Recovering Hill staffer Ted Henderson wants to liberate congressional aides from the specter of having their deepest, darkest work gripes traced back to them via pre-existing communication platforms.
His solution: the identity-eschewing Cloakroom.
Ex-Rep. Dale E. Kildee's former aide, who mined his inside-baseball experience to create the online advocacy tool Capitol Bells , told HOH he carved out the haven for free expression to enable no-holds-barred dialogue among rank-and-file feds.
“The listservs are all based on your staffer email address, so everything you say is attributed to both you and your boss,” Henderson said of internal channels used for everything from talking up potential new hires to extorting favors . “What you say might be scrutinized, manipulated or leaked,” he said, citing social media as equally dangerous territory.
Not so in Henderson’s fledgling clubhouse .
“Cloakroom is completely disconnected from your real identity,” Henderson explained, adding that users are welcome to adopt up to five aliases within the virtual community. “So you can use one alias to write about natural resources and another to become the preeminent Longworth cafeteria critic — without worrying about your boss putting two and two together and figuring out it's you challenging his lunch priorities.”
In an effort to keep the conversation flowing among actual peers, the app requires users to “check-in” at least once every 24 hours (the associated mobile device must be within one kilometer of the Capitol to sync up) before granting full access. Per Henderson, anyone willing to provide a dedicated congressional email address can automatically bypass the geographic tagging altogether. “In that case the plain-text email is deleted before the user even finishes verifying the account,” he said of the service’s commitment to shielding users’ personal data.
“We even provide a nuclear option to users to permanently delete all the messages they've written using the app,” Henderson said of a custom designed fail-safe.
“Political professionals shouldn't have to risk their careers to speak candidly on social media, whether it’s serious or fun,” he said.
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