(by Paul Blumenthal and John Wonderlich)
Where can I find information on the contracts awarded to Northrop Grumman Corporation? Once IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve found that information, where can I find the campaign finance and lobbying information for Northrop Grumman Corporation? Have members of Congress have accepted private travel from Northrop Grumman Corporation or a related association? Is there a profile of those members of Congress? Can I edit that profile with what I might find? Did that member say anything about Northrop Grumman Corporation in the Congressional Record? Are they mentioned in a committee report? Did they benefit from an earmark?
Web sites presenting different kinds of political, civic, and legislative information are distributed throughout the internet. While broad Web searches can be effective, they can also be time consuming and lead to sites of questionable reliability. With the debut of SunlightÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Insanely Useful Web sites page (on the second tab of the main Sunlight Foundation page) we’re developing a collection of value-added government information databases on the Web.
We’re going to be reviewing these sites to help you understand how these databases work and what they offer to the amateur researcher and the experienced Web geek. Our reviews, and the feedback that you give to us, will be given to the developer as feedback to help make these sites even more insanely useful.
Insanely Useful Web sites seeks to bring together on one-page links to government information databases that provides visitors data presented in an open, dynamic fashion. This will not only enable researchers a one-stop shop for all their needs, but will also help demonstrate how government information can be presented in a Web 2.0 world.
All of the sites listed are created to offer information in a new way and utilize the technologies and tools used across the Web today. There is a wiki for Congress; databases with open APIs and RSS feeds on bills and votes; campaign finance information mashed-up with congressional voting data to highlight the connection between the two; searchable lobbying information; a user-generated database for executive branch e-mails related to the U.S. Attorneys Purge scandal; a site, chock full of interactive functions, that tells you how much each individual bill will cost you; and many more. Ultimately, these Web sites enable citizens to be able to better connect to their government through better and more accessible information and through the ability to interact with that information.
Considering the exploding nature of government information of the Web, we fully expect this list of Insanely Useful Web sites to continue to expand. Some of you out there are creating new Web sites that utilize government information in ways that no one has thought of yet and we’d like to know about it. Do you have a wiki, a database, or a mash-up that uses and presents government information in a new fashion or enables citizens to engage with the data? Send us the Web sites you are working on and maybe your work will wind up in the Insanely Useful Web sites, too.
Whether you’re working with Congress to create robust public information access online (perhaps by participating in the Open House Project, independently designing your own Web sites, or working for a government agency, we’d love to hear about your work with government information sources. Surveying the landsape of political information resources online fits perfectly with the Sunlight Foundation’s mission, since Internet technology will clearly play a fundamental role in creating a more transparent and accountable government, and these Web sites demonstrate the transformative potential of information techology in the world of government.