Dear Civic Technologists: Madison 3.0 Is Here to Help Your Community Govern Better, Together

Dear fellow civic technologist,

My name is Seth Etter, and I’m writing from The OpenGov Foundation development team with some exciting news, and an awesome opportunity to help transform and upgrade your local legislature with free and open source software called Madison.  

As one of the developers behind it— and as the co-captain of my local Code for America Brigade, Open Wichita— I wanted to let you know about today’s Madison 3.0 release, which makes it a lot easier to go from 0 to to governing better, together, with Madison.  

Communities like Washington, D.C. and my hometown, Wichita, KS, are already making smarter policy with Madison, joining a diverse community of users ranging from Chicago, IL and the Obama Administration to the United Nations and U.S. Congress.  

Our team is excited about the work that’s been done to help you help improve your city and state legislature.  I hope you are too!


WATCH: Governing Better, Together, With Madison

Governing Better, Together, with Madison

Madison is software for public engagement on draft legislative documents. It allows citizens direct access to the work of their elected officials through direct engagement on their proposed policies.  This short tutorial video will give you a taste of of just how easy it is to bring democracy and civic engagement in your community into the Internet Age.

For citizens, Madison offers an online, easy-to-use platform for expressing their views to their elected officials. For elected officials, it offers a way to more effectively represent the views of their constituents.  Simply put, Madison takes the most important function of government-making, passing and enforcing the laws that govern us- from this…


…to this.


Even better, Madison 3.o is 100% free and completely open source. To us at The OpenGov Foundation, part of Madison being freely available means making it easy to setup and manage your own instance. Lowering the barrier for cities to have their own way for facilitating public engagement has been a key focus in this newest release.

Now is the time to bring the benefits of Madison to *your* city!

Why now? Here’s a quick overview.

The primary goals of Madison 3.0 were rethinking some of the underlying infrastructure in the project that lead to previous issues with deployment, upgrading, launching your own customized instance, etc.

We want to make it as easy as possible for anyone to get started with Madison, and we believe we’ve made significant strides to that end with this release.

Here’s the tl;dr on Madison 3.0–

  • New file structure – We’ve separated the client and server code! Part of this was for a more isolated build process for the client side code. We’ve also identified that a lot of outstanding issues are due to client side code, so the separation will prepare us to better tackle them going forward.
  • Customizability – We want to make it easy to customize your Madison instance with your own look and feel. Until this release, your best bet was having a separate code base that maintained your customizations. Now you can use provided custom CSS and locale files! Keep pulling updates from our master branch while maintaining your own custom overrides.
  • Improved client build process – Previously, it was required that you build your client side assets locally, commit them to the repo, and then deploy them. This goes against conventional web application standards, so we’ve removed that practice and made asset building part of the new and improved deployment pipeline!
  • Easier deployment – It’s important to us at OpenGov Foundation that it be as easy as possible for anyone to find Madison and launch an instance for their city or other legislative body. We’ve adopted both Chef and Capistrano to make this process possible with a small set of commands.

If you’re ready to get your community rolling straightaway, check out our deployment documentation on Github. This contains information on using Chef to install all the necessary dependencies on your server, and Capistrano for deploying the Madison codebase to it.

But wait, there’s more!

We’ve done a handful of other great things with this release. Check them out on Github in the Madison 3.0 upgrade documentation. We’re excited to make it easier for you to get Madison into the hands of your local elected officials, government staff, stakeholders and all residents like you. If you have any questions about Madison 3.0, how we can work together to put Madison to work in your city or state legislature, get in touch today.  You can email us.  You can Tweet us.  You can call or text us any time on +1-760-659-0631. Or you can jump in directly on Github.  We can’t wait to hear from you!

All the best,

Seth Etter and The OpenGov Foundation Team


Madison 3.0, and all of the work of The OpenGov Foundation, is generously supported by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Shuttleworth Foundation, the Rita Allen Foundation, the Consumer Technology Association, and the amazing men and women with whom The OpenGov Foundation partners in communities, governments and civil society organizations across America.

Madison 3.0 would not be possible without seriously talented people who deserve our thanks: The OpenGov Foundation’s world-class developers and designers, past and present.  On the development side: Seth Etter, Tanner Doshier, Bill Hunt, Chris Birk, Ross Tsiomenko, Sean Keefer, inSourceCode, and all the open source contributors listed here.  On the design side: John Athayde, Scout Addis, and Bryan Connor.  On the operations and engagement side: Meag Doherty, Aaron Bartnick, Nicko Margolies, Leili Slutz, and Mary Kate Mezzetti.  All rockstars. All civic innovators.  All amazing people who made Madison 3.0 possible.