One of the concrete benefits of open government data is that third parties can use the data to do something useful that no one in government has the mandate, resources, or insight to do. If you think what I am about to tell you below is cool, and helpful, then you are a supporter of open government data.
On my site GovTrack, you can now find comparisons of the text of H.R. 1, the stimulus bill, at different stages in its legislative life — including the House version (as passed) and the current Senate version (amendment 570).
The main page on GovTrack for HR 1 is: here
Here’s a direct link to the comparison:
Comparisons are possible between any two versions of the bill posted by GPO. Comparisons are available for any bill.
If you find this useful, please take a moment to consider that something like this is possible only when Congress takes data openness seriously. When GPO went online and THOMAS was created in the early 90s, they chose good data formats and access policies (mostly). But the work on open government data didn’t end 15 years ago. As “what’s hot” shifts to video and Twitter, the choices made today are going to impact whether or not these sources of data empower us in the future, whether or not we miss exciting opportunities such as having tools like the one above.
(Thanks to John Wonderlich and Peggy Garvin for some side discussion about this before my post. GovTrack wasn’t initially picking up the latest Senate versions because GPO seems to have gone out of its way to accommodate posting the latest versions before they were passed by the Senate, which is great, but caught GovTrack by surprise.)