If you've ever tried to look up public records online, you may have run into byzantine sign-up procedures, proprietary formats, charges just to view what are ostensibly public documents, and generally the sense that you're in a snooty library with closed stacks. Carl Malamud
has for years been forging a path through the grey goo of U.S. government data, helping to publicize the need for accessible digital archives — not just awkward, fee-per-page access
. (Mother Jones calls him a "badass."
) Malamud has (with help) been making it easier to get to the huge swathes of data in government sources like PACER
, and the U.S. Patent Office
. He's got a new initiative now to establish a "Federal Scanning Commission
," the task of which would be to assess the scope and outcomes of a large-scale effort to actually digitize and make available online as much as practical of the vast holdings of the U.S. government. ("If we were able to put a man on the moon, why can't we launch the Library of Congress into cyberspace?") Ask Malamud below questions about his plans and challenges in disseminating public information. (But please, post unrelated questions separately
, lest ye be modded down.)