Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Mashing Up Government

In a paper published in October 2007, Jerry Brito asks a question, "How accessible is government information?" According to Jerry, not very. Jerry argues that by failing to present data and information in a structured way (ie, RSS and XML), government has actually made it more difficult to find information. He points to examples in the federal government, including FCC dockets and I went to to look for an RSS feed and couldn't find one. On the other hand, you can see how useful a feed would be for subscribers, you can look at this feed from the Utah Division of Administrative Rules, which presents rules available for comment in an RSS feed.
"When the government makes data available in a structured format, it opens the doors to innovative and enlightening remixes of information known as mashups. Mashups are tools that can potentially be used by journalists, bloggers, and citizens—the Internet’s intelligent crowds—to better scrutinize government’s activities. When government does not make data available online, or makes it available but not in a structured format, third parties take it upon themselves to fill the void by implementing ingenious hacks."
Another initiative that could help to make some of the information tied up in large databases more available is the Google sitemapping initiative. (I just noticed that Google has added some new developer tools)

One of the things I'll try to do over the next few days is try to identify the ten most useful government RSS feeds and the top ten government mashups. Brito mentions some private sites that are mashing up federal government data, such as Metavid, created by UC Santa Cruz.

No comments: