one of the interesting developments in the highly anticipated more tech-savvy obama administration is that the
preferred: Atom 1.0, acceptable: RSS) as a way of how information on spending has to be made available. it is certainly nice to see a government recognizing feeds as an important mechanism for information dissemination.
however, it seems that the feed is mainly intended as a trigger and not as the actual container of useful data. it seems that the actual data is expected to be made available in some format made available as a template at https://max.omb.gov/community/x/doC2Dw, but since this is a protected site, it is not even possible to find out what data format this template is using. in an ideal world, it would be XML, but something tells me that we are not yet living in an ideal world.
starting on page 55, the document becomes a bit more confusing. while there is a rather long list of interesting data elements that certainly would be interesting to aggregate across agencies, there is no actual syntax defined, and the
field types look a lot like SQL datatypes. so while it would be nice to get all this information in feeds, my guess is that we will get feeds that will point to templates that will contain the data, and these templates probably will use some aggregation-unfriendly formats such as PDF or Excel. so in theory we get feeds, but in practice we probably only get feeds as a trigger and then have to deal with non-feed data.
what i am thinking about is creating a platform that aggregates all agencies' feeds, consumes the templates as new data becomes available, parses them, and republishes all information as well-designed feeds where all the data elements on pages 55-57 are encoded as Atom extension elements. this could even go a step further and for example geocode address information in the data elements and add GeoRSS to the republished feeds, allowing map-based applications to plot grant allocations on a map.
[[ february 26, 2009: to make this commetary a bit more constructive, here are some details of how to get the stimulus feed architecture right. ]]