govt stimulus website is a stimulus
February 18, 2009 9:08 PM   Subscribe

In the name of transparency, all the Fed’s stimulus-spending data will be posted at a new government site, - more than a minor victory for the democracy, it could be a stimulus in and of itself - databases released in machine-readable formats - like RSS, XML, and KML—spawn new business and grease the wheels of the economy.
posted by stbalbach (12 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
There's also some discussion going on about the fact that it runs on open-source software, unlike most of the other sites the government has launched and hosted in the past. As a Drupal nerd, this both excites and frightens me.
posted by verb at 9:10 PM on February 18, 2009

"A deus ex machina, then, in a double sense," said Dr. Calvin, dryly.
The Co-ordinator smiled gently, "I have never heard you pun before, Susan, but you are correct. And yet there was another danger. The ending of every other problem had merely given birth to another. Our new world wide robot economy may develop its own problems, and for that reason we have the Machines. The Earth's economy is stable, and will remain stable, because it is based upon the decisions of calculating machines that have the good of humanity at heart through the overwhelming force of the First Law of Robotics."
posted by carsonb at 9:19 PM on February 18, 2009

This site (and his video) makes my eyes moist (not kidding).
posted by unknowncommand at 9:21 PM on February 18, 2009

spawn new business and grease the wheels of the economy.

More accurately, provide false signals of available wealth to try to fool the economy into doing more of what got it in trouble in the first place.

The meth addict just had a heart attack. The doctor's prescription? More meth.
posted by Malor at 9:23 PM on February 18, 2009

So, I went to the website, and the first thing I see is Barack Obama staring at me.

Staring at me with those dead eyes.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:07 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

[hopes this all isn't an ARG]
posted by defenestration at 10:33 PM on February 18, 2009

If they really are releasing government records with semantic markup of the data... well, wow, is that going to make for some neat tools for understanding and tracking the government. Very cool.

The Canadian government has been putting out requests for feedback on the role of open source software in government. I'm not sure if that's because they think they'll save boatloads of money, or if it's something to do with data available to the public without tieing it to proprietary file formats.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:06 PM on February 18, 2009

The guy has been in office for one month and he's already looking older. Check back in another month and he'll look like a post-Civil War Lincoln.
posted by quadog at 12:05 AM on February 19, 2009

From the article -- "And government data, often hidden behind pay walls or trapped in PDF files, is ripe to be freed."

Truer words have never been spoken. During my banking career I've poured through hundreds, (but it feels like thousands) of US Government budget documents, looking for information, any information that would help us figure out what that behemoth was really up to. Brain numbing work, to be sure. And you always miss something, no matter how hard you try.

This is a problem that we long ago tackled in finance; The FIX Protcol, for example, was developed to link disparate system front and back office systems across financial institutions. The Financial Products Markup Language standardised the description of various Credit Derivatives and Structured Products in those systems.

Between the two initiatives banks can now purchase the most appropriate system for trading purposes, and not have to spend significant amounts of money afterwards on integration, either into their existing infrastructure or externally, to regulators / counterparties / et al.

I've recently become involved in UK Politics (to a modest extent, i.e. subject matter expert), and about one week ago spoke at a Local Council meeting on The Housing Crisis. While preparing my presentation I noticed that while budgetary UK information is far more accessible than similar information I've perused recently from the US side (seems like they eschew publishing HUGE pdfs, instead putting each line item into a separate and distinct file - hundred of files are a pia, but it is definitely easier to review and isolate needed data) it still isn't good enough. I probably spent 100 hours researching and preparing for a fifteen minute speech.

A big problem that immediately leaps out at me will be the legacy data; essentially a very, very large black hole that more than likely remain inaccessible. This will severely constrain our ability to look at the complete picture, trends over time, how existing relationships have evolved or perhaps degraded.

Regardless, I can see entire businesses formed to data mine this information going forward. It will especially be interesting to get this data into some consistent and recognised format (e.g., the 1999 European Cross Industry Standard Process for Data Mining), and then we'll really know what's going on as hidden relationships are uncovered. This is something we've seen pay off immensely when combating money laundering, etc.

Sure, it will help the lobbyists out a great deal, but also empower every day citizens who lack the time and resources needed to understand what's really going on. Of course once the entrenched agents get a firm grasp of the possibilities it wouldn't surprise me at all if this initiative encounters lots of resistance

Absolutely fantastic news if true.
posted by Mutant at 2:15 AM on February 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

Anything that helps Mutant explain the economy to me gets my vote.
posted by nax at 3:30 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I love that Obama really seems to get the Open Government thing. I just wish we could be assured of getting it from future administrations.
posted by DU at 4:40 AM on February 19, 2009

I love that Obama really seems to get the Open Government thing.

He does in theory:

"By continuing to act as the most secretive White House in modern history, the Bush Administration has once again placed itself above the law in order to hide its abuse of our justice system from the American people,” Obama said in a written statement.

“On the first day of an Obama Administration, we will launch the most sweeping ethics reform in history to shed sunlight on the decisions made by government and put the interests of the American people at the center of every decision that's made.”

Obama Invokes State Secrets Privilege a Second Time
posted by terranova at 8:46 AM on February 19, 2009

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