The Obama administration has promised that they will track the progress of project approved in the stimulus bill (H.R. 1) through a web site, Recovery.gov. Matt Cooper at TPMDC notes the obvious about the current make-up of the site:
In his remarks earlier this morning about his stimulus plan, Obama touted Recovery.gov as a website where Americans “will be able to see how and where we spend taxpayer dollars.” Actually the site is empty pending the passage of the bill. Basically, it’s a placeholder for after the bill is passed. Shouldn’t there be something in there about the competing proposals? The options? Etc. It seems kind of lame for such a techno-savvy White House. Besides after the bill is passed how quickly are they really going to be able to update how Topeka spends it’s sewer money?
On that note, I think it would be best if anyone who might have control over the stimulus tracking web site to take note of the awesome suggestions laid out by our own John Wonderlich in a CNET article:
We’d like the site to serve not just the amateur information consumer, but also the programmers that can skillfully remix the information. The citizen observer’s role seems well-addressed by the legislation that mandated the site (with requirements for “printable reports,” feedback, and to be “easy to understand”), while the needs of the programmer are largely unaddressed. The data should be available in formats that facilitate more advanced use by programmers and analysts alike.
Certainly, the data should be made available following the 8 Principles of Open Data: (1) complete, (2) primary (as it is collected at the source), (3) timely, (4) accessible, (5) machine-processable, (6) nondiscriminatory, (7) nonproprietary, and (8) and license-free. XML and CSV are a minimum.
Search is great, if you are looking to find information about any one thing. But original analysis and visualization require access to data in bulk. If the goal of putting the data online is to increase accountability and transparency, then it is necessary (to) provide bulk data access.
Similarly, Ellen Miller blogged about David Robinson’s (not the 7-foot former Spurs center) even more ambitious suggestions for the release of large data sets of government information.
We know the administration, especially the tech team, is having a tough time getting used to the antiquated equipment in the White House, the Executive Office Building, and the Old Executive Office Building. I remember what it looked like in the ’90s and I’m sure it has changed very little.
At the same time, there are a lot of impatient people out here wondering when the administration will start running the kind of wired White House they have always intended. In the case of Recovery.gov, there are no shortage of ideas for them to quickly tap.