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Remixes: Creative uses of free government information

One of the many benefits of no-fee public access to basic government information is that individuals and groups can take gov’t info from many sources and create something new. Call it a “remix” of government information. Sometimes this “remix” is made freely available, and other times fees are charged. As long as the underlying basic gov’t info isn’t trapped by false claims of vendor ownership, FGI doesn’t have a problem with that.

This page will highlight some of the free “remixes” of existing free government information done by individuals and other groups. If you know of a qualifying project, either use the “talk to us” link below, or post a comment.

  • Congressional Committees Project — The main goal of this wiki is to “facilitate participatory democracy by encouraging an informed citizenry through the advocacy of legislative transparency and the gathering of legislative information.” Contributors are asked to organize information on committees, and to share resources and information. Although this is hosted on the wiki section of dailykos, a democratically partisan blog, the project is deliberately *non-partisan* and “does not imply the endorsement of daily kos or its creators.”
  • Congresspedia – Congresspedia is a not-for-profit, collaborative project of the Center for Media and Democracy and the Sunlight Foundation and is overseen by an editor to help ensure fairness and accuracy. Anyone—including you—can edit citizen’s encyclopedia on Congress.
  • GovTrack.us – Legislation and Congressmember activity tracker created by Josh Tauberer, a first-year grad student at the University of Pennsylvania. Tracking reports can be put into e-mails or into RSS feeds. GovTrack draws information from THOMAS, House and Senate pages, Congressional Budget Office, and Federal Election Commission (indirectly)
  • Historical Census Browser – The Library of the University of Virginia worked with the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR)to transcribe paper Census publications from 1790 to 1960. The resulting data allows you to: produce tables of data by state or county, sort data by selected categories, create ratios between any two data categories, generate maps of selected data, and more. This sort of project could not be done if the older census data had been protected by DRM technologies or had originally been produced electronically and not carefully preserved.
  • Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, by Pat Kneisler. This site is the work of a single individual who gets data from official government sources (US Central Command, DoD news releases and others) and compiles them in a way that the government does not. Thanks and a big tip of the FGI hat to Sandra G. Rizzo, Business / Government Documents Librarian, City of Mesa [Arizona] Library who suggested this site as a good example of a government ‘remix’! She is very impressed with the site and the work involved and notes, “This site has a feature that enables you to organize the information by state, age, gender, place of death, country of death, cause of death, branch, unit, and rank of soldier. You can see it all – hostile fire, non-hostile vehicle accidents. What’s more, this site includes deaths of contractors (many killed through suicide bombing, ambush, and execution) and you can limit to Afghanistan war-dead. The site features statistics and graphs.” The site has been written about in the Chicago Sun-Times (December 1, 2004), Editor and Publisher (July 2004), the Washington Post, among others.
  • Iraq War Casualties Map – This one’s related to the Iraq Casualty Count above. Google Maps, casualty information from Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, and Latitude/Longitude information from the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Justia Regulation Tracker – This free service takes Federal Register data and provides the ability to create RSS feeds of search results. The search gives you more options than the GPO Advanced Federal Register Search because the Justia search gives you agency dropdown choices and the regulations abstracts appear on the results pages. Justia is led by former CEO and FindLaw co-founder Tim Stanley. They make their money from advanced web services to lawyers, but provide free basic legal info to the public.
  • Job Tracker. The AFL-CIO affiliate organization, Working America, has a web site that pulls together data from government and other information sources in order to help non-unionized workers. The online database has information on more than 60,000 companies, listing information about their executive compensation, overseas job outsourcing, and violations of labor, safety and health standards. It includes information from many sources, including: the Case Activity Tracking System (CATS) maintained by the federal National Labor Relations Board (the AFL-CIO filed Freedom of Information Act requests to gain access to these data, most of which are not otherwise publicly available; The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (data obtained with FOIA requests); OSHA inspections; Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Notices; SEC 10-K reports. For more information, see the Job Tracker sources and data page and: Labor Web Site Keeps Tabs on Business Workers Can Check Executive Salaries, Company Violations, By Amy Joyce, Washington Post, November 18, 2005; Page D03.
  • LegiStorm (Storming Media) — US congressional staff salaries in an easy to browse web interface. They obtain the data from the official record books: the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House reports.
  • Mashups, Blogs, Wikis Go Federal, by Laura Gordon-Murnane, Searcher (March 2007) Vol. 15 Issue 3, p33-39. [subscription required] and its free list of links [no subscription required] This is an article that “focuses on the creation of mashups, blogs and wikis that deal with issues concerning the U.S. government.”
  • OpenCongress (the Participatory Politics Foundation with help from the Sunlight Foundation) OpenCongress brings together official government data with news and blog coverage to give you the real story behind each bill. See also: Congress Remix: OpenCongress.org Launched and GovTrack and OpenCongress Go Beyond THOMAS, By Peggy Garvin, “The Government Domain,” LLRX.com March 18, 2007.
  • OpenSecrets.org – Created by the Center for Responsive Politics using Federal Election Commission data to allow easier access to contribution information. Contributions database searchable by industry, party, candidate, zip code and more.
  • Presidential Signing Statements – The full text of each presidential signing statement issued by George W. Bush is provided. All text was initially copied directly from the White House website on May 31, June 1, and June 2, 2006, or the Government Printing Office (GPO) website on June 3 and 4, 2006. Thereafter, text will be copied as statements are issued. Except where otherwise noted, text came from the White House website.
  • Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States (University of Michigan) – The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States contains material that was compiled and published by the Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration. It includes volumes covering the administrations of Presidents Hoover, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton. As subsequent volumes are published, they will be added online. Working in conjunction with GPO, the University of Michigan agreed to digitize PPOTP, and will continue to host it, as well as providing GPO with a copy of the files (TIFFS, OCR and metadata). The project was intended to demonstrate that useful digital copies of Government legacy collections could be produced as part of the routine reformatting efforts of larger libraries.
  • Scorecard.org – Scorecard provides a tool to find out about the pollution and toxic chemical problems in your community and learn who is responsible. The information comes from publicly available data on polluters collected by federal regulatory agencies and distributed in digital form.
  • U.S. Congressional Committee Meetings Index. (North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC) Much of the work of the U.S. Congress occurs in committees. The daily Congressional Record briefly notes meetings held by Senate, House, and Joint committees in a section called the “Daily Digest.” The NCSU Libraries takes that information, reformats the entries into XML records; indexes them; and makes them available via this interface. Coverage begins with the 99th Congress (1985) and continues to the present and is updated monthly.
  • US Presidential Speeches Tag Cloud by Chirag Mehta.
    Tag cloud of word frequency in 360 speeches, official documents, declarations, and letters written by the Presidents of the US between 1776 – 2006.
  • Votes Database, Washington Post. This site lets you browse every vote in the U.S. Congress since 1991. The data comes from several sources: the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, Women in Congress site and the Women in the Senate page, THOMAS, and the Web sites of the Senate, the Clerk of the House of Representatives.
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1 Comment

  1. Lily Wai says:

    In April 2002, the Idaho Geospatial Committee (IGC) recognized INSIDE Idaho (Interactive Numeric & Spatial Information Data Engine) as the clearinghouse for computerized geographic information for the state. INSIDE Idaho serves as the mechanism to share data, resources, technologies and expertise to meet the increasing demands for Idahoî–¸ geospatial information by educational institutions, government and business professionals, as well as Idaho citizens. The bulk of initial funding for INSIDE Idaho came from a 1999 Congressional grant; subsequent funding has been received from sponsorship from the University of Idaho Library, subsequent grants, and contributions from stakeholders. All data on the website are free for public access and the original data were contributed by federal, state, and local government agencies.

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