Month of March, 2008
This will be my last entry as your Blogger of the Month for March. I have learned so much about government information and I have enjoyed learning from all of you as well. Thank you for letting me, a newbie in Government Documents, be a part of all this! But this isn't a goodbye, as I'll post my musings every now and again here at FGI. I'm addicted now, so you are not going to get rid of me so easily. *wink*
Before I sign off, I want to let you know about my department's wiki page that I am working on (more will be added as the years go by, I'm sure) on "Gov Docs 2.0" Resources as well as a link to my presentation that I gave at the Louisiana Library Association. If you would like to contribute information to the Gov Docs 2.0 Resources page, let me know. I can give you a password to access just that part of the wiki. So far, the page contains mostly Web 2.0 resources but I would like to include examples of other Government Depositories using Web 2.0 technologies too. I know the GODORT wiki , the Ning Library 2.0 and Government Library 2.0 group, and here at FGI there are some pages and directories about this topic too (I'll link to them from my wiki).
If Gov Docs 2.0 interests you, be sure to attend the Docs 2.0 pre-conference at ALA Anaheim! I wish I could be there, but I'll be busy being an "Emerging Leader" that day at the EL 2008 Workshop. If I could split myself in half in order to attend both, I would!
Ok, one more shameless self promotion before I go...feel free to stop by and read my depository's blog, Gov Docs on the Bayou. I welcome all comments and discussion!
Until next time,
"What used to take hours to dig up and analyze is now laid bare for you to see in seconds or minutes," so states the homepage of MAPLight.org, a new website that brings together campaign contributions and how legislators vote, creating more transparency of the connections between money and politics. This includes:
- How each legislator voted on each of the 5,000 bills in the 2003-2004 California legislative session.
- All campaign contributions made to each legislator from 2001-2004, categorized by the interest or industry of the contributor.
- Supporters and opponents of each bill, and the industries and interests those supporters and opponents represent.
- A brief description of each bill, and the subject the bill is about.
- The full text of each bill, including committee reports and amendments.
So far, MAPLight.org currently includes all 5,000 bills in the 2003-2004 California legislative session and all California campaign contributions from January 2001 through December 2004. They are seeking donations and support to extend MAPLight.org to include data for other states and U.S. Congress. This is a very promising project, so let's give them our support!
Last month we posted about OMB Watch's survey to choose 5 (and only 5) favorite questions on government openness and transparency for congressional and presidential candidates. Last week, OMBWatch released their report (PDF) of the survey. Given the way things have been going over the last 30 years -- but especially over the last 8 years of the imperial presidency! -- it's no wonder that those surveyed feel that presidents should be more accountable, the public should have increased access to administrative information from both the legislative and executive branches (especially health, safety, and environmental information), and that those within the government should have increased legal protections when they report on government wrong-doing.
I think PublicMarkup's first effort at drafting openness legislation -- the Transparency in Government Act 2008 -- jibes perfectly with this effort.
Five questions to ask the presidential candidates to gauge where the candidates fall on the openness-secrecy spectrum:
- Manipulation of Facts: "Do you support disclosure of all communications between the White House (including the Office of Management and Budget and other executive offices) and agencies regarding administrative decision-making and information disclosure?"
- Executive Privilege: "What do you believe are the appropriate limits of executive privilege in the disclosure of information to Congress and the public?"
- Whistleblowers: "In order to strengthen accountability against corporate crimes, would you support pending legislation that expands whistleblower protection rights to private sector workers who report violations of any federal public health and safety laws?"
- Presidential Records: "Do you commit to reversing Executive Order 13233 to restore public access to presidential records after twelve years?"
- Health, Safety & Environment: "Given the importance of health and safety information, how would you ensure that the public has easy access to understandable information about the air they breathe, the water they drink, and the products they use?"
Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit organization which develops and deploys new Internet technologies to make government information more accessible to citizens (i.e., Open Congress), is launching a new site called publicmarkup.org. The website is a place to post bills, to allow citizens to comment on, suggest edits to the substance of the legislation and promote participation. The idea of PublicMarkup.org is based on Transparency in Government Act of 2008. W00t!
This project is not intended to be the ultimate technical solution to the challenge of drafting legislation online, but an experiment in online collaboration. By collecting legislation, summaries, resources and commentary in a single linkable location, PublicMarkup.org provides a simple, blog-like framework for soliciting feedback on this legislation.
The Washington Times published the concluding article on their GPO Passport story on Friday:
"When the government finally built a backup passport center to be used in case Washington became debilitated, it picked a location directly in the path of potential future disaster, the hurricane-prone Mississippi Gulf Coast, which was ravaged by Katrina just a few years ago.
...The Times examined the state of America's new e-passport program, disclosing in stories this week that the GPO outsourced production of key components for the passport to overseas facilities and has charged the State Department substantially more than it actually costs to make each passport.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday her department is investigating the pricing issues, and two congressional committees also launched investigations into the security issues raised by having the crown jewels of America's border-security system produced overseas".
More details on the State Department's investigation can be found at this article also published by The Washington Times. Also, some members of Congress are investigating the passport security issue, according to an article from The Washington Times, as well as an editorial addressing these GPO passport issues.
"During the investigatory process, GPO did several site analyses for different locations. GPO and the State Department determined Stennis Space Center met all the requirements and to be the most secure and cost effective location".
Bill Sleeman, chair of the ALA Government Documents Roundtable (GODORT), recently posted the minutes to the GPO / GODORT Steering Conference Call of March 12, 2008. These conference calls take place from time to time and often have news of value. The minutes can be found (may have to scroll) at http://wikis.ala.org/godort/index.php/GODORT_Chair and covered the following topics, among others:
- Request for Information for Mass Digitization Opportunities
- Status of EPA Web Harvesting
- Status of the Federal Digital System (FDSys)
- Addition of pre-1976 cataloging to the Catalog of Government Publications - in progress.
- Continued distance ed through OPAL
- Current stats on the newish Government Information Online reference service.
If I were you, I'd look over the entire set of minutes as it was all interesting. I'd like to highlight two issues, both of which cry out for the documents community to do more to support GPO in some of its efforts:
EPA Web Harvest Project
Here are the notes on this subject (full names available from minutes page):
LH & RHM: Status of EPA harvesting project: GPO worked through 300 of the documents to gather information on what it will take for GPO to provide access to harvested materials (process, workflow and staffing implications). So far: the back end automation of meta-data extraction is not ready; parameters for metadata that accompanies the files needs improvement to automate de-duping; and the rules, methods and mechanisms for harvesting need to be refined (approximately 28% of material was not in scope). Basically, it is still taking more staff time to make these available than GPO can afford. BS asked about the FGI taxonomy experiment and if GPO would be investigating the results of that effort. GPO may incorporate that information into the project as the project moves forward.
GPO's results of automated harvesting finding a lot of out of scope material and difficult automated extraction of metadata are about what I expected based on my own experience and from my reading of the literature. Whether or not GPO builds on our modest taxonomy experiment (Thanks Bill!), I think that a GPO - community/citizen collaboration will be needed to begin getting a handle on web-based agency documents. They could start simply by publishing their spidering logs and see what happens. Or perhaps they can obtain some of the $2 Billion/week currently being spent elsewhere. If GPO choose to take the mass collaboration route, I hope the documents community is in the forefront of helping them.
If you're interested in taking part in our tagging experiment, please see http://freegovinfo.info/epatagging. We will be running the project through April 18, 2008. To see what has been tagged so far, please visit http://del.icio.us/tag/epapilotproject.
Here are the notes on this subject:
LC: OPAL, GPO continues to use OPAL for online training and demos. At present, technical capabilities limit presentations to slide shows, such as PowerPoint presentations. Interactive web functions will be added in the future. January call for participation in creation of tutorials netted one submission; hoping to generate interest at DLC.
The FDLP has over 1200 libraries and GPO got ONE SUBMISSION? A majority of FDLP libraries are teaching oriented academic libraries and GPO got ONE SUBMISSION?
Hello! I know I'm not the only one who has insisted that GPO provide training between conferences for those of us who don't get out much. The documents community has a great reservoir of government information expertise. We should be actively aiding GPO in their efforts to spread that expertise.
I admit that GPO's one submission wasn't from my library. I have a pretty new docs staff that's still getting up to speed. But that can't be the case everywhere. If only 10% of FDLP libraries could step up with a program, that would still be 120 programs -- twice a week for a whole year.
Just so I can at least pretend to put my money (or staff time) where my mouth is, I will spend some time next month looking at our library's gov info information strengths, our customer needs and patron interests. And then sometime during the summer I or someone else from our library will submit a program. If you run a depository, will you commit to doing the same? Not only does GPO need our help, so do our colleagues.
FGI thanks the GODORT and GPO personnel who participated, Jill Vassilakos-Long for taking the minutes and Bill for posting them to the ALA GODORT Wiki.
- Comcast Blocking: First the Internet — Now the Public February 25th, 2008 by jstearns. "Comcast — or someone who really, really likes Comcast — evidently bused in its own crowd. These seat-warmers, were paid to fill the room, a move that kept others from taking part."
- Comcast Manipulating NAACP on Net Neutrality, by: Matt Stoller, Wed Feb 27, 2008. "a flyer calling for a rally protesting the FCC under the NAACP's name, put out by a PR firm, and disavowed by the local NAACP as simply a 'draft', was going around on the same day as a net neutrality hearing that Comcast packed with a crowd they hired to prevent net neutrality advocates from attending.
- Net Neutrality's Quiet Crusader By Cecilia Kang, Washington Post, March 28, 2008; Page D01. [also available here] "A soft-spoken 30-year-old PhD candidate, Ben Scott has become an operator in multibillion-dollar battles involving corporate titans, regulators and consumers debating policies over who controls the media and the Internet."
- Software for Keeping ISPs Honest, by Peter Eckersley, March 28th, 2008. "...the general problem of ISPs doing strange things to Internet traffic without telling their customers is likely to continue in the future. EFF and many other organizations are working on software to test ISPs for unusual (mis)behavior. In this detailed post, we have a round-up of the tools that are out there right now, and others that are in development..."
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) issued a press release analyzing the March 26 EPA Report to Congress. PEER Associate Director Carol Goldberg says, “EPA is approaching the task of restoring its libraries grudgingly and appears to be trying to get by doing the bare minimum,”
- EPA to Re-Open Libraries by Fall - But They Won't Be the Same, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, March 28, 2008.
The press release says that the EPA report makes clear that:
- Re-opened libraries would be limited to “core reference materials” and unspecified “resources to meet specific local needs.” The one exception is the Kansas City–based regional library whose collection had not yet been disbursed;
- All EPA libraries will be operated under the direct control of a political appointee who will review whether requests for research materials and services “meet Network standards.” ...
- EPA is not indicating when, how or with whom it will consult in order to determine “stakeholder needs” that are supposed to guide services.
Interviews with Innovators: Online Access to Public Information: Carl Malamud, IT Conversations, March 18, 2008.
For many years Carl Malamud has been a tireless crusader for online access to U.S. public information: SEC filings, patents, Congressional video, the Smithsonian's historical photgraphy, and most recently, case law. On this edition of Interviews with Innovators, host Jon Udell asks Malamud about his strategies, accomplishments, and future plans.
This is an inspiring interview. If only there were libraries and library directors who had the simple, effective vision that Carl has!!