Month of December, 2012
Census Bureau to Offer American Community Survey Internet Response, press release (MONDAY, DEC. 17, 2012)
The American Community Survey, the most detailed portrait of America's towns and neighborhoods, is now more convenient for most participants with the added availability of responding online. That will make it the 61st U.S. Census Bureau survey with Internet response...
Households selected to participate in the American Community Survey will receive a letter in the mail with instructions about how to log in to the secure website and complete the survey online... If households selected to participate in the survey do not use the online response option, the Census Bureau will send them a paper questionnaire, or contact them by phone or in person to obtain answers.
- Developing an Internet Response Mode for the American Community Survey, by Mary C. Davis, Jennifer Guarino Tancreto, and Mary Frances Zelenak, Decennial Statistical Studies Division U.S. Census Bureau, FedCASIC (March 23, 2011).
- Design of the American Community Survey Internet?Instrument: Final Report, by Jennifer Guarino Tancreto, Mary Davis, Mary Frances Zelenak. American Community Survey Research and Evaluation Program (April 18, 2012)
This is exciting news. The Freedom of the Press Foundation has just been launched! Their goal is to help the public "donate to journalism organizations dedicated to transparency and accountability." The goal is simple really: raise funds and help promote public-interest journalism. So far, they're supporting Wikileaks, MuckRock News, National Security Archive, and the UpTake. I hope they'll add other fine journalistic organizations like ProPublica and DemocracyNow.
Their board consists of Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) co-founder John Perry Barlow, Glenn Greenwald, and several other journalists and activists. Early news coverage: New York Times, Huffington Post, Firedoglake.
You can receive updates from their site and/or follow them on twitter too (@FreedomofPress).
Please consider donating to support a free press!
The Freedom of the Press Foundation is dedicated to helping promote and fund aggressive, public-interest journalism focused on exposing mismanagement, corruption, and law-breaking in government. We accept tax-deductible donations to a variety of journalism organizations dedicated to government transparency and accountability.
The Freedom of the Press Foundation is built on the recognition that this kind of transparency journalism — from publishing the Pentagon Papers and exposing Watergate, to uncovering the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program and CIA secret prisons — doesn’t just happen. It requires dogged work by journalists, and often, the courage of whistleblowers and others who work to ensure that the public actually learns what it has a right to know.
The volunteers at the State Agency Databases Across the Fifty States project at http://wikis.ala.org/godort/index.php/State_Agency_Databases spent last week fixing a lot of links and finding some databases to add to our state lists.
Our survey on whether to retain our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/statedbs only got seven responses. While this might already send the message that the project Facebook page will not be missed, we're going to keep the survey open another week. So if you haven an opinion one way or the other, we'd love you to visit http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GHP7SPY and answer our quick, four question survey.
Now on to our activity highlights. For the full listing of changes in the last week, see http://tinyurl.com/statedbs.
CONNECTICUT (Janice Wilson)
Connecticut's Reemployment Portal - Linking skills and talents to new employment opportunities. Connecticut’s Reemployment Portal displays occupations with similar characteristics such as knowledge areas, tools and technology, and general work activities of your selected occupation.
GEORGIA (Chris Sharpe)
Search Fire Extinguisher Companies - Search companies to verify they are licensed to conduct business related to fire suppression systems and fire extinguishers.
FOIAonline is a tool for tracking and processing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. FOIAonline participating agencies include: Environmental Protection Agency, Department Of Commerce (except the US Patent and Trademark Office), Office of General Counsel of The National Archives and Records Administration, Merit Systems Protection Board, Federal Labor Relations Authority, and in a limited capacity the Department of the Treasury (for: Departmental Offices, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Bureau Of Engraving and Printing, Bureau of Fiscal Services, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and U.S.Mint). Please note: Information available from FOIAonline varies by agency.
- Searchable FOIA Database Available Online, National Coalition for History (December 10, 2012).
FOIAonline can be accessed at http://FOIAonline.Regulations.gov. While you can send requests to the participating agencies now, the data available in the system are initially minimal and variable by agency. The partner agencies will continue to enhance the system and they welcome other agencies’ participation.
The U.S. Census Bureau has a Data Visualization Gallery where they post weekly "explorations of Census data." Some of these strike me as unnecessary (does adding animation to the map of population density around Interstate 5 add any value to the data?), but strangely cool; (I will never be able to drive north from San Diego again without remembering this map!). At the very least, the site is a showcase for the data and (I hope) an inspiration to budding data visualizers!
Hat tip to LAist, a website about Los Angeles, that has a brief story (4 Cool Ways Of Visualizing Local Census Data) that links to some of their favorites that show how the population has been changing in Los Angeles and California relative to the rest of the country.
ProPublica has a short report with good links about the massive (roughly 6,000-page) Senate committee report on the CIA's detention, interrogation and rendition of terror suspects.
- The Senate Report on CIA Interrogations You May Never See, by Cora Currier,
ProPublica (Dec. 7, 2012).
... it's unclear how much, if any, of the review you might get to read.
The committee first needs to vote to endorse the report. Republicans, who are a minority on the committee, have been boycotting the investigation since the summer of 2009.
Even if the report is approved next week, it won’t be made public then, if at all. Decisions on declassification will come at "a later time"...
...the Obama administration has argued in courts that details about the CIA program [including some of the Guantanamo detainees' own accounts of their imprisonment] are still classified.
As predicted, our quarterly link check at http://wikis.ala.org/godort/index.php/State_Agency_Databases aka the State Agency Databases Across the Fifty States Project has generated a significant increase in activity this past week.
Before we get into that activity, we'd really appreciate it if you would answer a four question survey about our project's Facebook page at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GHP7SPY. The end of the year seems like a good time to evaluate whether our project's promotional efforts are best spent on Facebook or somewhere else.
Now back to your regular report. For a full listing of all activity during the past seven days, visit http://tinyurl.com/statedbs. Here are some highlights:
ALASKA (Daniel Cornwall)
Alaska Volcano Observatory Image Search - Database of volcano related photos. Database may be searched by name of volcano, year, image type (may refer to purpose or format), words in caption, author, recent images and "keywords." Keywords are in quotes because you are asked to choose form a list. Images appear to be public domain. Credit for photographers and AVO/USGS is requested for use of these images.
ARIZONA (Daniel Cornwall)
Indigenous Governance Database - From UA News, "The Indigenous Governance Database, recently launched by the UA’s Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy, pulls together in one central location articles, case studies, videos and other resources focused on governance, sovereignty, leadership, and sustainable economic and community development." The database may be searched by keywords, resource type (books, case studies, films, etc), Format type (text, audio, video), Topic (civics, education, laws & code, etc), Native Nation (organized by state, then tribal organization). Keywords MUST be entered. A two minute demo video is available.
IOWA (Julie Thomas)
Business Entities Search - Database allows you to search by either business entity number or name. The name search offers the option of entering the first few letters or words of a business entity name, in order to retrieve a list of all business entities beginning with the same letters. For example, entering NOW may return NOW INC., NOWHERE INC., and NOW PUBLICATIONS INC.
MICHIGAN (Michael McDonnell)
Statewide Search for Subdivision Plats - The Bureau of Construction Codes provides access to digital images, with print capability, of the plats and related documents of land subdivisions in the State of Michigan's plat files. The maps data as far back as 1821.
UTAH (Susanne Caro)
Construction Information Database - A searchable database of building permit data from nearly all cities and counties in Utah since 1975. Required fields include month and year. State, City and County search options are available.
WASHINGTON (Marilyn Von Seggern)
Find a CPA or Firm Licensing Search - Search for a CPA individual or firm licensed in the state of Washington.
Lost and Found Livestock - Database of lost and found livestock including: cattle, sheep, swine goats, horses, Emu, Ostrich, llamas, alpacas, Bison, domestic deer, and domestic elk. Records are viewable by animal type, date and county. Pictures provided when available. Formerly at http://www.azda.gov/lostFound/webView.aspx
This database is still listed on the Arizona Ag site, but hasn't worked since June 2012.
Staffer axed by Republican group over retracted copyright-reform memo, by Timothy B. Lee, arstechnica (Dec 6 2012).
The Republican Study Committee, a caucus of Republicans in the House of Representatives, has told staffer Derek Khanna that he will be out of a job when Congress re-convenes in January. The incoming chairman of the RSC, Steve Scalise (R-LA) was approached by several Republican members of Congress who were upset about a memo Khanna wrote advocating reform of copyright law. They asked that Khanna not be retained, and Scalise agreed to their request.
Three open government access advocates (Sunlight Foundation developer Eric Mill, GovTrack.us founder Josh Tauberer and New York Times developer Derek Willis) have put the United States Code on Github.
- The United States (Code) is on Github, by Alex Howard, O'Reilly Radar (December 6, 2012).
This fall, a trio of open government developers took it upon themselves to do what custodians of the U.S. Code and laws in the Library of Congress could have done years ago: published data and scrapers for legislation in Congress from THOMAS.gov in the public domain. The data at github.com/unitedstates is published using an "unlicense" and updated nightly.
..."It would be fantastic if the relevant bodies published this data themselves and made these datasets and scrapers unnecessary," said Mill, in an email interview. "It would increase the information's accuracy and timeliness, and probably its breadth. It would certainly save us a lot of work!"
Perhaps even more importantly, the project has released its computer code so that others will be able to scrape Thomas to build their own datasets of legislative data. The computer code also includes a U.S Code parser, which is significant because none of various formats in which the government produces the U.S. Code are suitable for easy reuse.
I also think it is fantastic that these developers understand the difference between putting information on the web in various hard-to-use, hard-to-preserve, and often hard-to-parse formats and actually publishing the data so that it can be easily obtained, used, and re-used. As Mill notes, publishing information makes scraping the web unnecessary, and publishing in open formats makes it much simpler to preserve information.