Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Princeton FedThread

Ed Felten reports on the latest civic technology project at Princeton.
"Today we are rolling out FedThread, a new way of interacting with the Federal Register. It's the latest civic technology project from our team at Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy.
The Federal Register is "[t]he official daily publication for rules, proposed rules, and notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as executive orders and other presidential documents." It's published by the U.S. government, five days a week. The Federal Register tells citizens what their government is doing, in a lot more detail than the news media do.
FedThread makes the Federal Register more open and accessible. FedThread gives users:
  • collaborative annotation: Users can attach a note to any paragraph of the Federal Register; a conversation thread hangs off of every paragraph.
  • advanced search: Users can search the Federal Register (going back to 2000) on full text, by date, agency, and other fields.
  • customized feeds: Any search can be turned into an RSS feed. The resulting feed will include any new items that match the search query. Feeds can be delivered by email as well.
I think FedThread is a nice tool, but what's most amazing to me is that the whole project took only ten days to create. Ten days ago we had no code, no HTML, no plan, not even a block diagram on a whiteboard. Today we launched a pretty good service."
 He also explains that there were 3 primary reasons for them being able to produce such a service in such a short period of time.  Firstly the government provided access to the data in an open standard format, xml, that was easy for the software to handle.  Secondly there a great tech. tools available and thirdly they had a group of smart individuals.  This is right in Tony Hirst writetoreply territory and the potential for these kinds of services built on open access to government data is huge. Congratulations to the Princeton team and hopefully FedThread will get widely used.

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