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Have Your Say! We need your input on Digital Strategy

by on August 23, 2012


On May 23, 2012, the White House released the Digital Government Strategy, which outlines how all federal agencies will work to make information and services easily accessible on the internet, anytime, anywhere, and on any device. President Barack Obama said,

“Ultimately, this Strategy will ensure that agencies use emerging technologies to serve the public as effectively as possible. As a government, and as a trusted provider of services, we must never forget who our customers are – the American people.”

At the National Archives, we are working to make our data and information available to you.

Weigh in and let us know what you’d like us to focus on.
We’ve developed two lists. The first list is for proposed services to optimize for mobile use, so you can better access these services via a smartphone, tablet, or another mobile device. The second list is for systems to enable via Web Services like APIs, so that the data will be more accessible, especially for developers to reuse. Candidates were selected based on the possibility of implementation by May 2013. Please also let us know what additional candidates you would like to see optimized for mobile or enabled via APIs in the future.

In the comments below, please let us know what you would like to prioritized and specific recommendations for what will be most useful to you. If you prefer, you can email your recommendations to opengov@nara.gov.

To learn more about the agency’s implementation of the Digital Government Strategy, please visit archives.gov/digitalstrategy and archives.gov/open.

Proposed Mobile Candidates:

  • Mobile optimize FederalRegister.gov.
  • Develop a mobile application based on the Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents.
  • Mobile optimize Archives.gov.
  • Mobile optimize the Online Public Access resource, the online public portal for National Archives records.
  • Make additional National Archives records available through Wikipedia, which is mobile optimized and available through mobile apps.
  • Make additional National Archives records available through Flickr, which is mobile optimized and available through mobile apps.
  • Make improvements to Today’s Document mobile application.
  • Make improvements to the mobile application for DocsTeach, an online educational resource featuring National Archives records.
Proposed API Candidates: 
  • Integration of Regulations.gov API into FederalRegister.gov and its API. This integration would provide greater access to public comments and supporting documents in Regulations.gov, and improve process for submitting public comments from FederalRegister.gov to Regulations.gov.
  • Expand the FederalRegister.gov API to include the “Public Inspection Desk.”
  • Develop an API for FDsys through the Office of Federal Register – Government Printing Office Partnership.
  • Develop an API for the Online Public Access resource, the online public portal for National Archives records.
  • Make additional National Archives records available through Wikipedia,  which is accessible through the MediaWiki API.
  • Make additional National Archives records available through Flickr, which is accessible through the Flickr API.

Put em in the suggestion box!


Comments

Padma Prasad August 24, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Hi,
I just wanted to point out a minor correction. In the President’s quote, we see this: “we must never forget who are customers are”. The first ‘are’ should be our?

Thanks,
Padma

Christopher Ferry August 24, 2012 at 2:54 pm

I like the idea of the Wikipedia access. As a gradute student taking a class in Government Documents I sometimes found it easier to locate the text of Congressional bills and laws from links in Wikipedia ithan through searches in THOMAS.

A second suggestion is for NARA to find a way to clearly delineate that government records are in the public domain and therefore not restricted by copyright as many other documents, images, and other resources available online are. It would be good to have a “search public domain” or “search government resources” option in search engines such as Google and some way for that public domain tag to travel with the resource if it is reposted.

SA August 24, 2012 at 4:34 pm

I hope that Veterans, one of the Archives.gov top visitors, will be able to access a mobile version of eVetRecs to request their Veterans’ Service Records
(there’s a link to eVetRecs from Archives.gov – eVetRecs is a separate system http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/)

The following Archives.gov Visits statistical data is copied from
http://www.archives.gov/open/redesign/about.html#data

In what role are you using the web site today?
30% Veteran or Veteran’s family
23% Genealogist or family historian
14% Educator or student
14% Researcher

What were you primarily looking for today?
28% Historical Documents
25% Veterans’ Service Records
19% Genealogy or family history information
9% Other

Marina Bacchetti August 24, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Before we get to mobile optimization, we need to have better designed and more user-friendly Federal government web sites and online databases. Take the Federal Register online (GPO Access), for example. It is very user-unfriendly and a bear to use. The US Code (GPO Access) is another example. The GPO needs to either hire some very good programmers (who know searching and can really think about what the user needs and expects to experience when searching online) or contract out the design and implementation of their online databases to a company who creates good searchable databases (Innovative Interfaces of Emeryville, CA is one such company). After GPO does that, then we can begin to address mobile optimization for the Federal Register, etc. But, before we get to pulling it up via an app on our iPhones, let’s get it together on GPO Access in the first place. Thank you.

Millard Greer August 24, 2012 at 8:42 pm

I have sent many e-mails to NARA over these past few years suggesting they set up or have the Google folks set up their Google search engine for NARA! For example having to start with something
like “War and Conflict”,etc is beyond me as how a person this day and time could come up with something like that.

Respectfully submitted,

Millard Greer
Cedartown, Georgia

Adam Bergfeld August 27, 2012 at 11:33 am

Putting the Cart Before the Horse: Before providing mobile access to information and services, shouldn’t NARA first adequately provide electronic access to born electronic and paper records? The first part of the President’s directive must still be addressed by NARA: “New expectations require the Federal Government to be ready to deliver … digital information…” Further, it is important to acknowledge that the President is addressing the public (customer) expectation. The public (customer) expects records to be served up electronically.

Michael White August 29, 2012 at 11:03 am

In response to the comment on GPO Access from Marina Bacchetti on August 24, 2012, I would clarify that GPO has replaced “GPO Access” with FDsys.gov. Assuming the comment is directed at the appearance and functionality of FDsys, the Office of the Federal Register works with GPO to improve user access to our jointly produced information.

Our first step in improving access to Federal Register/CFR and related publications was to ensure that 15 years or more of our digital files were given new data definitions, and successfully migrated and preserved for the new FDsys data repository, which includes both access and preservation metadata. That was accomplished in the 2009-2011 time frame. Those permanent, historical files are now preserved in standards-based digital packages and are capable of being moved to any successor platform that might be developed down the road.

We are aware of the limitations of the FDsys user interface. FDsys advanced search has powerful tools to explore more than 40 different data sets (congressional, executive, and judicial). Those search tools are built to operate across all publications and to work in similar ways. There is some advantage to that uniformity, but it also creates some limitations for subject-oriented non-experts, and experts who want customized tools for particular publications.

The next phase of our development plans involve a multi-prong strategy to take the raw material of FDsys XML files and metadata and use them to create customized digital tools, such as the award-winning Federal Register 2.0 project on federalregister.gov. “FR2″ as we call it, is a direct analogue of the traditional PDF-based “FR1″ on FDsys.gov. FR2 is highly evolutionary — we are constantly adding new tools, such as suggested searches for popular topics, “My FR” for saving your research, and a system of user-created notifications on virtually any subject or agency activity. We have similar ambitions for the CFR — to harness FDsys metadata and XML to bring a better experience to our customers. In the interim, stay tuned for a newly improved version of e-CFR, and the release of an FDsys API, which will open up our publications to a wide range of developers. We also intend to churn out mobile apps or mobile-optimized services and e-books as quickly as possible.

The argument in favor of improving web versions first, and only later turning to mobile applications sounds reasonable until you look at the research (such as Pew Foundation studies), which shows how quickly users are moving to frequent, and sometimes exclusive, use of mobile devices to access information. We believe we can and should serve all users across the board. This week we released a new mobile-optimized version of FR2. Take a look at it on a tablet and check out how well the menus and HTML text displays in a smaller screen format.

NARA/Federal Register does not publish the U.S.C., but we share ideas with others in the legal community who operate in the same space. You might want to check out other U.S.C. options from the Office of the Law Revision Counsel including a new beta site (http://uscode.house.gov/), and the Cornell LII http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode /text. Both of these organizations rely on documents and metadata from GPO to produce their products.

Michael White
Director of Publications & Services
Office of the Federal Register

Michael White September 11, 2012 at 3:44 pm

We have an update to the Federal Register’s list of API candidates.

The existing FederalRegister.gov API now includes the “Public Inspection Desk.” That function is for access to documents placed on public display at the Office of the Federal Register prior to final publication in the Federal Register.

Documents filed for public inspection are usually published in the Federal Register on the next business day. But agencies can choose to have their documents posted several days or more in advance for fast public access and automated notifications from FederalRegister.gov.

The Public Inspection API has already been absorbed into the Sunlight Foundation’s comprehensive “Scout” legal information service, which allows anyone to subscribe to customized email or text alerts on congressional legislation and debates, as well as bills in state legislatures, and federal regulatory actions. https://scout.sunlightfoundation.com/.

Anonymous Smith December 26, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Before any of the mobile application, it would be nice to actually have access to the records at the National Archives. Over the last two years, researcher space has been taken away to build a larger gift shop and exhibit hall, the space now available are in many ways smaller than the local public library public space, archival staff are leaving and no one is being replaced. No one knows where the records are, what the records are, and it is much easier to tell people they can’t have access to records then simply providing access to them.
And the new Research Services Executive inferred that researchers are profiting from the records held at the Archives and should have to pay to have access to records.
Seems like the Archives is biting the hands of the researchers who are their greatest ally.

There is no open government at NARA these days.

Kristen (admin) December 31, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Dear Anonymous,
We passed your comment along to Bill Mayer, Executive for Research Services for his response:

My Name is Bill Mayer, and I’m the Executive for Research Services at NARA. I’ve been on board since June 2012. Since my first day, connecting with researchers has been a priority – and I’ve appreciated the welcome I’ve enjoyed from everyone. In September, I spoke at two different researcher forums, and made some misinformed comments that were also easily misinterpreted. Since those forums, I’ve been meeting expert researchers from all around the country; my archival staff have been hosting forums in St.Louis, Atlanta, NYC, and Kansas City with more to come. Your comments show where our focus of work needs to be – and we’re getting there. But I strongly encourage you to read my most recent interview in the November issue of “Researcher News” (link coming soon) AND to please contact me directly at bill.mayer@nara.gov — as the interview will show, my appreciation and understanding of the vital role our expert researchers occupy here at NARA continues to grow. By working together, we will achieve the transparency we all are seeking for the records of the republic and those who research them.

Sincerely,
William A. Mayer
Executive, Research Services (R)
National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Rd. rm 3400
College Park, MD 20740-6002
bill.mayer@nara.gov
(o) 301.837.3110
(f) 301.837.3633

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