With the introduction of an XML edition, the official journal of the U.S. government should be easier to access and use, while third parties will be able to apply the information in new ways.
After prompting from open government advocates, the White House has begun publishing the U.S. government's official journal, the Federal Register, in XML, making public announcements easier to search, organize, and access.
The Federal Register is used to disclose proposed and final rules and regulations, changes to rules, meeting notices, executive orders, and grant applications, but it can be hard-to-follow for non-experts in the inner workings of government. It's also ballooned in size to nearly 80,000 pages last year .
"With an XML edition, independent organizations can reorganize the Register's contents in ways that are more meaningful to you and address your personal interests; track issues that are likely to affect your community or your profession; and even engage in real-time public discussions about its contents with others," said Ray Mosley, director of the Federal Register for the National Archives and Records Administration, in a blog post.
Concurrent with the announcement, Princeton University's Center for Information Technologies launched FedThread, which can search and browse the Federal Register by category, annotate it, and convert searches into RSS or e-mail feeds that send updates when new items appear that match a search query. Sites like GovPulse, which scrape the Federal Register for data, will be able to pull in and track such information more easily.
"This is a very important move," John Wonderlich, policy director with Sunlight Foundation, wrote in a blog. "Now that the XML will be available, we can expect to see a renaissance of public reuse of Federal Register data." For example, sites that let users follow government activity by geography or issue will be more up to date, and it will be easier to identify trends and patterns in government data, he said.
In addition to publishing future issues of the Federal Register in XML, the government released XML editions dating back to 2000 and plans to go back even further.
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