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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?

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