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Archive for the ‘Government documents’ Category

Kid President

Check out the winning art work for the kids.gov poster contest: “How Do I Become President?”:  rad design, classic coloring (check out the race yellow numbers!), and seamless information presentation. Odd though, where is the ballot-fixing, gerrymandering, court manipulation, corporate back-door policy, and oodles of campaign dollars?Yet the winner, David, did get #2 perfectly: “I promise”….

 

[via Gov Gab]

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Yesterday, the New York Times covered a story wherein the FBI sent a letter to Wikipedia demanding that they remove the official FBI  seal from their website. A laughable attempt at best and one that makes little sense.  I ventured over to the FBI website in order to determine the quality of their seals. The homepage seal is available but tiny and not high quality:

Additionally, the FBI has a page dedicated to the heraldry of the seal. A larger picture of the seal is available for viewing but attempts to “right-click” and “save as” have been disabled. Anyway, here’s a screen-shot:

Certainly these images pale in comparison to the Wikipedia seal. Wikipedia’s response letter is short and sweet, it breaks down the FBI’s arguments and interpretations of the law, 18 U.S.C. 701 . Another defense not mentioned in either letter (but is on Wikipedia’s FBI seal page) is the use of public works:

This image is a work of a Federal Bureau of Investigation employee, taken or made during the course of an employee’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.

Obviously the FBI doesn’t ‘get’ the Internet. My question to the FBI is many fold…how? why? what are they thinking? and really? I’m not sure who is more confused the FBI or myself.  The FBI owes an apology to Wikipedia for wasting their time and also an apology to the American people for wasting our resources and tax dollars. If they need something else to focus on, here’s a list I put together after thinking on it for 30 seconds: the global war on terror, the Gulf oil spill, their most wanted list,  banking fraud, child kidnappings, mass-murdering psychopaths, North Korea, Iraqi insurgents, Russian spies, and drug cartels. Honestly, this Halloween I am printing up FBI seals galore,  pasting them into a costume, and donning the super-hero name “G-MAN”. We’ll see how many people I can fool into giving me candy.

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My latest post is available at the Law Librarians of Puget Sounds blog: Federal Register Reborn.

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Apps, ideally, are designed to take advantage of a mobile-phone’s interface: touch-screen, small screen real estate, accelerometer, etc. Functions that the web, ultimately, cannot equally provide. The Transportation Security Administration has an app that is both useful and functional for the iPhone.

The “status” list displays all delayed airports in the USA. While I always recommend checking your flight status with your airline and flight number this is a handy option nonetheless.

Tapping into the airport will give you delay information. It’s a great tool for when you’ve volunteered to pick up a friend from the airport and find yourself sitting in the parking lot wondering, “how long is this gonna take.” Moreover, the bottom icon to the right, “Wait Times”, gives a run down of time needed to get through airport gates/security.

What self-respecting TSA app would go without a feature that details carry-on items and travel tips? The typical stuff is provided: how to dress, how to pack liquids and how much, what to expect, what is forbidden, acceptable IDs, traveling with kids, etc. Yet this app goes a step further and offers a search function. As you can see nun-chucks are going to have to go with checked-luggage.

I can easily see myself using this app when traveling to/from home. And being useful for family and friends who often ask about what they can or can’t pack. While most of us won’t use this app everyday or even every few months, the TSA app is a must download, given the information it provides, ease of use, and constantly updated data.

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Federal cell-phone apps and mobile websites are available in greater numbers, check it out here.  I’m not sure if these will stream-line librarian duties but they are worth having available if we are stuck in the stacks or fielding reference away from a computer. However there remains an opening for native programs that provide the most basic of legal needs: codes, regulations, & bills. While the latest mobile phones can navigate many Government web sites there is plenty of room for improvement, making information easier to search and browse on a cell-phone lends itself to enhancing traditional web landscapes. Even for Attorneys, public Government sites prove  cumbersome and confusing.

GPO Access hosts an overwhelmingly large amount of Government data but still looks like a website from the late 1990s/ early 2000s. FDsys is stuck in beta (personally I like it) and it could use an “Instant Message a Librarian” function; or something similar to help users get through the vast links and content available. I still can’t get my head around the discrepancies between these sites: GPO has the 2006 edition of the US Code whilst FDsys offers the 2008? Any law practitioner would be crazy to rely on either of these databases as current law, driving those unable to access books to Westlaw/Lexis. As the Government churns out more web-based and mobile functions it leads me to believe that for every new feature worth praising there are even more limitations worth ruing.

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Recently the famed government website, Thomas.gov, released a set of enhancements that make it more web 2.0 friendly. Like all users of the net I welcome the updates and look forward to further changes. Unfortunately it still lacks the ONE feature for which I’ve been wishing: tracking. RSS, e-mail, text message, carrier pigeon, or some kind of update to a single bill is still not available. Luckily websites like GovTrack.us and The New York Times  provide this simple feature.

While, the list of available Thomas RSS feeds includes resources aplenty, the complaint remains. California has a  simple website for legislative information and codes. One can easily subscribe to legislative updates via e-mail. For example, cuss free week (ACR 112), displays links at the bottom to subscribe to updates and even contact the bill’s author, Assembly Member Portantino. Am I missing something or am I asking too much from Thomas.gov?

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We’ll see how this plays out but this is exciting news:

“The Obama administration released a long-awaited openness directive Tuesday, ordering ornery federal agencies to comply with its government sunshine promises, including creating interactive open-government web pages and publishing three new raw-data sets in 45 days.”

http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2009/12/white-house-orders-agencies-to-open-up/

I hear you saying, “wow it can’t get any better than this- a more open and honest Government!” – Oh but it does.

“Agencies also have 60 days to launch open-government pages at the standardized URL of http://www.AgencyName.gov/open.”

Wild stuff, wild wild stuff. Maybe not that wild, but these are steps necessary in fostering a better democracy.

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