Federal Register 2.0

Geplaatst op 28-07-2010 door Maarten Marx | data, XML | | comment image Geen reacties »

Ed Summers posted the following message on the W3C EGov public mailing list:

I don’t know if this got discussed on here much yet, but I discovered
today via the Sunlight Foundation blog [1] that the Federal Register
2.0 site was recently released [2]. The Federal Register is one of the
most important government publications in the US, since it is the most
comprehensive publication of all the rules and regulations of the
various agencies that make up US federal government.

The new site is interesting to me for a few reasons:

– it uses opensource technologies (ruby, ruby on rails, mysql, sphinx,
nginx, apache2, varnish)
– the source code for the website itself is opensource, and available
to people to contribute changes/enhancements on github
– there is machine readable data available various flavors of xml
– there are permalinks for each entry in the Federal Register, which
incourages citability
– it is deployed in the cloud on Amazon’s ec2/s3
– it was the result of an egov software contest organized by the
Sunlight Foundation

I wrote up some more of my thoughts in my blog [3], if you care to
comment here or there. If anyone from NARA, GPO or Sunlight Foundation
are reading, nice work!


[1] http://sunlightlabs.com/blog/2010/meet-the-new-federal-register/
[2] http://www.federalregister.gov/

Some missing aspects
This XML collection is potentially a great resource, but at least three things need to be done before the XML can be reused reliably in a mashup:

  1. Provide a DTD or Schema
  2. The XML does not contain any of the metadata which is in the “infobox” on the right of the HTML page.
    In particular the reference/provenance information like the Document Citation and the Document ID are needed.
  3. Inside the XML there is no URI pointing persistently to itself, neither is there a URI pointing to the HTML-page based on the XML.

A fantastic aspect of the site is the ability to link to individual paragraphs in the documents.
Try for example http://www.federalregister.gov/a/2010-18383/p-12. This link is provided in the red ribbon to the right of the paragraph.
Mashups could potentially benefit from this feature. But unfortunately, these links are not present in the XML.

If you want to add this data to the Linked Open Data cloud, or if you want to create a mashup based on this data set, you have to screen scrape the HTML page which comes with each XML document.
This is a pity, because you are reverse engineering. Obviously this is not a reliable and stable solution.


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