Month of September, 2012
Looking Forward to the THOMAS Beta Website, by Daniel Schuman, Sunlight Foundation (Sept. 14, 2012).
In the near future, Congress is expected to release a major upgrade to its aging legislative information website THOMAS. The long-overdue update is part of a much larger effort to "enhance the effectiveness of mission-critical systems," a response to significant public and internal pressure to improve congressional efficiency and transparency. The launch of "THOMAS Beta" is the first step towards developing what the Library of Congress describes as a completely "modern legislative information system" that will replace THOMAS and Congress' more sophisticated internal legislative tracking website "LIS" in FY 2014. Both THOMAS and LIS will stay online alongside the beta website for several years.
While THOMAS Beta has been shown to stakeholders inside Congress, as far as I am aware there has been no formal engagement process with the public to identify specifications, discuss wireframes, or generally make sure the site meets the public's needs.
- U.S. Government Printing Office Selects SDL Technology to Digitally Manage and Publish U.S. Congressional Legislation, September 12, 2012 09:32 ET.
SDL (LSE:SDL), the leading provider of Global Information Management solutions, today announced that one of the world's largest digital information facilities, the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), has selected SDL to automate the publishing process for printing and accessing select Congressional and Federal agency legislation. GPO provides the three branches of the U.S. federal government with expert publishing and printing services and awarded SDL the Composition System Replacement (CSR) contract following a rigorous search and evaluation process.
All U.S. Congressional legislation will be published using SDL XML Professional Publisher (XPP™), an automated XML publishing engine for the production of high-volume and complexly formatted publications. SDL XPP software will integrate with GPO's Federal Digital System and be the central point for composition of content for print and online access. SDL XPP replaces a proprietary system that was developed internally but could not scale to support the growth of the GPO.
- Government Printing Office adopts internal XML system, By Joseph Marks, Government Executive (September 12, 2012).
The Government Printing Office is adopting a new system that will manage and publish congressional bills and other publications entirely in a pared down and machine-readable XML format, the company providing the system announced Wednesday.
GPO plans to launch a “proof of concept” for the new system with congressional bills before expanding it to other publications such as the Federal Register and the Congressional Record, Chief Technology Officer Ric Davis told Nextgov.
The Sunlight Foundation recently named Liz Barry and her group at the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS) as OpenGov Champions. Sunlight highlights these champions for their work and ingenuity in furthering govt transparency.
Ms Barry and the PLOTS team is perhaps best known for using kites and helium balloons to map the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010, the only high resolution images out in the media at the onset of the catastrophe. PLOTS uses "mapping and other scientific DIY methods to empower local residents and activists to issue their own data sets to better engage with their local governments in environmental and other issues in their communities."
Be sure to check out their many maps available in the PLOTS open data archive. And for all of you DIY scientists, you can chip in to the PLOTS DIY spectrometry kit kickstarter campaign and help them build a spectrum-sharing wiki.
ProPublica investigation shakes loose TV station public inspection files listing local political programmingSubmitted by jrjacobs on Tue, 2012-09-11 20:17.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a rule that says that TV stations must keep a list of political ad buys and make it available on request by the public. However, until recently, stations weren't required to post this data on the Internet, and so the only way to get the records was to physically travel to the station in person.
However, thanks to ProPublica's Free the Files project -- and especially their Free the Files volunteers!! -- this critical issue has been spotlighted and this summer the FCC passed a rule requiring the stations in the nation's top markets to upload the files to the FCC's website https://stations.fcc.gov/.
The system is far from perfect and has a lot of limitations -- eg. there's not a great search! -- but it's a good start.
Rachel Maddow highlighted this issue of transparency in political advertising on a recent show:
The U.S. Census Bureau is going through the final integration tests for the next TIGERweb release. TIGERweb v2.0 (beta) will consist of a new set of map services using American Community Survey (ACS) 2011 source data, an upgraded viewer application based on comments received from our users, and a relocation of our Census 2010 viewer to TIGERweb2010. We hope to release this new version the week of September 17, 2012. Expect more information about this release later this week.
If you have any questions or comments about TIGERweb, you may contact us by sending a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to the LA Times, Matrix producer Joel Silver has just purchased the WPA-era post office building in Venice, CA. The Venice PO is one of over 800 post office buildings on the National Register.
I'm quite verklempt about what's happening to the USPS. Article I, Section 8, Clause 7 of the United States Constitution, known as the Postal Clause or the Postal Power, empowers Congress "To establish Post Offices and post Roads." As Congressman Dennis Kucinich said in the first DemocracyNow segment below, "Universality is the bedrock of a democracy." For more information and to find out how you can help save the US Postal Service, go to SaveThePostOffice.com.
There hasn't been a State Agency Databases activity report since 8/19/2012 because summer activity has been minimal.
Expect project activity to pick up in the next few weeks as we do our quarterly link check and update of state pages.
There was one change to the wiki this week I wanted to highlight here. It involves the production of mobile apps tied to a state agency's database.
Florida has a healthcare facility database. Here's it's description from our Florida project page:
Facility Locator - "To locate a facility, begin by choosing a facility type using the drop down menu. Next enter a facility name, a city, zip code, and/or county, or choose a field office." Also searchable by proximity to a specific street address. Facility types include: Abortion Clinic, Adult Day Care Center, Adult Family Care Home, Ambulatory Surgical Center, Assisted Living Facility, Birth Center, Cardiac Catheterization, Clinical Laboratory, Community Mental Health-Partial Hospitalization Program, Comprehensive Outpatient Rehabilitation Facility, Crisis Stabilization Unit, End-Stage Renal Disease, Forensic Toxicology Laboratory, Health Care Clinic Exemptions, Health Care Clinics, Health Care Services Pool, Health Maintenance Organization, Homes for Special Services, Home Health Agency, Home Medical Equipment, Homemaker & Companion Services, Hospice, Hospital, Intermediate Care Facility, Lithotripsy, Multiphasic Health Test Center, Nurse Registry, Organ & Tissue Procurement, Portable X-Ray, Prescribed Pediatric Extended Care, Rehabilitation Agencies, Residential Treatment Center, Residential Treatment Facility, Rural Health Clinics, Skilled Nursing Facility, Skilled Nursing Unit, Transitional Living Facility, Utilization Review.
Given the situations where one might be looking for a medical facility, mobile apps appear to make sense.
If you're aware of other state agency databases that have been "app-ified", would you live a comment here? Thanks!
The Congressional Research Service has published an update to its handy guide for finding current legislation and regulations:
- Researching Current Federal Legislation and Regulations: A Guide to Resources for Congressional Staff. by Jerry W. Mansfield, Congressional Research Service, RL33895 (August 31, 2012). Available from Federation of American Scientists.
For those experienced in legislative and regulatory searching there won't be anything new or surprising here, but it is a handy introduction and reference.
One thing I particularly liked was the comparison on p. 13 of the "Legislative Information System," which provides access to legislative information to Members of Congress and their staff, and THOMAS, which makes information on federal legislation freely available to the public. That's right, one system for Congress and a separate system for us ordinary folk.
Here is a sample:
|Best used for Finding the most complete legislative information||Best used for Working with constituents|
|Links from Bill Summary & Status display to CRS reports||No CRS reports|
|Links to Capitol Hill and selected outside sources of floor and committee schedule information.||Minimal links|
|Special advanced search capabilities||Advanced search capabilities only in Bill Summary & Status database|
Again, this won't be news to most of you, but it is a nice summary of what we are missing.