Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

The Government, the Internet and Data

datagovThe launch of yesterday was accompanied by a lot of fanfare on Twitter and blogs.

I think it’s fantastic that Obama is following through on his promise to make government more transparent, and looking forward to being a very useful tool. Right now though, it’s a bit wimpy. While there is a lot of data available in machine-readable formats, it hasn’t been translated into visualizations that humans can easily understand.

I should mention that US Government Web Services and XML Data Sources, a non-government site, has been collecting data released by the government and releasing mobile applets for a long time now.

In reaction to the launch of, Sunlight Labs has launched Apps for America 2:


Just as the federal government begins to provide data in Web developer-friendly formats, we’re organizing Apps for America 2: The Challenge to demonstrate that when government makes data available, it makes itself more accountable and creates more trust and opportunity in its actions. The contest submissions will also show the creativity of developers in designing compelling applications that provide easy access and understanding for the public, while also showing how open data can save the government tens of millions of dollars by engaging the development community in application development at far cheaper rates than traditional government contractors.

A post on the White House blog, “Your Government & New Media,” encourages people to find out where agencies are getting involved online and use these venues to communicate with the government.

So, look for opportunities to jump in and connect with your government — at our websites and blogs, through videos and photos, in social networks, through widgets, podcasts, and more. Abraham Lincoln knew what he was talking about. This is government of the people, by the people, for the people.

View, comment, rate, participate, and share. The government is paying attention, even as we continue to learn ourselves. The more people engage, the more meaningful all of this becomes, and the more progress we can make.

Here is a list of examples of government being “cooler and more approachable than you think.” (Descriptions are added from each site.) I gathered these from multiple blogs and websites.


  • EPA’s Pick 5 to help the environment
  • Do more to protect the environment by choosing at least five actions (below) you’ll commit to. Pick 5 also helps you identify more actions you can take in the future. Then let others know what you committed to through Pick Five. Show the actions you’ve taken.

  • National Park Service Facebook App
  • You may use this application to share and view stories, experiences and galleries related to your experience our our nations wonderful National Park system.

  • Library of Congress Flickr photo stream
  • The Prints & Photographs Division takes care of 14 million of the Library’s pictures and features more than 1 million through online catalogs. Offering historical photo collections through Flickr is a welcome opportunity to share some of our most popular images more widely.


  • Peer-to-Patent project
  • Recently a group of academic and business professionals have proposed a collaborative, online process in which members of the public pool together their knowledge and locate potential prior art. This pilot will test whether such collaboration can effectively locate prior art that might not otherwise be located by the Office during the typical examination process.

  • Presidential Directives and Executive Orders
  • In this section you will find official actions by the President that have a significant impact on how the federal government functions but do not require legislation or Congressional approval. See listings below of the official Proclamations, Presidential Memoranda, and Executive Orders that President Obama has issued since his inauguration.

  • Freedom of Information Act
  • The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails.

  • Transparency and Open Government
  • We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.


  • As the centerpiece of the President’s commitment to transparency and accountability, will feature information on how the Act is working, tools to help you hold the government accountable, and up-to-date data on the expenditure of funds.

  • White House Blog, Health Care Reform Forum (slideshow), Live Streaming from the White House, Open for Questions, Podcasts, President’s Weekly Address
  • Town Hall in Turkey
  • This website is a new portal for you and all Americans to find your own ways to serve in your own communities. Just choose your keyword – “education,” “environment,” or whatever interests you – and type in your zip code to see what opportunities our partner organizations have in your area. Americans are putting their own country back on the right track, be a part of it.

  • Troop Tube
  • TroopTube is the new online video site designed to help military families connect and keep in touch while miles apart.

  • TSA blog and other federal blogs
  • U.S. Government channel on YouTube
  • The official YouTube channel of the U.S. Government, linking you to videos across government. Visit the playlists and other channels for a wide variety of interesting videos!


  • State Department’s DipNote blog, on Twitter, on Facebook
  • Official Blog of the U.S. Department of State – offers the public an alternative source to mainstream media for U.S. foreign policy information. This blog offers the opportunity for participants to discuss important foreign policy issues with senior Department officials.

  •,’s government FAQs, email and online chat, on Twitter
  • As the U.S. government’s official web portal, makes it easy for the public to get U.S. government information and services on the web. also serves as the catalyst for a growing electronic government.


  • FBI widgets
  • Add links to FBI content by incorporating the widgets and modules below into your own website or blog.

  • Open Government Dialogue
  • This online brainstorming session, open from May 21st to 28th, 2009, will enable the White House to hear your most important ideas relating to open government.

  • Open Government Initiative and Innovations Gallery
  • Consistent with the President’s mandate, we want to be fully transparent in our work, participatory in soliciting your ideas and expertise, and collaborative in how we experiment together to use new tools and techniques for developing open government policy.

I hope these sites are useful to those interested in becoming involved in the direction of government for the next several years. If I missed any good ones, please leave them in the comments!

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