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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.

Political RSS feeds

Will Johnson notes in a post to the OpenHouse Project mailing list that RSS feeds from Members of Congress are almost impossible to find and,  "I’m pretty sure that some of the offices aren’t aware that their CMS [Content Management System] is generating a feed."  To help out he has set up an interesting remix/mashup called PolFeeds, which grabs those feeds as well as those from candidates.  He describes it this way:

PolFeeds. n. A website that brings you virtually all of the RSS feeds offered by Presidential Candidates, Members of Congress, and the White House together in one place.

In his post he describes a bit about how flexible this is:

If you want info from a particular politician, you can just go to "name.polfeeds.com".  For example, barackobama.polfeeds.com will give you the content for all of Obama’s feeds, Twitters, YouTube videos, blog posts, Flickr photos, everything.  Of course, you can limit your view to particular types of items. If you want to see only blog posts by House members, you can go to polfeeds.com/house/blog.

Appending "/rss" onto the end of any url will give you the rss feed for the items on that page.  You can also subscribe to the feeds individually or create a custom feed.  For example, you could put together videos from Pelosi with blog posts from McCain and press releases from Boehner.

Very cool!

Database of Administration Iraq Claims

Researchers at The Center for Public Integrity and the Fund for Independence in Journalism have assembled a full-text database of every public statement made by eight top Bush administration officials from September 11, 2001, to September 11, 2003, regarding (1) Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction and (2) Iraq’s links to Al Qaeda.

The database was assembled from official government publications, news accounts, books, and more. Sources include the websites of the White House, State Department, and Defense Department, transcripts of interviews and briefings, texts of speeches and testimony, prepared statements, articles from major newspapers, transcripts of television programs, government studies or reports, and books.

The "Overview" of the research says that

President George W. Bush and seven of his administration’s top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Press coverage:

The Fund for Independence in Journalism, is a nonprofit, tax exempt organization "created to foster independent, high quality public service journalism in the United States and around the world." It provides legal defense and endowment support for the Center for Public Integrity, The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit organization "dedicated to producing original, responsible investigative journalism on issues of public concern. The Center is non-partisan and non-advocacy."


Google mashup: books and maps

According to AllPoints Blog, there will soon be connections between Google Books, Google Earth and Google Maps.

Google has posted locations found in some texts (Michael Jones’ demo at the New York State Geospatial Summit showed only publicly available ones) to Google Earth. When you click on a placemark you jump to the book’s page and to the exact page on which the location information was found. And you get a Google Map of all the places mentioned in the book.

Here are 2 examples. Scroll to the bottom of the book’s “about” page, and you’ll see a google map of every place mentioned!

This is definitely an indicator of where the net is going. As David Weinberger posits (and I’m seriously paraphrasing!), in his new book, Everything is Miscellaneous, the seemingly paradoxical idea of opening up or giving away your library’s metadata to the world is what will drive users to your library.

New Remix: Federal Register Searches by RSS

Thanks a bundle to Steven M. Cohen who Twittered about this new item we’ve added to our remixes page:

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.

More information on Justia and this new service can be found at http://blog.librarylaw.com/librarylaw/2007/04/feeding_the_rea.html.

This is a perfect example of a service that couldn’t be started if GPO implemented a two-tiered model of information access – Free but restricted access at Depository Libraries and fee access for vendors wishing to reuse government information.

But how will GPO be able to sell government information if people who obtain this public domain information republish for free with better searching and alert tools than GPO? We don’t think they can without restricting the no-fee information model in some way. So we at FGI think they shouldn’t try.

Finally, if this serendipity by Twitter intrigued you, drop by and friend me at http://www.twitter.com/dcornwall

Two additions to Remix page

I’ve added two new items to our Remixes page.

  • OpenCongress, which was covered before by Peggy Garvin (Congress Remix: OpenCongress.org Launched)
  • An article about mashups and remixes, etc.: 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]. “The article focuses on the creation of mashups, blogs and wikis that deal with issues concerning the U.S. government. FedSpending.org is a resource maintained and operated by OMB Watch that enables anyone to see what fundings the U.S. Congress has appropriated in the form of contracts and grants. The Sunlight Foundation has established Sunlight Labs as a pilot project to develop technological ideas to improve government transparency and political influence discourse. The library at the North Carolina State University in Raleigh has put together a U.S. Congressional Committees Meeting Index.”

Thanks to Peggy and her article! GovTrack and OpenCongress Go Beyond THOMAS, By Peggy Garvin, “The Government Domain,” LLRX.com March 18, 2007.