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Government The Internet

Washington's IT Guy 65

Timothy found a profile of Carl Malamud up at The American Prospect, characterizing it thus: "Carl Malamud — underrated work shedding sunshine on the sort of things that 'sunshine laws' may make legally accessible, but that often are not practically accessible. The man should be up there on the list with Wikipedia, Wikileaks, the big Free Software projects, and the Creative Commons."
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Washington's IT Guy

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  • What (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Peach Rings ( 1782482 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @10:01PM (#32573920) Homepage

    What a bewildering summary. I await with great anticipation the comments that slashdot is able to generate without reading the article.

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by PatPending ( 953482 )
      This ranks with Doctors Reverse With Drugs Autism-Linked Fragile X Syndrome In Mice [] from June 12, 2010
    • by oneiros27 ( 46144 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @10:36PM (#32574112) Homepage

      But there's a few of us who know who he is (by reputation ... I actually know Roberta Shaffer, also mentioned in the article, and I think I'm on a mailing list or two w/ Aaron Swartz)

      But I hadn't heard anything since the election and his trying to be appointed to the head of the printing office ... it's a shame he didn't get it. He's been a big force in getting government documents from behind paywalls.

      Read the article if you don't know who he is -- he's done a lot of public good.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by AaronSw ( 598481 )
        I think he's on Slashdot too.
      • by Tolkien ( 664315 )

        True, I've only skimmed the article so far, but the following quote alone makes me want to get to know this guy!

        If you look at the [chief information officer] and [chief technology officer] of the United States sitting there with a Dell computer and a 15-inch monitor, you think to yourself, "Why in the hell does our CIO not have, like, three 30-inch monitors?"

    • Re:What (Score:5, Insightful)

      by garcia ( 6573 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @11:02PM (#32574276)

      What a bewildering summary.

      It's only bewildering if you don't understand how public administrators work. Being that I deal with these people, on a much lower level than the Fed as I am extremely interested in hyperlocal politics and news, on a daily basis I have to say that, "shedding sunshine on the sort of things that 'sunshine laws' may make legally accessible, but that often are not practically accessible," puts it perfectly.

      I regularly have to make repeated requests for information that should be publicly accessible. Unfortunately for the general public the politicos do not want this information to be made available, even if it has to be, so they put up every last roadblock they can invent to keep people like me from releasing it to the public.

      Let's take for example local transit boarding data for 2007 to 2009. I wanted the number of people who ride the buses in our local transit co-op broken down at the lowest level. A simple task one would assume right? It was clear, based on their reporting, that they had the data at some sort of granular level as they can easily roll it up to yymon, quarter, etc. I also watched as bus drivers hand recorded the number of boardings and wrote them on sheets, by departure time, every single day for more than 2.5 years.

      Well when I requested this information here was the exchange which occurred over 7 months:

      1. We don't have that data.

      2. We don't have that data in an easily accessible format (which would be in violation of Minnesota Statute).

      3. We have the data but it would take a very long time to procure. Hundreds of man hours (again in violation of Statute). It will cost at least $250. Pay first, we'll provide it later.

      4. We have the data and it will take considerably less time than we first thought. $50 for the data. Pay first.

      5. Here's the data you paid $50 to receive. If you want more explanation you need to pay more (in violation of Statute).


      Now, I turned around and did exactly what they didn't want. I released it to the public and thus to the other state agencies who were originally told this data didn't exist in the way they wanted it. You can see the archive here [] (don't download the 7MB CSV unless you are really interested in the raw data as I host my site myself and I don't need my cable modem smoking all day long).

      So why did they go through so much trouble, wasted man hours of their staff (including their counsel) just to keep this data out of my hands? Because they want to be the ones in control, even though they are mandated by law to provide it to the public, and they certainly want to make compliance with sunshine laws as difficult as possible to keep people from doing this time and time again.

      So, unless you deal with that particular instance day in and day out for years, like I do on any variety of topics from any variety of local government entities, then you wouldn't have the faintest idea what that blurb meant. But to me it made perfect sense. I just hope that bringing this data to light and placing it out there for the public to interpret themselves isn't limited to skewed infographics and a couple of PDFs on Deep Water Horizon documents.

      • Re:What (Score:5, Insightful)

        by corbettw ( 214229 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @11:27PM (#32574438) Journal

        It's only bewildering if you don't understand how public administrators work.

        So only for 99% of the populace then?

        • by garcia ( 6573 )

          Well isn't that unfortunate that you don't take the time to participate in the political arena which has the most direct effect on you. No, national politics have very little to do with what happens to you and your family yet that's all the few Americans who do vote seem to care about.

          Get involved in your local area and carefully pay attention to where your tax dollars are spent. While your vote and your opinion means little on the national and state stages unless you are a paid lobbyist, you will have your

          • First, you assume I'm in the 99%, not the 1%.

            Second, my snipe was more about the crap summary than what you posted. Actually, it was only about the crap summary and not what you posted. Since this guy's job is fairly esoteric and out of the normal range of experience for most people, some detail as to who the hell he is should've been included.

            Just to be clear, your post was useful and well written. The summary, not so much.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Lando ( 9348 )

        You might want to create a torrent of the data and stick it on a public tracker somewhere so that others could help you with the hosting costs. Maybe just post the torrent link in addition to the file.

        Just a suggestion.

      • Mirror of MVTA (Score:3, Informative)

        by TaoPhoenix ( 980487 )

        Make you a deal sir.

        You have the info but maybe not the distribution, which given your post is a tiny tragedy right? I've meanwhile spent 6 months building a mirror system (not yet coral-cached, still manual).

        Slashdotters, here's a fast & dirty mirror of Garcia's data - except I WANT you to download it! If nothing else, "fight the man". But also it's a very early bandwidth test at the "25% readers are finished" comment level, which I guage as some 10 times below full RTA effect.

        http://taophoenix.babbleh []

      • Er, no, the summary was bewildering. It should tell us who this guy is and what he does, and it should use complete sentences. Then it would be less bewildering.

    • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )

      I think it has something to do with a monkey in a suit and a tall blonde holding a walnut. Am I right?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You might not remember it, but Carl has been on Slashdot quite a few times. Basically, he's trying to gather up all that government data that's supposed to be publicly accessible (but isn't) and make it conveniently accessible on the web. Problem? There are a lot of people who profit from this and they're not so happy. Also, you have to deal with tons of red tape.

      Here are some past appearances on Slashdot:
      Getting us free access to copyrighted CA laws []
      Putting 1.8M court records online []

      I think he also has a

      • Which is awesome. It's probably more beneficial to society then all the crap I've given to charity over the years. This is the exact sort of work that is needed, but no one wants to do. Because really, separating small-time officials from money sources is like squeezing a stone for blood.

        For all the seething hate against Kdawson, and admittedly, that's pretty bad english,

        Doing the underrated work of shedding sunshine on the sort of things that 'sunshine laws' may make legally accessible, but that often are not practically accessible

        Really, that's all you needed. But anyway, for all that hatred, I'm still glad for the article. It's nice to see people doing good in

  • WTF? (Score:1, Offtopic)

    What the fuck in Tim blathering about? I mean, HUH?
  • I have a story (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Saint Stephen ( 19450 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @10:06PM (#32573960) Homepage Journal

    Back in 1993 (pre WWW), I had an internet account. My college girlfriend was doing a paper on Nafta, and I was trying to help research. Some congressional staffer gave me the FTP address to his private hard drive where I picked up a copy in .ps format or something. All 9000 pages of it. I could see all his files.

    Good times. In those days, there was a rule: never meet anyone from the internet IRL. That used to be condsidered a good way to end up in a bodybag. Nowadays everyone meets everyone that way (me + my wife for example.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by davidgay ( 569650 )
      Good times. In those days, there was a rule: never meet anyone from the internet IRL. That used to be condsidered a good way to end up in a bodybag.

      One of the sillier comments I've seen on slashdot... (weird yes, but bodybags is ridiculous)

      David Gay, who did use the internet in 1993, and met people IRL in 1994...

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by CODiNE ( 27417 )

        That just means we have the chance to get in on the latest internet craze:!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dave562 ( 969951 )

        If I had never met people from the internet IRL I would have missed the first half dozen Defcons.

      • by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @11:35PM (#32574482)

        and met people IRL

        *Citation Needed

        Considering your pretending that wasn't that standard thought at that point in time pretty much means you're a liar or you're still in the same basement at you were then and missed the entire 90s and 00s.

        I too was on the Internet then, and BBSes, and met people from them, and it was considered sketchy by just about everyone, including those of us doing it.

        • > Considering your pretending that wasn't that standard thought at that point in time...

          I can't even parse this. What the hell are you trying to say?

    • pre WWW

      World War W? When the hell was that?

  • FTFA: "One man's quest to liberal all government information"

    Whatever "to liberal" means, of one thing we can be sure: it has no meaningful real-world effects. :-/
  • Viral Advertising (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I only glanced through the article. Isn't this just a shout-out that this guy is available for a government job? Don't we have job boards that take resumes that do the same thing without wasting my front page "NEWS for Nerds. Stuff that matters" websites?

  • god I wish he would stop approving shit.
  • Carl Malamud — underrated work shedding sunshine on the sort of things that 'sunshine laws' may make legally accessible, but that often are not practically accessible.

    He also sells shells by the seashore. Tongue-twisters tend to torture those who might think about reading the article, but are now too confused to continue. Good Gods, sir, at least read it out loud before hitting "Post".

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by Arimus ( 198136 )

      Thank god for that - its not just me who found that summary 'odd'.

      I know I've not had my morning coffee yet but can normally make some kind of sense of /. summaries without having to re-read thing several times. (And yes I gave up and jumped to the comments without reading the article.)

  • by dsoltesz ( 563978 )

    What the unholy fuck is this?

    I think /. has officially jumped the shark. It's bad enough the "News" gets posted hours and days after it stopped being relevant, but now I'm required to wade through this gibberish? I thought I was having an acid flashback. The suspense was killing me, so I succumbed to the temptation and actually RTMFA (well, skimmed TFA because it was long and rambling and I stopped caring after the first paragraph, especially when I realized, with great disappointment, I was not having

    • haha... yeah I skimmed the article as well... didn't get an inkling what all this "sunshine law" was all about. Far as I can tell, from a poorly written article with an even crappier introduction and non-summarizing first paragraph, is that it's about some guy's battle to get some posting to the Gov't Print Office by the Obama administration.
  • Carl Malamud -- underrated work shedding sunshine on the sort of things that 'sunshine laws' may make legally accessible

    Silver birds flying on wings of fog above the many things that may compete for my attention.

    Burma shave.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.