Raw Thought

by Aaron Swartz

RSS Hits the Big Time

As chaunceyt pointed out, the new stimulus bill’s implementation instructions require that each government agency report the money it gives out in RSS:

For each of the near term reporting requirements (major communications, formula block grant allocations, weekly reports) agencies are required to provide a feed (preferred: Atom 1.0, acceptable: RSS) of the information so that content can be delivered via subscription.

The document is very clear that the items in the feed can’t simply be unstructured text, but have to be reusable data, e.g.:

Formula Block Grant Allocation Reports: Agencies are asked to provide Formula Block Grant Allocation information as soon as it becomes available. Data elements for the formula block grant allocation feed should include:

Data ElementsDescriptionField Type
Recipient NameThe name of the recipient of the award.varchar(45)
Federal Funding AmountAmount of federal government’s obligation or contingent liability, in dollars. A negative number represents a decrease in funding.int(11)
Recipient DUNSUnique nine-digit number issued by Dun & Bradstreet to the agency. Followed by an optional DUNS Plus 4 which allows an agency to submit different bank account data for a single DUNS (Assigned by Dun & Bradstreet)char(13)

And it goes on like this for several pages.

Pretty amazing to see a government so tech-savvy.

Obligatory plug: Want to see more like this? Sign up to keep in touch with the PCCC. We’re trying to get better congresspeople elected thru Internet organizing and better tools.

You should follow me on twitter here.

February 21, 2009


Excellent news. This should hopefully make citizen monitoring of government spending much easier: see http://yorksamerica.blogspot.com/2009/01/opening-up-compliance-checking.html

posted by Steve Holden on February 21, 2009 #

I’m interested to know why Atom 1.0 is preferred to RSS - what reasons did you have for that choice?

posted by Stephen on February 21, 2009 #

Sounds like a good idea, but RSS is open form unstructured text. The financial data disclosed won’t be easily recorded into structured databases, analyzed, and shared.

Actually, XML-based standards like XBRL would have been better than RSS because data disclosed in XBRL could be much more easily assimilated into analytical reports.

posted by Steven Adler on February 21, 2009 #

I updated the post to make it clearer that the data is structured.

posted by Aaron Swartz on February 22, 2009 #

Why did you choose to make the story about RSS when Atom is the preferred format?

posted by on February 22, 2009 #

Aaron, a few minutes ago, I tried to subscribe to the PCCC list via submission of the form on the page to which you linked, but I received an error message that showed something about an incomplete form (I think I saw something about “do you want to volunteer?” flash) before being redirected to a Google Spreadsheets page which informed me that “Something bad happened. Don’t worry, though. The Spreadsheets Team has been notified and we’ll get right on it.”

posted by Phil Mocek on February 23, 2009 #

Update: The PCCC homepage has a slightly-abbreviated version of the form that can be reached by following the “Stay in the loop with the PCCC” link on the homepage. The abbreviated version is missing the “do you want to volunteer” question, and answering that question is mandatory for form submission.

posted by Phil Mocek on February 23, 2009 #

You can also send comments by email.

Email (only used for direct replies)
Comments may be edited for length and content.

Powered by theinfo.org.