When the House Judiciary Committee put all of the Justice Department e-mails relating to the Attorney purge they received online they started an immense distributed research project that led hundreds of citizens to pour over documents hoping to find the needle in the haystack that would become a story the next day. The only problem with these online document dumps was that they were just that, dumps, as in the pouring of documents online in no particular order and without a search function. Those days are over thanks to a cadre of committed online researchers at Daily Kos. DKos poster drational posted today about the DOJ Documents database created by 20 kossacks and spearheaded by nuketeacher. Check out the database here.
As we saw earlier today in Bill's post on N.Z. Bear's annotated, searchable immigration bill website, online citizens are making government data more accessible and more interactive than the government could hope to. The Judiciary Committee clearly was hoping that by dumping the documents online that citizens would not only be able to aid in researching but would also potentially create a new way to search and code the documents. With Monica Goodling's testimony on Wednesday I can now, thanks to this new database, go online and click on Goodling's name and have access to every single e-mail connected to her. If I so please I could go online check the "From" box to only see e-mails that she wrote.
The more information that is put online the more capability there is for citizens to compliment the legislative and investigative process with creative projects like this database or like N.Z. Bear's immigration bill website. At Sunlight's panel at the Personal Democracy Forum Conference MoveOn's Eli Pariser consistently stated that the online community has to get beyond using the Internet for "gotcha" politics. Clearly these ventures show that the online community can positively impact the governing process through distributed work on specific topics of interest.