The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) posted a summary of its "digital firsts" over the last few years on its blog yesterday. This short piece gives a sense of the digital shift in government in a very short time. Two thousand tweets, Facebook, Flickr, online datasets, online maps, broadcast inspection files (!), APIs, LinkedIn, blogs, RSS feeds, etc.
- Digital Firsts, by David Robbins, Managing Director, Official FCC Blog (August 15th, 2012).
Hours after NASA's successful landing on Mars of its Mars rover, one of NASA's official clips from the mission was pulled from YouTube, and replaced with a notice from the video site indicating that the "video contains content from Scripps Local News, who has blocked it on copyright grounds."
The video was replaced and Scripps apologized, but it is an example of how the scale are tipped in favor of the "content industry" and even obvious, public-domain content gets caught in the privatization of information trap. EFF has the background on the technology and how it works:
- Mars Landing Videos, and Other Casualties of the Robot Wars, by Parker Higgins, Electronic Frontier Foundation (Aug 8, 2012).
[T]he problem likely lies not with the DMCA itself, but with the additional (and voluntary) automated Content ID system YouTube has developed. Content ID uses digital fingerprinting technology to identify duplicate audio and video on YouTube and, depending on the "business rules" configuration of the designated rightsholder, blocks or places ads next to videos. Unfortunately, the robots behind that copyright enforcement machine have the tendency to shoot first and ask questions later, even when it ends up silencing real -- human -- speech.
It costs money (at least in the short run) to make governments open and transparent. Even if open government is better for democracy and cost-efficient and cost-effective in the long run, governments may use the short-term cost as an excuse to curtail openness.
OMB Watch reports that, as part of its Budget Act of 2012 (passed in June), California suspended the state's open meetings law for the next three years in an effort to cut state expenditures. The California open meetings law "requires cities and other agencies to publish the agendas of public meetings before they occur and make the minutes of these meetings available to citizens after they occur." As OMB Watch says, "In suspending the law, the state is sacrificing not only a fundamental element of a democratic society, but a vital tool that can actually save money."
- California Suspends Open Meetings Law to Save Money, OMB Watch (August 14, 2012).
The state, facing increasingly tight budgets, suspended the law to save money. Under state rules, California is required to reimburse cities and counties for the cost of complying with mandated requirements, which includes its open meetings requirements. However, California has not reimbursed local governments for open meetings costs since 2005, accumulating a debt estimated at $96 million. By suspending the open meetings provision in the Brown Act, California expects to avoid paying open meetings costs for the next three years, as well as eliminate the current debt owed to local governments.
The OMB Watch article goes on to explain that the "costs" billed to the state may be inflated and not reflect actual costs and that some local government will continue their open meetings policies regardless of the change in requirements.
The National Security Archive at George Washington University is marking the anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act with a special post:
- Happy 46th Birthday, Freedom of Information!, National Security Archive (July 4, 2012).
Marking the 46th anniversary of President Johnson's signing the Freedom of Information Act, the National Security Archive today posted a compilation of 46 news headlines from the past year made possible by active and creative use of the FOIA. This representative sample, drawn from hundreds of FOIA stories reported by newspapers, blogs, broadcasters, and researchers, describe FOIA requests that revealed the theft of Jack Daniels whiskey by airport security screeners, the keywords used by homeland security officials to monitor social networking sites, the soil contamination endangering Marines and their families at Camp Lejeune, pre-9/11 attempts to whack Osama bin Laden, and $1.2 trillion of secret Federal Reserve loans to banks, among dozens of other topics that the public has a right and a need to know.
Gary points to a great, newly enhanced tool from C-SPAN that allows you to create and share video clips in its extensive video library of Congressional proceedings and Committee hearings. The tool is available for all of C-SPAN's online video content, which includes Book-TV and Booknotes, C-SPAN specials, interviews, news conferences, White House events, National Press Club speakers, and more. The archive includes every program aired on C-SPAN since 1987, almost 190,000 hours of video!
- The Wonderful C-SPAN Video Library Releases Enhanced Video Clipping Tool, by Gary Price, infoDOCKET (June 22, 2012).
All of the material is searchable not only with metadata but also using each word spoken during a program. That's right, transcript search.
- Clipping in the Video Library, by RXB, C-SPAN video library blog (June 22, 2012).
Over three million clips have already been created by users.
- C-SPAN Video Library.
Here is a four minute sample: a clip on the Volker Rule, taken from the two hour and fifteen minute testimony of Jamie Dimon on July 13, 2012 before the Senate Committee Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, about J. P. Morgan Chase's $2 billion trading loss on May 10, 2012.
Finding raw data or the statistics generated from those data can be a daunting task. There is not "Books in Print" for data. Two recent developments should help.
- OpenMetadata.org Community Site Launched, by Christine Connors, Information Today (June 18, 2012).
A new web portal was announced at the recent IASSIST conference in Washington D.C. Designed to make working with metadata easier, OpenMetadata.org (OM) is the product of Metadata Technology North America and Integrated Data Management Services, which created the site to "facilitat[e] access to standards based innovative technologies for the management of socio-economic, scientific, and other statistical data." Though the site is still in its initial deployment, the goal is for it to become a go-to resource for discovery, access, and tools for using statistical metadata.
The site currently focuses on two metadata standards: the Data Documentation Initiative (DDI) and the Statistical Data and Metadata Exchange (SDMX) standard.
DataCatalogs.org aims to be the most comprehensive list of open data catalogs in the world. It is curated by a group of leading open data experts from around the world - including representatives from local, regional and national governments, international organisations such as the World Bank, and numerous NGOs.
See particularly: the OpenMetadata Survey Catalog, a portal aggregating information on surveys from data producers and archives around the globe. The catalog enables you to perform complex searches across studies and variables and browse through comprehensive metadata.
The focus of the Digital Preservation Network, which is being created by research-intensive universities, is "the complete digital scholarly record" and its goal is to ensure the long-term preservation of that record. Already, twenty-nine organizations have agreed to participate in start-up planning and committed "seed capital" to fund initial planning efforts. Its Brief Overview describes some of the thinking that is going into this effort, which sounds remarkably like the FDLP and what we at FGI have been advocating for the digital FDLP:
- The Digital Preservation Network: Overview of the Initiative (Feb 21, 2012). [PDF 3 pages]
Over time, reliance on common approaches, technologies and organizations creates risk of common points of failure in securing long-term preservation of the record.
To avoid the catastrophic loss of scholarship, we must build and sustain a diverse ecosystem that can ensure the survival of scholarship in digital form for future generations. We envision a system that is scalable, sustainable, and complementary to existing collection and preservation efforts--the Digital Preservation Network (DPN or Deepen).
DPN will create a federated approach to preservation of academic content. It will build upon the higher education community's current investments to create sufficient diversity of preservation approaches to assure access to the digital scholarly record far into the future....
The objects and metadata of the scholarly record must be replicated across:
1. Diverse software architectures
2. Diverse organizational structures
3. Diverse geographic regions
4. And in the future, diverse legal/political environments (nations)
...This diversity requires a supporting ecosystem for preservation that enables higher education to own, maintain and control the scholarly record throughout time. While commercial entities may partner with us to contribute to this effort at different points in time depending on priorities and business models, final control must reside with the academy.
- The FBI's popular Ten Most Wanted list
- FBI's Child ID app (lets parents carry pictures and vital information such as weight and height about their children in case of emergency. It provides tips on how to keep children safe and what to do if they go missing, with fast access to law enforcement authorities via email and phone.)
- Science.gov (search scientific information from more than 50 databases and 2,100 government-affiliated websites.)
- Cancer.gov (provides a dictionary of terms, and news and information on cancer types, diagnoses, treatments, and how to treat side effects.)
- Smithsonian Institution's Access American Stories (companion for visitors to the American Stories exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.)
- Airport Wait Times (provides estimates of the wait times--the estimated time from landing until passengers are screened by Customs agents--for arriving flights at 23 international airports based on averages and time of year, not real-time data.)
- Department of Housing and Urban Development: The Edge (online magazine with news and information on housing and community development issues and regulations.)
- IRS Jobs (jobs at the IRS.)
- NARA DocsTeach (documents of historical significance.)
- Smokey Bear
Information Today reports on how budget cuts are affecting statistical information: "Nearly every federal agency has some statistical program that will be affected by budget cuts." Among other cuts, the article says that the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) will be closed as of June 15, 2012 and its website will no longer be maintained.
- Federal Statistical Programs in Jeopardy, by Barbie E. Keiser, Information Today (June 14, 2012).
Kel McClanahan of National Security Archive submitted to the Central Intelligence Agency a Freedom of Information Act request for "the CIA's copy of its new regulation 32 C.F.R. 1908." This is a public document: a regulation in the Code of Federal Regulations. It is available, for example, here: 32 CFR 1908.
The CIA even has a copy of 32 CFR on its own website (though evidently not the current version!):
But the CIA responded to this request this way:
We did not locate any records responsive to your request... our searches were thorough and diligent, and it is highly unlikely that repeating those searches would change the result...
Read the story here:
- The CIA Cannot Find Their Own Regulations about Declassification, by Nate Jones, Unredacted, The National Security Archive (June 8, 2012).