Jan 10, 2009

Fishing Through Documents for Information

timoreilly RT @kmcurry: One Web 2.0 move govt could easily make: start publishing solicitations in open doc formats that I don't have 2 download 2 readSaw this, this morning and nodded. Another way folks can adopt to make government information more available.

Government likes it's DOCUMENTS. Documents are the coin of the realm. [Documents with alot of unnecessary over-syllabelized words, but that's another post] Papers, brochures, powerpoints, pdf's of press releases, reports, lists, tables, etc., etc., etc. Logos and boilerplate language reposted and repeated again and again in formats requiring downloads and plugins, opening new applications and interrupting the flow accessing and using information.

People (also sometimes called "users" in the tech space) should be able to choose the format that they will see the information. The open document format separates the content, styles, metadata and application settings into four separate XML files. Then the XML can be read by different applications that use the same standards.

Opening up documents--especially data, but also reports and papers--allow the information/content to be more easily analyzed and reused. It's a good step toward opening up the content locked in government websites and applications.

Tim O'Reilly's tweet also is a reminder that we need to think again about how we present information. Is the age of the memo done? Why have a report with five pages of introductory information when you are on the website that provides all the context via click? How do we tease the information from print-documents and integrate it into the information stream? How do we help people fish and take what they need from the stream?

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