In my recent paper on e-transparency and in other forums I’ve been critical of the federal government’s Regulations.gov website for not offering XML feeds. Well, last week the site began offering an RSS feed for the site. You can see it here.
It looks like it’s a feed of every new proposed rule that is added to the site. Each item has a few elements, including a title, a link to the proposed rule’s page on Regulations.gov, a date, and a category that corresponds to the issuing agency. This is a big step in the right direction and I congratulate the folks who are making this happen. There’s a long way to go, though, in making the most of the technology, and I’d like to offer a few suggestions.
First off, the site isn’t yet offering feeds by agency. A feed of all proposed rulemakings in the government is less valuable to me personally than a feed for just FCC rules. On the other hand, a complete feed could be argued to be even more valuable because a third party could easily parse out the different agencies and offer individual agency feeds. (Anyone interested in helping a poor, code-impaired guy with a lazyweb request?) Still, individual agency feeds (in addition to a complete feed) should be pretty easy to make available.
Second, there is no description element. In your RSS reader all you get is the title and a link. You have to click the feed item to get to the web page that describes the regulation, etc. Why not include the Federal Register notice right in the feed?
Finally, and this is my dream scenario, why not offer feeds for each rulemaking? Subscribe to a rulemaking and be instantly alerted anytime a new document is filed in the docket? Why not also include the documents as attachments in the feed?
The “what’s new” section of Regulations.gov (which I can’t link to because the site uses dynamic frames!) says that there is more to come in the next few weeks. It says, “The all-new Regulations.gov 2.0 will be launched shortly featuring a powerful new search engine and a re-designed homepage that makes searching, commenting and accessing other site features quicker and easier.” I sure hope so, and I commend the Regs.gov team for their hard work. I also hope they adopt Google’s sitemap protocol to make keyword searches work from anywhere on the web.
The more government information is available online, and the easier it is to access it, the more accountable we can hold government.