Monday, October 05, 2009

New Access to the Federal Register:

The federal government just unveiled its new, improved interface for the Federal Register: The Washington Post ran an article by Ed O'Keefe today, "A More Web-Friendly Register With Federal Data in XML Form, Users Have New Options," that covers the switchover.

Starting Monday, issues dating back to 2000 will be available at in a form known in the Web world as XML, which allows users to transport data from a Web site and store it, reorganize it or customize it elsewhere. Officials suggested that the move puts readers, rather than the government, in charge of deciding how to access the Register's reams of information.

"In much the same way that newspapers have looked at making content more accessible by changing the print and typeface, we can now do the same thing by making the Federal Register available such that people can manipulate it and customize it and reuse the content to make the information even more accessible," said Beth Noveck, director of the White House Open Government Initiative.

Monday's launch is the outgrowth of President Obama's first executive order, which mandated greater transparency in federal government.
The article quotes Mary Alice Baish of AALL, praising the change (hooray!), and notes that it cost the government $100,000 to convert files back to 2000 to XML, and would cost another $150,000 to convert the files from 2000 back to 1994 to XML.

If you look at the site, you will find a very nice tutorial explaining how to make the most of the new interface. There are three types of catalogs:
* raw data catalog (platform-independent, machine readable datasets in a variety of formats)
* tool catalog (simple, application-driven access to Federal data with hyperlinks; this features widgets and data-mining and extraction tools, applications, and other services)
* geodata catalog (trusted federal geospacial data, with links to download datasets with a metadata page with details on the datasets, as well as links to more detailed Federal Geographic Data Committee

There is also an FAQ, and multiple ways to combine searches.
Search the Catalogs: You may search the data catalogs in a few different ways and each catalog has their own specific search criteria relative to the catalog:

1. View All Data: If you don't enter in any search parameters in the search box, and click submit, you will receive all of the records in the data catalog.
2. Search by Keyword: You can search the "raw" data catalog and the tools catalog by keyword.
3. Search "raw" data by file type: You can search the "raw" data catalog by file type (e.g., XML, CSV/Text, KML/KMZ, ESRI, Other)
4. Search by single/multiple category: You can search by either a single category or by selecting multiple categories.
5. Search by single/multiple agency: You can search by either a single agency or by selecting multiple agencies.
Tip of the OOTJ hat to my wonderful colleague Susan Sweetgall for passing along the Washington Post story!

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