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Where is FDsys headed?

**Note: This posting was sent in by Paul Schaffer**

The June 19 posting on GPO’s FDSys blog by Magan Fleetwood deserves a close reading.

Keep in mind, as you examine it, the evolution of digital “public comment” filings responding to Federal Register notices. Agencies were initially prodded to set up their own arrangements (EPA had a fine one) for submitting and perusing comments. Eventually many agencies felt obliged to abandon their individual software and accept the URL and field structure of www.regulations.gov. Presumably OMB played a role in that though I’m murky on the details.

I think GPO’s hope is that all executive branch webmasters will eventually be obliged to obtain an FDsys unique identifier for any web file intended to have official standing. Among the metadata repositories will be one containing preservation characteristics for every document in the system. (I’m not using quote marks here but I’m staying close to Fleetwood’s nomenclature.)

By my reading, GPO hopes FDsys will let it regain its former semi-monopoly of tranforming originating agencies’ material into legally valid publications. GPO won’t be supplying the ink and paper, as in the old days, but it will be providing the equivalent of an ISBN identifier.

I am particularly intrigued with this sentence: “Discussions are also under way defining system rights and privileges, including what data may or may not be overwritten, the conditions for overwriting data or creating new
records, what takes precedence, etc.”

I think what she’s talking about is allowing (eventually requiring, via OMB?) agency webmasters to create and submit appropriate FDsys metadata at the time a significant document is about to be uploaded.

If I’m surmising GPO’s agenda correctly, I think it has strong potential for improving document transparency in the long run. However so many of the cards are face-down at this point that it’s hard to assess the pluses and minuses.

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