NextGov asked app reviewers to take a look at two recently-launched government apps designed to help the public navigate complex economic information: The Census Bureau's America's Economy app and the Education Department's StudentAid.gov mobile website.
New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute (OTI) has released a new report that The U.S. Congress lacks "shared expert knowledge capacity" and that has "created a critical weakness in our democratic process." The report says that Congress depends on outdated and in some cases antiquated systems of information referral, sorting, communicating, and convening."
- Congress' Wicked Problem [announcement and summary].
This paper does not put forward a simple recipe to fix these ailments, but argues that the absence of basic knowledge management in our legislature is a critical weakness. Congress struggles to make policy on complex issues while it equally lacks the wherewithal to effectively compete on substance in today’s 24 hour news cycle. This paper points out that Congress is not so much venal and corrupt as it is incapacitated and obsolete. And, in its present state, it cannot serve the needs of American democracy in the 21st Century.
- Congress' Wicked Problem, Seeking Knowledge Inside the Information Tsunami, By Lorelei Kelly, New America Foundation, (December 2012). [PDF, 6 pages]
This paper distinguishes between information and knowledge: Members of Congress and their staff do not lack access to information. Yet information backed by financial interests and high-decibel advocacy is disproportionately represented. Most importantly, they lack the institutional wisdom that can be built via a deliberate system that feeds broadly inclusive information through defined processes of review, context, comparison and evaluation of the implications for the nation as a whole. Concurrently, Congress also needs more expert judgment available to it during the policymaking process, which, for the purposes of this paper, means a focus on development of knowledge.
A government-wide Freedom of Information Act audit by the National Security Archive has found that sixty-two out of ninety-nine government agencies have not updated their FOIA regulations since US Attorney General Eric Holder issued his March 19, 2009 FOIA memorandum.
- Outdated Agency Regs Undermine Freedom of Information, National Security Archive (December 4, 2012)
Majority of Agencies Have Not Updated FOIA Rules to Meet Either Obama's 2009 Order or Congress's 2007 Law.
Second Term Obama Opportunity to Direct Agencies to Adopt Regulations for Open Government.
New National Security Archive Audit Covers 99 Federal Agencies, Previous Knight Open Government Surveys Showed Mixed Results
Rory Litwin has a nice comment today over at Library Juice. He says he hates the slogan "Librarian: The Original Search Engine" because it confuses what librarians do with what search engines do. He suggests a better analogy would be: "Librarians are to search engines as astronomers are to telescopes."
People who don't know much about astronomy can get some use from a telescope, but we understand that with an astronomer's knowledge it can become much more powerful as a tool for discovery. We would not say, "Astronomers: The original telescope," and we wouldn't think for a second that that a slogan like that would be flattering to astronomers or supportive of the astronomy profession.
But he goes further. Read the whole (short) post:
- You would not say, "Astronomers: The Original Telescope", by Rory Litwin, Library Juice, (November 30, 2012).
...a good slogan for the library profession should also encompass the other roles that librarians play in their institutions, as selectors, organizers, and preservers of information resources who have their communities in mind, and as the creators and maintainers of the systems and intellectual infrastructures that facilitate the connections between them.
Does your Kindle track what books you search for? Does your Nook monitor what you're reading after you purchase an e-book? The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been digging into the license agreements and technical capabilities of e-book readers to find the answers to these and similar questions since 2009. Their newest report is now available:
- Who's Tracking Your Reading Habits? An E-Book Buyer's Guide to Privacy, 2012 Edition
As we've done since 2009, again we've taken some of the most popular e-book platforms and combed through their privacy policies for answers to common privacy questions that users deserve to know. In many cases, these answers were frustratingly vague and long-winded. In nearly all cases, reading e-books means giving up more privacy than browsing through a physical bookstore or library, or reading a paper book in your own home. Here, we've examined the policies of Google Books, Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo, Sony, Overdrive, Indiebound, Internet Archive, and Adobe Content Server
Chris Rusbridge, retired Director of the UK Digital Curation Centre (DCC), sent an open letter to Tony Hey of Microsoft asking that they publish the specifications for older file formats. He has received a reply:
- Response to the Open Letter on obsolete Microsoft file formats, Chris Rusbridge, Unsustainable Ideas, (Nov 26, 2012).
- We do not currently have specifications for these older file formats.
- It is likely that those employees who had significant knowledge of these formats are no longer with Microsoft.
But the good new is that Microsoft is willing to work on the problem! The response from Microsoft continues:
- We can look into creating new licensing options including virtual machine images of older operating systems and old Office software images licensed for the sole purpose of rendering and/or converting legacy files.
- One approach we could consider is for Microsoft to participate in a “crowd source” project working with archivists to create a public spec of these old file formats.
Of course, this is a closing-the-barn-door-after-the-horse-is-gone solution, but such kludgy solutions are necessary when born-digital information is produced in proprietary formats rather than open formats -- and when libraries accept these formats rather than insists on preservable digital objects.
"Privacy International asked lawyers, activists, researchers and hackers at Defcon 2012 about some of the debates that thrive at the intersection between law, technology and privacy. We also wanted to know why privacy matters to them, and what they thought the future of privacy looked like. This video is a result of those conversations."
Featuring Cory Doctorow, Kade Crockford, Jameel Jaffer, Dan Kaminsky, Chris Soghoian, Marcia Hoffman, Moxie Marlinspike, Phil Zimmerman, Hanni Fakhoury and Eli O.
UPDATE: That Was Fast: Hollywood Already Browbeat The Republicans Into Retracting Report On Copyright Reform, by Mike Masnick, Techdirt (Nov 17th 2012)
...as soon as it was published, the MPAA and RIAA apparently went ballistic and hit the phones hard, demanding that the RSC take down the report. They succeeded. Even though the report had been fully vetted and approved by the RSC, executive director Paul S. Teller has now retracted it...
The link below to house.gov is now broken. A copy of the file is available here.
David Weinberger points to a Republican House policy paper "that nails three myths about copyright law and suggests four areas of reform."
- RSC Policy Brief: Three Myths about Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix it. The Republican Study Committee Jim Jordan (chair), Derek S. Khanna (Staff Contact), November 16, 2012. [PDF, 9 pages]
This paper will analyze current US Copyright Law by examining three myths on copyright law and possible reforms to copyright law that will lead to more economic development for the private sector and to a copyright law that is more firmly based upon constitutional principles.
The Three myths:
- The purpose of copyright is to compensate the creator of the content
- Copyright is free market capitalism at work
- The current copyright legal regime leads to the greatest innovation and productivity
And the policy solutions:
- Statutory damages reform
- Expand Fair Use
- Punish false copyright claims
- Heavily limit the terms for copyright, and create disincentives for renewal
Today I was re-reading an article from a few years ago and was struck by how prescient it was in providing a formula for the success of libraries. Here are some of its main points:
- Find a niche with growth potential (serve a community).
- Organize information to make it useful
- The internet is a distribution channel -- not a product (add value!)
- Turn words into math (sophisticated mathematical formulas can find patterns in content and make it more discoverable)
- Separate the signal from the noise (Type the word "jaguar" into Google's search engine and you'll get 64 million results. Fix this!)
- Computers can't do everything (humans indexers and editors make the difference that algorithms cannot)
- Print's not dead, it just needs online help
There you go!
Oh, I left out two things: One of the main rules was "Treat content like patented material" and the article was not about libraries but about Westlaw which has a successful "business model" of doing what libraries don't do anymore because "it is all on the web" and "someone else is doing that" etc.: selecting, acquiring, organizing, and preserving information and providing discovery of, access to, and service for that information. And they built their business model on using Free information. Most libraries do not have to make money which means they could do this for less cost and deliver the results to more people for free. But libraries would have to make the case that this is a better, more equitable, more democratic model than relying on the private sector. And they'd have to have leaders with the vision to build a 21st century library. Westlaw and others did it in the 20th Century. Google could never have built Google books without all the work libraries provided by building collections. What libraries have this vision today for future generations?
Read all about it:
- Westlaw rises to legal publishing fame by selling free information, By Erin Carlyle, City Pages, (April 29, 2009).
The U.S. House Office of Legislative Counsel produces a number of compilations of public laws for use by the committees. Recently, they made them over 250 of these compilations available to the public on their web site:
- Statute Compilations: A list of our frequently requested compilations in PDF format.
[T]he frequently requested compilations of those public laws that either do not appear in the United States Code or that have been classified to a title of the Code that has not been enacted into positive law. They have been prepared by our Office for the use and convenience of the Members and committees of the House.
- Unofficial documents: The compilations of public laws, as amended, provided at this site are unofficial documents and should not be cited as legal evidence of the law.
- Status: Please note carefully the date of the last amendment compiled, as some of these files have not yet been updated to reflect the most recent amendments enacted.