My Trip to D.C.

Last night I got back from a two-day trip to D.C. The point of the
trip was to make a presentation about GovTrack and also to start some
collaboration with others on expanding the political information that
is freely and openly available online.

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Monday afternoon I presented GovTrack and some ideas about the
semantic web to the people who are responsible for getting some
aspects of legislative information posted online in XML format. Right
now GovTrack gets its information from screen-scraping, which is an
inexact and fragile process of extracting information out of the same
HTML pages that you see when you view web sites. Having data
published also in XML format can greatly improve the accuracy of
getting information. What the people at the clerk of the House have
done to date, in terms of getting bills written in XML and roll call
votes posted in XML, has been a great step forward, although it
hasn’t been that useful for GovTrack. (One reason is the Senate
hasn’t followed suit because, as I understand it, the clerk of the
Senate isn’t authorized by the Senate itself to work on such things.)

I think I’ve met now almost all of the
players in the arena of building a network of political
information. Between everyone involved, we have enough data and enthusiasm to get
something very unique and useful started.

(For more details, see my posting on the GovTrack blog.)

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