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Washington's IT Guy

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the seal-of-approval dept.

Government 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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65 comments

What (4, Insightful)

Peach Rings (1782482) | more than 3 years ago | (#32573920)

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

Yes the summary sucks ... (5, Informative)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 3 years ago | (#32574112)

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:Yes the summary sucks ... (1)

Tolkien (664315) | more than 3 years ago | (#32580330)

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 (5, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 3 years ago | (#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 [lazylightning.org] (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 (4, Insightful)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#32574438)

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

So only for 99% of the populace then?

Re:What (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 3 years ago | (#32577126)

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 voice heard by your council when you stand up at their meeting and let them, and everyone else paying attention via the Internet and cable streams as well as in person, know what you do and do not like.

Re:What (2)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#32577666)

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:What (-1, Offtopic)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#32574514)

I think he meant the SUMMARY WAS BEWILDERING, not what the point of the summary was about.

It was written very poorly, as if written by a 5th grade student, writing in english as his 19th language. This is typical of the timothy/kdawson pair, but gets to be really extreme when the two of them mate.

In your haste to rant about the subject, you entirely missed the point of the post, which was that the summary was likely to inspire a fuck ton of comments that had nothing to do with the article but were based on bickering and name calling over the summary and its two fuck tard contributors.

God, why did you have to go and screw it all up by being such a Piondexter. Do you know how many posts its going to take me to suppress the intelligent statements you made. Ruined my night. And no, this post isn't even a good start.

Re:What (2, Insightful)

Lando (9348) | more than 3 years ago | (#32575082)

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.

Re:What (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32575104)

So, unless you deal with that particular instance day in and day out for years

But I've read Kafka, you insensitive clod!

Mirror of MVTA (2, Informative)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#32575202)

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.babblehost.com/MVTA%20Rider%20Data.html [babblehost.com]

Everyone get a copy! Makes great Father's day gifts! Hehe.

Re:What (1)

Matrix14 (135171) | more than 3 years ago | (#32588104)

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.

Re:What (0, Offtopic)

Nebulo (29412) | more than 3 years ago | (#32574304)

No kidding. There's half a dozen passages in that article that would make better introductions.

Nebulo

Re:What (-1, Offtopic)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#32574442)

Anyone who puts Wikileaks 'up there' on any list is an ignorant fuck.

Is that a good enough start for you?

Re:What (-1, Offtopic)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#32574450)

So I go back and read the summary ... not the article, the summary.

Its kdawson posting some shit Timothy found ... that in and of itself proves with absolute certainty that my original statement was 100% accurate.

Re:What (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32574904)

You can run but you can't hide anymore, thanks to wikileaks. It's an essential project in any democracy. And if you don't understand that, you are an ignorant fuck.

Re:What (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32575530)

I can't even imagine what BitZtream's issue with wikileaks could be. Is wikileaks reporting suspect? is it biased? I honestly don't know why any individual, other than... someone doing something wrong that could be exposed.... or someone that somehow doesn't want to know if he's been deceived or not? idk tell me plz.

Re:What (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 3 years ago | (#32575124)

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

Carl has been on Slashdot before (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32575882)

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 [slashdot.org]
Putting 1.8M court records online [slashdot.org]

I think he also has a Slashdot account [slashdot.org], though it seems little-used.

Also the top comment on this old story is interesting:
http://news.slashdot.org/story/09/08/14/1158247/Firefox-Plugin-Liberates-Paywalled-Court-Records [slashdot.org]

Re:Carl has been on Slashdot before (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 3 years ago | (#32578552)

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 the world.

WTF? (0, Offtopic)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 3 years ago | (#32573944)

What the fuck in Tim blathering about? I mean, HUH?

Re:WTF? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32574156)

Timmeh!

Re:WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32580368)

And these are the type of moderations that irk me. Flamebait, perhaps. Off-topic? You post was in direct response to the summary. How could it be off-topic? Did the moderator even bother to read the summary? Hell, your post might have even been considered insightful.

There is a guideline on moderations and their meanings. Moderators should read them. Ignorance isn't always bliss. Off-topic != Troll != Flamebait != I disagree.

I have a story (2, Interesting)

Saint Stephen (19450) | more than 3 years ago | (#32573960)

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:I have a story (3, Interesting)

davidgay (569650) | more than 3 years ago | (#32574058)

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:I have a story (2, Insightful)

dave562 (969951) | more than 3 years ago | (#32574478)

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

Re:I have a story (3, Funny)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:I have a story (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32576052)

Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?

Re:I have a story (2)

MoeDrippins (769977) | more than 3 years ago | (#32577360)

> 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?

Wow. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32573974)

The article has a typo in the title, and it reads not much better than the summary. Who is pushing this? And why? wth...

"Liberal" is now a verb? (0, Offtopic)

Eternal Vigilance (573501) | more than 3 years ago | (#32574084)

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. :-/

Re:"Liberal" is now a verb? (0, Offtopic)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 3 years ago | (#32574226)

I believe that is what is known in the as a "typo".

See, a "typo" is where someone intends to write one thing, but they don't actually type all the correct letters, or they leave some letters out by mistake, or they do type the correct letters but put them in the wrong order.

In this case, it appears to be a typo caused by a "brain fart", as it is called. More on "brain farts" in another lesson - the gist is that a mental glitch caused the individual to type a similar but different word than intended, as opposed to a mental glitch causing an individual to tap an incorrect letter. This is similar to the type of glitch that causes an omission of a letter.

Unfortunately, while automatic "spell checkers", as they are called, generally catch typos and warn of the incorrect spelling, a mistaken but otherwise correctly spelled word will not be caught by the "spell checker".

In this case, the intended word was "liberate", not "liberal".

Homework:

List five other common typos.

Have you ever caught a typo before? If so, how did you deal with it?

What do you think about people who mock simple typos, particularly when the typo is a correctly spelled word on its own? Do you think this behavior is childish? Why or why not?

Re:"Liberal" is now a verb? (-1, Troll)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 3 years ago | (#32575488)

It's right there in the Webster's:

to liberal
(verb)

1) to place feelings ahead of rational thinking
2) to confuse rights with desires, needs, or convenience
3) to ignore constitution when convenient
4) to think that there IS such a thing as a free lunch
5) to confuse legal immigrants with illegal immigrants
6) to vote a Kenyan socialist in as the president of the USA

Re:"Liberal" is now a verb? (1)

whitesea (1811570) | more than 3 years ago | (#32583280)

Why was this voted Insightful? It should be troll or off-topic.

Re:"Liberal" is now a verb? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32585002)

  1. Slashdot is 97% {L|l}ibertarian which is a shallow façade over conservatism.
  2. Conservatism in modern American politics means "anti-Liberal at all costs!!"
  3. A conservative read that post, immediately got an erection and couldn't keep his mod points in his pants.
  4. You now know why it was modded insightful.

Viral Advertising (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32574114)

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?

Re:Viral Advertising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32574394)

If you read the article rather than just glancing through it you'd find that he's been doing stuff like this for years and isn't trying to get a job. He is trying to make all government information that is supposed to be accessible to the public easily accessible through the internet.

It's about time someone starts thinking clearly. (1)

blazemonkey (1197125) | more than 3 years ago | (#32574164)

I've been saying for years that to understand all of the law clearly, need to be a lawyer. How is one to stay sane when you really have no idea what laws you may or may not be breaking at any given moment. At least now people might have a way to check while they're on the go!

I got a $200 fine for walking ACROSS a railroad track behind my house, there were no trains within sight I should add. I didn't have to climb or open anything to walk across the tracks to the main road, there are no signs either. These cocksuckers have the nerve to run trains by my house at all hours, horns and all, and expect me not to cut across the tracks to save 30 minutes of my trip to work. There was a beaten trail through the grass to get across before i even moved in here. I nor anyone I asked at the time knew this was illegal.

cocksuckers, -- firefox recognizes this in the built in engrish dictionary?!

Re:It's about time someone starts thinking clearly (4, Insightful)

macshit (157376) | more than 3 years ago | (#32574530)

I got a $200 fine for walking ACROSS a railroad track behind my house, there were no trains within sight I should add. I didn't have to climb or open anything to walk across the tracks to the main road, there are no signs either. These cocksuckers have the nerve to run trains by my house at all hours, horns and all, and expect me not to cut across the tracks to save 30 minutes of my trip to work.

Note that a large part of the reason they impose such fines and over-use train horns is because of the insane over-litigatiousness of American society.

People do really stupid things, and get themselves (and in many cases their friends/family) squashed/crushed/roasted by trains. Then their surviving family turns around and sues the railroad. "How could my honey-buns have known there might might trains on the railroad track! He was sleeping! The train clearly should have sounded its horn just in case there was somebody sleeping on the track!" And wins. So the railroad adopts whatever practices it can to defend itself against such societal stupidity, and yeah unfortunately there's a negative impact on that small portion of society which isn't stupid.

Of course then the people that just recently bought a new house near the railroad tracks (which have been there for 150 years) turns around and sues the railroad because it's sounding horns too often...

Re:It's about time someone starts thinking clearly (1)

Calinous (985536) | more than 3 years ago | (#32575550)

Not to mention that some times, accidents can block the railroad traffic for hours (or even derail the trains themselves).

Re:It's about time someone starts thinking clearly (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 3 years ago | (#32578386)

Uh, I full and well recognize how sue-happy the USA is, but I think the reason that they're strict with the rules and blare their horns is because people do really stupid things and get themselves chopped up by trains. Not because they get sued afterward. Remove litigation entirely, and they'll still blare their horns because they do not want to kill you.

The scenario you describe has certainly played out, and there are playgrounds that have been castrated, but it doesn't apply here. Also, trains have ALWAYS blared when passing through residential. It's not new. And the people who live by the tracks know that. There was a reason the house was so cheap.

Re:It's about time someone starts thinking clearly (1)

Misch (158807) | more than 3 years ago | (#32579396)

The DOT highly regulates what a train must do for an at-grade train crossing. [dot.gov]

There are things that can be done that makes horn-blowing not necessary at certain intersections, but that can cost $20K-$200K per crossing, from what I understand. I know they have put a few in around my area.

Re:It's about time someone starts thinking clearly (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 3 years ago | (#32584186)

Ok. I'm not seeing the problem here.
They're not everywhere? Of course not, they're expensive. Now, if you could show that people sued about loud trains to get these things installed, then I might cry myself to sleep a little and I'd see your point. But otherwise, the trains are made to be safe because people get chopped up, not because people sue. Even if people have sued to get quieter trains, that's just getting them to be safe in a different, more costly way.

I'm sorry, but maybe you're just not getting it. There is a need in society. There is a danger with running trains through cities. A function is performed to make them safer. People perform that function (either horns or these expensive safety crossings) not because of the threat of litigation, but because of a long history of minced meat on the track. This has been established since before people started suing for every little thing.

KDawson Strikes Again (1, Offtopic)

FlyingGuy (989135) | more than 3 years ago | (#32574178)

god I wish he would stop approving shit.

Re:KDawson Strikes Again (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32574494)

kdawson is a lie. kdawson is a shill account used to post this shit so editors don't have to put their own names on it.

Re:KDawson Strikes Again (0, Offtopic)

Inda (580031) | more than 3 years ago | (#32575800)

Rubbish. He's real. He has a website and a CV.

Re:KDawson Strikes Again (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 3 years ago | (#32576480)

and your expecting truth from
1 a website
2 a CV
??

personally i think that folks hiding what should be public info is low level treason.

Re:KDawson Strikes Again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32577488)

I agree. The editors on slashdot are sucking hind teat lately.

Of all the articles I've submitted, most of them get rejected to only wind up being submitted 4 days later.

But somehow this retarded shit is a front page article? Slashdot needs new editors.

Reading Comprehension (0, Offtopic)

sexybomber (740588) | more than 3 years ago | (#32574408)

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:Reading Comprehension (0, Offtopic)

Arimus (198136) | more than 3 years ago | (#32575326)

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.)

OK, I'll play... (0, Offtopic)

dsoltesz (563978) | more than 3 years ago | (#32575360)

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 an acid flashback). I'm sure Malamud is a very lovely man (and apparently at least a borderline kook), but really? Why the fuck do I care? Did this really "Matter" enough to get promoted to a front page article? And what thesaurus lists "biographical drivel" as a synonym for "News?"

On the plus side, the discussion thus far has been quite entertaining.

Re:OK, I'll play... (1)

strangeintp (892348) | more than 3 years ago | (#32578898)

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.

Jibberish post, and the subject... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32575532)

...I met him and, to be honest, he's a bit of a dick and LOVES the sound of his own voice.

Re:Jibberish post, and the subject... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32578836)

-1 because you are Mr BlahBlah himself ?

Who's a what now? (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 3 years ago | (#32577440)

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.

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