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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Thank you! — May 2009 BOTM

It appears that my time is up as the guest blogger for the month of May. I just wanted to use my last post to thank everyone for this opportunity. As a long time reader and fan of FGI, I must say that guest blogging for this month has been a real treat for me.

The Printing Habits of Federal Government Employees

According to a recent report by Lexmark that details the printing habits of federal employees, the US Government spends 1.3 billion dollars on employee printing, of which $440 million is wasted on unnecessary printing.

Some of the interesting nuggets from the study include:

  • On average, each federal employee prints 30 pages each work day, totaling 7,200 pages per employee per year
  • Federal employees estimate that they immediately discard 35% of those pages the same day they are printed
  • 89% of federal employees report that their agencies do not have formal printing policies in place

Link to report

Death and Taxes

Death and Taxes – A Graphical Visualization of the Federal Budget

Death and Taxes is a large representational graph and poster of the federal budget. It contains over 500 programs and departments and almost every program that receives over 200 million dollars annually. The data is straight from the president’s 2009 budget request and will be debated, amended, and approved by Congress to begin the fiscal year. All of the item circles are proportional in size to their spending totals and the percentage change from 2008 is included to spot trends and disproportion.

How Congress Uses Twitter (Research Preview)

[UPDATE 7/12/10: I updated the link to the paper from Justin’s site to the umd site where the paper was officially published. jrj]

I thought I would give the readers of FGI the first scoop on some early research that is coming out of the University of Maryland on how members of Congress are using Twitter.

Twitter Use by the U.S. Congress (currently under review)

Abstract: Twitter is a microblogging service boasting over 7 million members and growing at a tremendous rate. With the buzz surrounding the service have come claims of its ability to transform the way people interact and share information, and calls for public figures to start using the site. In this study, we examine the way Twitter is being used by legislators, particularly by members of the United States Congress. We read and coded over 4,500 posts from all members of Congress using the site. Our analysis shows that Congresspeople are primarily using Twitter to post information, particularly links to news articles about them and their blog posts, and to report on their simple activities. These tend not to provide new insights into government or the legislative process or to improve transparency; rather, they are vehicles for self-promotion. However, Twitter is also facilitating direct communication between Congresspeople and citizens, though this is a less popular activity. In this paper, we report on our results, analysis, and provide suggestions for how Twitter can be used by Congresspeople in ways that benefit the citizens, not just the PR machines of the legislators themselves.

From the results of this study we found that Twitter is being used effectively in some spaces and not as effectively in others. In particular, Twitter has created opportunities for increased communication between citizens and Congresspeople, but the majority of posts contained information or location and activities which were being used for outreach and self promotion rather than to provide information that is helpful to citizens.

* Note this paper has been submitted for an upcoming conference but has NOT been accepted, peer-reviewed, or published. Please DO NOT CITE this article but if you are interested feel free to contact me.

A Quick Visualization Primer for Data.gov

This month, the Federal Government finally released their much anticipated data.gov website. The purpose of data.gov is to increase public access to machine readable data sets that are generated by the Federal Government.

Now that site has gone live, it is time for all of us to start digging into the data. Provided below is a collection of references and resources to serve as a short visualization primer for those interested in exploring the data sets that have been made available.


Websites and Blogs: