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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.

White House homepage “upgraded”

Upgrading the White House Homepage, by Macon Phillips, Whitehouse.gov This morning I’m pleased to announce something you may have already noticed: an improved homepage for WhiteHouse.gov.

We’re always working to make WhiteHouse.gov easier to use and provide clearer paths to key information.

Spammers Using Shortened .gov URLs

Spammers Using Shortened .gov URLs, by Ravi Mandalia, Parity News (20 October 2012).

Cyber-scammers have started using the 1.usa.gov links in their spam campaigns in a bid to fool gullible users into thinking that the links they see on a website or have received in their mail or newsletter are legitimate US Government website.

Spammers have achieved these shortened URLs through a loophole in the URL shortening service provided by bit.ly. USA.gov and Bit.ly have collaborated thus enabling anyone to shorten a .gov or .mil URL into a trustworthy 1.USA.gov URL.

Feds need to revamp Dot-Gov

As the federal government attempts to consolidate its web presence and reduce the number of dot-gov web sites, it faces a huge task. When the British government did something similar, it reduced the government’s 2,000 websites by more than 75 percent and shifted its online organizing structure from being based on the interests of agencies creating content to focusing on the interests of the citizens consuming that content. That effort took five years. The U.S. Government has 16,000 or more web sites. Currently it is hard for citizens to find the information they need because the sites are so badly done that typical web-wide searches often list government data well below less authoritative, outdated or recycled sources and the agencies themselves have clunky internal search engines.

An article in NextGov about the current state of dot-gov web sites has a number of interesting tidbits of information worth thinking about.

  • Feds aim to serve citizens better by revamping Dot-Gov, by Joseph Marks, NextGov (Jan. 3, 2012).
    • While the government is publishing more information than ever through about 18,000 websites, it’s become increasingly difficult for agency information to reach the public.
    • Much of the dot-gov reform effort has so far focused on eliminating excess government sites that sprouted up during the Web-crazed 1990s and now do little but diminish the dot-gov domain’s gravitas.
    • The federal Web presence is also pockmarked with stand-alone sites such as MLKday.gov, which are officially top-level domains but don’t have much content and aren’t regularly updated.
    • an informal survey in October with a custom-built Web crawling tool showed at least 200 … had likely been unofficially retired.

White House site goes open source!

Today, the White House Web site (whitehouse.gov) switched to the [w:open source] Drupal platform — the same software running FGI! I’m glad they made the shift. It’s one thing to talk about transparency the way the Obama administration has done, it’s another to use tools imbued with openness and transparency in order to get to that goal.

White House opens Web site programming to public
The Associated Press
Saturday, October 24, 2009

[tip ‘o the hat to Chris Messina!]

Recovery.gov 2.0

The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board released an upgraded version of the Recovery.gov website on Monday, September 28. Recovery.gov is, per the website, “the U.S. government’s official website providing easy access to data related to Recovery Act spending and allows for the reporting of potential fraud, waste, and abuse.” The site now has a zip code search for finding local Recovery Act awards, a Data Download section, and a new home page layout with more information upfront.

The reviews of the recent upgrade are out and can be summed up as “meh.” The conclusion from interested bloggers seems to be that while a few improvements have been made around the edges, there is little new to shout about. Observers are waiting for the real show, the scheduled October 15 release of the first recipient contract data and October 30 release of the first recipient grant and loan data. From the blogs:

Meet the New Recovery.gov, “(mostly) the same as the old Recovery.gov”, from OMB Watch Blog, September 28.

New Recovery.gov Goes Live, Key Data to be Released Later, from WSJ.com Washington Wire, September 28.

Grading the New Recovery.gov, a substantial review from Sunlight Labs, September 29.

Meanwhile, CRS librarians have updated their compilation of links to Recovery-related information on the web in this report available from OpenCRS.com: Authoritative Resources on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), updated September 10.