Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Doubting THOMAS

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, September 13 2010

In an article recapping a recent Gov 2.0 get-together at Microsoft's Cambridge research center, the Boston Globe's D.C. Denison quotes one "alternative energy activist" as a skeptic of the notion of a more open government. Here's Denison, quoting the skeptic: "'Remember Thomas.gov?,' he asked, referring to the ambitious 'open government' initiative of the mid-1990s. 'How much of a difference did that make?'"

Skepticism about the transformative effect of open government isn't surprising. But going after THOMAS seems a curious example. THOMAS.gov is the Library of Congress's public-facing online database of legislative information and congressional records, launched by the 104th Congress, back in the mid-'90s Republican Revolution years. At the very least, it seems like the United States is better off having more access to verified congressional information that we'd be without it. But I'm a skewed judge -- I use THOMAS all the time. Am I missing something? Is there a general sense floating around out there that THOMAS is an open-government bust?

News Briefs

RSS Feed thursday >

NYC Open Data Advocates Focus on Quality And Value Over Quantity

The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications plans to publish more than double the amount of datasets this year than it published to the portal last year, new Commissioner Anne Roest wrote last week in an annual report mandated by the city's open data law, with 135 datasets scheduled to be released this year, and almost 100 more to come in 2015. But as preparations are underway for City Council open data oversight hearings in the fall, what matters more to advocates than the absolute number of the datasets is their quality. GO

Civic Tech and Engagement: Announcing a New Series on What Makes it "Thick"

Announcing a new series of feature articles that we will be publishing over the next several months, thanks to the support of the Rita Allen Foundation. Our focus is on digitally-enabled civic engagement, and in particular, how and under what conditions "thick" digital civic engagement occurs. What we're after is answers to this question: When does a tech tool or platform enable actual people to make ongoing and significant contributions to each other, to a place or cause, at a scale that produces demonstrable change? GO

More