Tools for Transparency: Scribd – making documents accessible


Sunlight Foundation on Scribd

We’re big fans of Scribd here at Sunlight. For a while now, we’ve been posting transparency related documents to the platform while leveraging their widgets to embed congressional fund raiser information on our Party Time website.

So, what is Scribd? Much like YouTube, Scribd relieves users of the burden of hosting large files in varying formats while adding a social layer on top. Users can also research existing documents, download them, add them to their own accounts and engage the community through commenting, ranking and sharing.

Many of us are sitting on files we’ve obtained through government offices, FOIA requests and other publicly available sources.  Hosting these files ourselves can be cost prohibitive, difficult for others to find and may exist in formats unusable to some.  Scribd takes the pain out of hosting and sharing these documents.

Making our documents accessible is important enough that, as Crunchbase notes, Barack Obama, the New York Times, Meg Whitman and others use this service to share their content.

While having the President posting files to Scribd is a great start, it’s not nearly enough.  Every government office and agency, and every appointed and elected official needs to make public documents accessible to the public.  Posting these docs in an archaic format on a government server doesn’t exactly fulfill this civic duty, but when these documents are posted in a format that everyone (with an Internet connection) can use, download, share and comment on, well, that’s a different story.