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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.

NetSquared $100K mashup competition

TechSoup’s NetSquared mashup challenge pays out a total $100K this year to the best of 122 submitted projects.

I’m going to have way too much fun browsing through the project proposals. Casting my votes, though, is already proving difficult… Using user downtime? Massive mashup calendars? Warnings for hidden corporate abuses every time I make an online purchase?


And of course, many of these envisioned projects would not even be imaginable were it not for widely available and mostly reliable government information data sources.

Federal and State data mashup creates new information

An interactive web service created by federal scientists on the University of Arizona campus in cooperation with the state of Arizona Department of Water Resources with funding from the U.S. Geological Survey “brings formerly hard-to-get water information as close as a mouse click.” (UA-based scientists make water data easy to find on Net, by B. Poole, Tucson Citizen, 03.14.2008)

Data for creating and presenting the layers of information on ground-water conditions came from the USGS National Water Information System (NWIS) and the Arizona Department of Water Resources Groundwater Site Inventory). A document describes how the site was created: An Online Interactive Map Service for Displaying Ground-Water Conditions in Arizona, By Fred D Tillman, Stanley A. Leake, Marilyn E. Flynn, Jeffrey T. Cordova, and Kurt T. Schonauer. USGS, National Water Availability and Use Program, Open-File Report 2007-1436, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia 2007.

The Geological Survey map complements Arizona Wells, produced by Sustainability of semi-Arid Hydrology and Riparian Areas (SAHARA), a University of Arizona-based group that aims to foster information exchange. Arizona Wells includes much of the data used in the Geological Survey map and water quality data from the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

One of the reasons we need open, re-usable, downloadable government information is so that sites like these can be built to create new information and to make information that was once hard to use, easier to use. As the Tucson Citizen article says, “Before such interactive maps, the public had to find the data, then interpret the numbers and codes in the databases.”

Sunlight Foundation Mashup Contest Winners

I’ve posted about this earlier at my home blog, but I thought it was worth a revisit and fuller entry because it did not get the attention it deserved. The Sunlight Foundation, the group that has fostered Congresspedia , the Open House Project, & OpenCongress.org, held a government “mashup” competition in April. In May, the winner, Uninfluence , was announced and won $2000. What follows is a list of the winner and the top 5 finalists. The ‘project descriptions’ are copied from the Sunlight project page. Additional entries can also be found there.


Developed by Skye Bender-deMoll and Greg Michalec.
Project Description: Uninfluence, is an interactive information visualization of state level political contribution data.
Screencast: http://sunlightlabs.com/mashupfinalists/unfluence/unfluence.html
Mashup: http://unfluence.primate.net/index.html

The Finalists

CityCon (First Runner Up)
Project Description: CityCon allows you to find detailed information about any member of the current 110th U.S. Congress.
Screencast: http://sunlightlabs.com/mashupfinalists/citycon/CityCon%20FInal.html
Mashup: http://www.tetonpost.com/citycon

OpenHearings Live (Second Runner Up)
Project Description: A mini-site of schedules for current and future Senate committee hearings. Includes links to live audio and video of hearings in progress, anRSS feed of live hearings, iCalendar schedules for all committees and hearings, and the ability to import the “Live Hearing” view into your personalized Google homepage.
Screencast: http://sunlightlabs.com/mashupfinalists/openhearingslive/OpenHearings.org%20-%20final.html
Mashup: http://openhearings.org/live

EchoDitto’s Congressional Similarity Visualizer
Project Description: Java applet that lets users explore which legislators vote most similarly to one another. (Detailed explanation on the site provides background on the statistical analysis the visualization represents.)
Screencast: http://sunlightlabs.com/mashupfinalists/Echoditto3/Echoditto3.html
Mashup: http://labs.echoditto.com/projects/sunlight/

Second Life Congressional Info
Project Description: A mashup of the Sunlight APIs with Second Life, creating an interactive info center (kiosk) at the virtual Capitol Hill – a pro-bono educational area – in Second Life. Visitors can (and do!) access the information in a venue where they can discuss the information in the context of politics, policy and place.
Screencast: http://sunlightlabs.com/mashupfinalists/secondlife4/Second%20Life4.html
Writeup: http://clearnightsky.com/node/288

Project Description: Data Visualization showing the relationship between members of Congress and political access committees. (Watchingscreencast and reading description highly recommended.)
Screencast: http://sunlightlabs.com/mashupfinalists/statemachine/State%20Machine%20-%20final.html
Mashup: http://state-machine.org/

Tim Dennis

LOUIS Shines Light on Congress, Executive

Today our friends at the Sunlight Foundation made the following announcement:

Sunlight would like to invite you to test out our new search engine of federal documents called LOUIS — the Library Of Unified Information Sources — at http://www.louisdb.org. There’s a screencast available on its homepage to help familiarize you with the site.

LOUIS makes it easy to search from a collection of over 300,000 documents from seven sets of federal documents dating back to 2001:

  • the Congressional Record,
  • congressional bills and resolutions,
  • congressional reports,
  • congressional hearings,
  • GAO reports,
  • presidential documents
  • Federal Register.

LOUIS, which updates its document depository daily, even allows you to set up a “standing query” as an RSS feed, to get alerts every time Congress or the executive branch takes action that references the subject of the initial query.

In addition, LOUIS delivers these federal documents in an electronic, printable, text format for easier use. LOUIS also lets you access all the pages of a debate in the Congressional Record printer-friendly Web page.

We’ve also made available the LOUIS API — Web access
methods that any computer programmer can use to build their own application using the database and the computer code that powers LOUIS.

Test it out – we encourage your feedback.

Gabriela Schneider
Communications Director
The Sunlight Foundation
1818 N Street NW, Suite 410
Washington, DC 20036
P: 202/742-1520 ext 236
F: 202/742-1524

After briefly exploring this tool, I think it will be highly useful. And it’s a great example of the type of creative uses of government information that is endangered if the government decides to go to a tiered model of information access where fully usable data is only available to those who can pay and agree not to release non-drm’d version of info to the public and free access is restricted to some sort of page at a time display.

Since the Future Digital System was designed to be “policy neutral, the reuse friendly policies of today could be converted into the crippled drm’d policy of tomorrow with a few buttons.

Don’t let that happen. Work for the locally built, Internet accessible depository system of the future. Study our digital library technologies page, check out LOCKSS or just start tagging documents of value.