill and the players involved (and 2016 talk…that has not changed).
I moved in with three friends from college. One is a staffer for a Senate Democrat, another for a House Republican, and the third works at Politico. It is really a matter of sink or swim in our apartment. Either speak with knowledge or forego policy debates (talking points will not get you far). I have quickly found that apps are my saving grace – which makes my internship at ACT | The App Association the perfect fit!
News and political apps provide breaking updates and push notifications to keep you informed throughout the day of big developments. My Politico app sends a notification whenever a significant event occurs and provides a quick bulletin as soon as I open the app. I have also downloaded most of the commonly used political news apps like CNN, Roll Call, The Hill, Washington Post, and Yahoo News Digest (which has a beautiful interface – check it out). I read the longer articles in these apps on weekends (while recovering Sunday afternoon if we are being honest) to help me recap and summarize what happened throughout the week. I then use a nifty app called Instapaper that allows me to save and categorize articles to read another time on my phone or laptop.
One brand new app that I was invited to join is Brigade. Sean Parker, the co-founder of Napster and former Facebook executive, (think Justin Timberlake in “The Social Network”) and his team created the app not to shape opinion, but to provide a platform for users to share their beliefs or position on an issue with friends and the public. The topics are timely and up-to-date with the current news cycle.
Brigade provides users with stats such as how closely your views align with your friends, family (as if holiday gatherings were not enough) and the public at large (comparisons are percentage-based). Users may also submit stances for other people to state their positions. It remains to be seen if push polling is going to be an issue, as this app is just in beta mode and by invite only.
Flipboard is another app that I love and recently downloaded based on the suggestion of friend and colleague Courtney Bernard (you can read more about her own My Life in Apps story here). It is a customizable news provider that collects articles about things you care about in a user-friendly reading format. I can flip through articles about politics, sports, technology, science, and entertainment with ease. I especially love using this app on the metro (when I have service).
If something profound is scheduled to happen on the Hill, I have found that Whip Watch is a great app to use. House Democratic Whip Frank Under…errr Steny Hoyer developed this app to give a rundown of the day’s schedule and upcoming votes. His staff does a good job of updating the docket throughout the day, as changes often occur. This part of the app is helpful for any political affiliation, and there are additional features like press releases and videos from Hoyer’s office. There is also a jobs tab that consistently updates available positions in Democratic offices.
On the Republican side, I have the app from Representative Bob Latta’s office. He is from Ohio’s 5th district and represents my parents in Toledo. Rep. Latta was the first member of Congress to create an app and I use it to keep track of his efforts in my hometown.
If you want to track a vote as it happens, a good app to use is Capitol Bells. The app provides real-time voting updates and tallies in both chambers of Congress. It will also send you push notifications when votes have concluded.
When it comes to the citizen side of voting, apps have started to play a significant role. In 2012, President Barack Obama’s campaign released their ‘Obama for America’ app. The NGP Van MiniVAN app gave volunteers the ability to relay up-to-the-minute information to field organizers and took the longstanding clipboard and paper activity digital. Many analysts contend that the two apps gave Democrats a huge data advantage in the election.
Republicans started using the i360 canvassing app during the 2014 midterm elections to great success. The party also plans to roll out a new wave of data collecting software called GOP Data Beacon for 2016. There is a new data arms race brewing during campaign season and it’s happening via mobile applications.
Beyond apps designed specifically for politics, I have also started using some of my longtime apps in new ways. Since coming to DC, I have followed dozens of reporters and politicians on Twitter. I have also started paying more attention to the political sections in apps like BuzzFeed and Alien Blue (which is Reddit and do not worry, I still look at the cat videos).
Snapchat features video stories from people in the D.C. area and the discover section provides short, helpful videos from different news sources. Likewise, the Periscope app can be used as a helpful political news source. Periscope features live streaming videos from users such as reporters, political figures, or the average citizen that allows other users to directly engage with the streamer. I have already watched a few speeches from presidential candidates through the app.
These apps have taken my generally-informed-political-interest to being able to discuss a wide range of issues with confidence. As phones, wearables, and other devices increasingly become the fabric of our everyday lives, apps are replacing traditional media sources and playing a large role in education and self-improvement. Thanks, apps!
Curious about other ways apps are changing lives? Explore the rest of the My Life in Apps series here.