Thursday, March 01, 2007

Opencongress.org

Working in a library, I'm always on the look out for ways to obtain government documents. Government documents hold a wealth of information and since our tax money is used to make them, they are generally free to obtain. THOMAS (Library of Congress) is the main website I use, but their interface, in my humble opinion, is not very intuitive and I've spent more time, (or wasted more time when I'm not trying to be polite), helping students find information about politicians and legislative information due to THOMAS' clunky interface. I have to admit THOMAS has improved over the years, but I'm not sure how well they would score in a web design usability test. Of course, your mileage may vary and THOMAS might be something you find very easy to use.

A couple days ago I read about OpenCongress.org. I'm still investigating this site, but it looks very good so far. The interface is much more intuitive than THOMAS and finding current information is a snap. I don't know anything about the organizations behind this website, but the Sunlight Foundation looks promising and their advisory board has people I recognize from current events.

While poking around I did find one problem that was a bit silly, but could get annoying over time. I decided to look at the entry for Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon. There is a lot of good information provided, including a section on campaign contributions. However, directly above the campaign contribution entry is a section called "Gordon Smith in Blogs". The way they search and post information here needs to be fixed. The second entry under blogs, (as of this posting) is a MySpace account from a 22 year old in Australia who uses the names Gordon and Smith separately in her post, but has absolutely nothing to do about the right honorable gentleman from Oregon. I imagine some of these entries might prove to be entertaining, but I don't want to have to wade through hundreds of erroneous blog posts to find opinions posted in other blogs about dear Sen Smith.

Other than that, the site provides a nice service of repackaging information in a manner that is easy to use. Let's just hope it continues to remain easy and accurate in the days ahead.

3 comments:

Don Snabulus said...

I like The Memory Hole and Cryptome for government information (that the government often finds embarrassing) as well even though they obtain information through private methods rather than public (although they do plenty of Freedom Of Information Act searches as well)

Hypatia said...

Thanks for the info, Info Geek!

Looks like Smithy babe needs to pay his web mistress a more cashola to whip his website into shape!

(I know I'm bad, but I can't help it!)

Pandabonium said...

Thanks Info Geek. I may never have found this site on my own.

Memory Hole is good too, as snabby sez. hypatia is bad but can't help it, as she sez. ;^)