Month of December, 2010
The Government Printing Office (GPO) has been busy today! Hot on the heals of their announcement about the resignation of Public Printer Bob Tapella, President Obama announced today his list of recess appointments including naming William J. Boarman as the next Public Printer of the GPO.
Press Release from GPO:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 29, 2010 No. 10-49
MEDIA CONTACT: GARY SOMERSET 202.512.1957, 202.355.3997 cell firstname.lastname@example.org
PUBLIC PRINTER BOB TAPELLA RESIGNS
WASHINGTON—Public Printer of the United States Bob Tapella announces his resignation as head of the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO). Tapella has led the men and women of the 150-year-old agency the last three years. He was nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2007 to become the 25th Public Printer of the United States. Deputy Public Printer Paul Erickson becomes the Acting Public Printer effective immediately.
Prior to becoming Public Printer, Tapella served as a senior executive at GPO for five years. He was part of the team that took GPO from a survival mode to the thriving operation it is today. Tapella helped turn GPO’s financial situation from years of significant losses into the positive net operating income the agency enjoys today. Fiscal year 2010 marked the seventh consecutive year of positive results. The agency also launched GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) during Tapella’s tenure, giving the American people a one-stop site to authentic, published government information.
“It has been a pleasure serving both President Obama and President Bush during the last eight years at GPO,” said Public Printer Bob Tapella. “I want to thank the hardworking men and women of GPO who have transformed an agency that opened in 1861 into a 21st century printing, digital media, secure credentialing and ISO 9001 premiere manufacturing organization. I believe the successful launch of FDsys positions GPO to meet the challenges of the Digital Age.”
The GPO is the federal government’s primary centralized resource for gathering, cataloging, producing, providing, authenticating, and preserving published U.S. government information in all its forms. GPO is responsible for the production and distribution of information products and services for all three branches of the federal government. In addition to publication sales, GPO makes government information available at no cost to the public through GPO’s Federal Digital System (www.fdsys.gov) and through partnerships with approximately 1,220 libraries nationwide participating in the Federal Depository Library Program. For more information, please visit www.gpo.gov. Follow GPO on Twitter http://twitter.com/USGPO and on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/gpoprinter.
University College London has a treasure trove in the papers of the Enlightenment philosopher Jeremy Bentham. In the last 50 years, it has published 27 volumes of his writings — less than half of the 70 or so volumes ultimately expected. In an attempt to spur this project along, they're crowd-sourcing the transcription of the historical documents according to the NY Times.
The story also mentions another interesting crowd-sourcing project at George Mason University to reconstitute the papers of the early War Department (1784-1800) which had been destroyed by a fire on November 8, 1800. Sharon Leon, a historian at George Mason University and Director of Public Projects at the Center for History and New Media -- developers of one of my favorite Web tools, Zotero! -- recently received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to design a free plug-in that any archive or library could use to open transcription to the public.
Obviously crowd-sourcing is becoming an invaluable tool for expanding the reach of scholarship. Last week, I mentioned the Old Weather project which is crowd-sourcing old weather observations made by UK Royal Navy ships around the time of World War I in order to assist with climate model projections and improve a database of weather extremes. Old Weather is part of the Zooniverse of crowd-sourcing projects to help scientific projects.
Some, like Daniel Stowell, the director and editor of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, IL, point out that hiring of nonacademic transcribers is not a panacea and in fact could produce so many errors as to make crowd-sourcing expensive and even more time consuming in correcting errors.
But, as Ms Leon points out, “We’re not looking for perfect. We’re looking for progressive improvement, which is a completely different goal from someone who is creating a letter-press edition.”
Dare I point out that the FDLP has been crowd-sourcing US government documents since 1813?! As Tomas Jefferson wrote in a 1791 letter, “Let us save what remains, not by vaults and locks which fence them from the public eye and use in consigning them to the waste of time, but by such a multiplication of copies, as shall place them beyond the reach of accident.”
This just in: the U.S. Census Bureau today released the first results of the 2010 census. The new census showed the resident population of the United States on April 1, 2010, was 308,745,538. Check out the Census news conference and 2010 census winners and losers.
(NYT) These are the first results from the census conducted this year, and they will be used to reapportion seats in Congress, and, in turn, the Electoral College, based on new state population counts. The figures will influence the landscape for the 2012 presidential race and the makeup of the Electoral College, with Republican-leaning states from the Sun Belt gaining more political influence at the expense of Democratic-leaning Rust Belt states.
According to the new counts, Texas will gain four seats, Florida will gain two, while New York and Ohio each lose two. Fourteen other states gained or lost one seat. The gainers included Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina and Utah; the losers included Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts and New Jersey.
I have been looking for the new FCC rules on network neutrality at fcc.gov but haven't found them yet. TechDirt reports that you'll have to file a FOIA request to see them.
- Irony: If You Want To Know What The FCC's Rules On Internet Openness Are, You Need To File A FOIA, by Mike Masnick, TechDirt (Dec 21st 2010).
There is a news release on the FCC site, but the site is not very responsive this evening and some pages won't load, including that one.
FCC Backs Net Neutrality Order, By Juliana Gruenwald, National Journal (December 21, 2010, 1:06 PM).
FCC passes first net neutrality rules, By Cecilia Kang, Washington Post (Posted at 1:07 PM ET, 12/21/2010).
The FCC tweet seems to be the only official word at the moment:
"Vote goes 3-2 in favor of the "ayes." Chairman, Comms. Copps and Clyburn in favor; McDowell and Baker against. #oir
Here are lots of excellent links on the Network Neutrality issue from Kevin Taglang at The Benton Foundation:
- Benton's Communications-Related Headlines For Tuesday, December 21, 2010
FCC's Copps, Clyburn will not block network neutrality order
FCC’s New New Net Neutrality Compromise Is Better
FCC chairman describes network neutrality rule as down the middle
Hands off tomorrow's Internet
The Network Neutrality Order: Possible Adequacy, But No Regulatory Certainty Any Time Soon
Verizon Weighing Lawsuit Against FCC
Public Interest Community Disappointed with FCC
Yes, We’re Still Talking About Network Neutrality
Internet Access Should Be Application-Agnostic
Vote On Network Neutrality May Alter The Way We Listen Online
The Most Important Free Speech Issue of Our Time
All We Want For Christmas Is Internet Equality
It's been a busy couple of weeks here. I've got a bunch of tabs open that I've been meaning to read/watch. And the end of the year is about lists anyway, so here's a list of randomly interesting things to read and watch. And by all means, read and comment on the recently released draft documents at FDLPmodeling!!
Wikileaks related links:
- Wikiriver WikiLeaks-related news feeds put together by Dave Winer at ScriptingNews
- Cablegate the game. Makes a game of sorting through the huge mass of #cablegate leaks. "The Revolution Will Be Categorized!" (thanks /.)
- Cable Search: CABLESEARCH is an attempt for an user friendly search engine of already published documents from Wikileaks.
- Wiki Rebels the documentary (YouTube)
- "Espionage Act makes felons of us all" by Darlene Storm.
Dear Americans: If you are not "authorized" personnel, but you have read, written about, commented upon, tweeted, spread links by "liking" on Facebook, shared by email, or otherwise discussed "classified" information disclosed from WikiLeaks, you could be implicated for crimes under the U.S. Espionage Act -- or so warns a legal expert who said the U.S. Espionage Act could make "felons of us all."
- Why the Library of Congress Is Blocking Wikileaks. I think I already linked to this in earlier wikileaks comments, but be sure to read the (currently) 164 comments
Other links of interest:
- Old Weather: This is a cool project to crowd source old weather observations made by UK Royal Navy ships around the time of World War I in order to assist with climate model projections and improve a database of weather extremes. The human eye is still far better than any OCR software so please help! Part of the zooniverse of crowd-sourcing projects to help scientific projects.
- Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA)
- FDLPmodeling has a couple of draft documents ready to pick through and comment on. Please do so early and often.
- Theft! A History of Music (YouTube). Professor Jennifer Jenkins, Director of Duke University's Center for the Study of Public Domain, discusses the history of musical borrowing and regulation from Plato to hip hop
- Delicious's Data Policy is Like Setting a Museum on Fire. Gives some interesting context to the buzz about Yahoo! closing ... er ... selling delicious
Last week, the University of Washington's Master of Communication in Digital Media program hosted a public forum at Seattle Public Library to discuss the swarm of stories surrounding Wikileaks. "Open Secrets: An Open Conversation about Wikileaks and Information Transparency in America" featured a panel of local "thought leaders": Mike Fancher, Retired Executive Editor of The Seattle Times; Brett Horvath, Director of The Leaders Network; and Sarah van Gelder, Editor-in-Chief, Yes! Magazine, a progressive magazine.
The discussion exemplified the difficulty, perhaps impossibility, of getting a handle on so many fractured and simultaneous dimensions at the moment they're occurring, as if trying to gather one's most precious possessions from the air in the middle of a tornado. But to the credit of the moderator, panelists, and audience, the discussion was civil and wide-ranging, creating a public forum for whatever sense-making is possible at this stage.
Even in a story that's evolving moment by moment, with a steady din of conjecture and partial information, the troops are already lining up behind their chosen heroes and challenging designated villians. Friday's discussion was no exception. The general consensus seemed to be that Julian Assange, a clever though flawed hero, has done democracy a service by tossing raw classified information into the winds. A few participants in the audience raised questions about how people who work in government (the government is comprised of people, after all) are to conduct themselves in earnest, without the expectation that each datum will be publicly available, suggesting that indeed there may be some role for classification under certain circumstances. Their questions found little traction or response. My own conjecture is that their comments met a general climate of suspicion, an assumption that government is insidiously secretive by default.
But there's another reason for this quick leap to the comfortable pro-con approach to this complex story. Many discussions in the media have been strikingly deficient in providing background on government documents and what roles they fill in the work of agencies and actors. What documents does the State Department produce, and for what purpose? Why are some of them classified? What IS classification? Are there different levels of classification? Under what circumstances can documents be declassified? What is the current state of government transparency overall, and how has this changed from the last to the current administration?
That's where you all come in, Free Government Information community. If government information stymies even librarians, then what else could WE be doing to make it accessible to the general public, beyond putting raw documents at easy reach? What else could we communicate about the information life cycle of government documents that could flesh out our analysis of the current state of government transparency and secrecy more accurately? I'm not suggesting that this would make the questions or answers any less challenging, nor do I suggest that we become apologists for government abuses of transparency. But while these stories are in heavy circulation, we have an opportunity to insert our expertise to bring grounding to many narratives that are now lacking that crucial context.
Please help out the government documents community. Each year the Notable Documents Panel of the Government Documents Round Table (GODORT) selects titles issued by intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and governments at all levels and highlights them in a May Library Journal article -- here's last year's notable documents article.
If you see a government document, web site, database, or other information resource issued since January 2010 that merits attention, please take a few minutes to nominate it. Works in all formats are fair game, as are items published for governments and IGOs by private publishers.
Deadline is January 15, 2011.