published february 18, the our first reaction as well as some more detailed feedback was still not sufficient to explain what we thought was required to make this really work in a reliable and robust way.
together with my colleagues eric kansa and raymond yee, we have now finished a technical report about next steps for the recovery act guidelines, making specific recommendations for technical guidelines and best practices around them. this is the abstract:
The Initial Implementing Guidance for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides guidance for a feed-based information dissemination architecture. In this report, we suggest some improvements and refinements of the initial guidelines, in the hope of paving the path for a more transparent and useful feed-based architecture. This report is meant as a preliminary guide to how the current guidelines could be made more specific and provide better guidance for providers and consumers of Recovery Act spending information. It is by no means intended as a complete or final set of recommendations.
the most exciting part about writing this report was not so much writing the report itself, but creating a sample dataset for demonstration purposes. the sample dataset homepage has links to the underlying XML, schemas for the three feed types (for communications, formula block grant allocations, and weekly reports), fake agency web pages, fake agency feeds, and even visualizations of our fake data in Google Maps, Timemap, even featuring a KML version to load into Google Earth. all of this is currently generated from the initial XML with a simple XSLT transformation (the goal would of course be for all of this data to be made available in a distributed fashion).
for something as significant as the recovery act and as heavy as $787 billion, it is of course impossible to create complete and final guidelines in just two weeks. thus, our mail goal was to demonstrate that the guidelines don't need to require anything complicated to make exciting things possible; all that is required are guidelines specific enough so that data can be found reliably and in a machine-readable way. recovery.gov and its lists of agency sites and agency reports are a promising starting point, and with our report we hope to make some contributions to how to improve the transparency and openness of stimulus feeds.