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Sorry, Interns, You’ve Been Replaced by a Google Doc

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Automation threatens the most venerable of DC traditions: Forcing interns to compile spreadsheets that make them want to leap out of a window. The Sunlight Foundation now offers an easy way to, as it describes it, “Create a spreadsheet of new laws, eliminating the need for countless Washington, DC interns.”

The program is one of many the organization, which advocates for transparency, has placed on IFTTT (shorthand for “if this, then that”), a service that allows people to create and sign up for “recipes” like “Download new songs you like to Dropbox” or “Save your status updates on Facebook to an Evernote notebook.”

Sunlight’s recipes are designed to extract information from the legislative process, like sending you a Slack notification when a bill becomes law, or getting a text when Congress has scheduled a vote. Sunlight began adding recipes to IFTTT in 2014, its communications director Jenn Topper told Benjamin Mullin of the Poynter Institute for a story Thursday. If “someone wants to know whether or not the president signs a bill, there aren’t always easy ways to figure that out,” Toppers said. “Now, by combining the notifications with that action, people can get information however they want.”

If this trend continues, DC interns looking to hold on to their positions are going to have to get really creative: One of the recipes connects your phone to legislative information; it’s called “When Congress schedules a vote, scream at me in a robot voice IMMEDIATELY.”

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.