Harried campaign finance dorks who spend the 20th of each month huddled over a terminal window hoping the next 43,558-page election disclosure report doesn’t break their parsing code have one less thing to worry about going wrong: today the Federal Election Commission announced they’re providing an RSS feed of the latest filings.
It’s a small step forward–and, full disclosure–one that the Sunlight Foundation asked for a few months ago at a public meeting. But it’s important nonetheless because it acknowledges that time-sensitive data needs to be presented in a convenient machine readable format. Until now, real-time campaign finance sites (like Follow the Unlimited Money) had to regularly ignore the FEC’s policy against web crawlers querying their campaign finance search and parse a page of human readable results. A few overzealous bots from a variety of news organizations were blocked in recent months for reading data too quickly. And the reliance on human-readable results meant that any formatting change might break a campaign finance scraper.
The RSS feed is a modest step, but it’s certainly nice to see an agency going out of their way by not only hosting a forum on public data, but actually implementing some of the suggestions.