Obama has written two memoranda making it clear he intends to encourage an open environment so the public can access the data it pays to create. He wants to create an Open Government Directive to make that happen. The Office of Management and Budget is charged with recommending what that should entail. And I have a few recommendations.
If the folks developing the semantic web want to make it happen, this is the perfect opportunity. Whether you support microformats or RDF, the only way to really access this data is to get it marked up. That means people need to get in there and dig around the data that is being released. Draft profiles, sketch vocabularies, but if there is not a way to mark up this data, it will not be done. If it does not happen now, it will not be cleaned up before another administration.
There are some things that can happen immediately. Obama has released two executive orders already. It is great that he is doing work, but here is an example of data that needs to get marked up:
Section 1. Definitions. For purposes of this order:
(a) “Archivist” refers to the Archivist of the United States or his designee.
(b) “NARA” refers to the National Archives and Records Administration.
(c) “Presidential Records Act” refers to the Presidential Records Act, 44 U.S.C. 2201-2207.
(d) “NARA regulations” refers to the NARA regulations implementing the Presidential Records Act, 36 C.F.R. Part 1270.
(e) “Presidential records” refers to those documentary materials maintained by NARA pursuant to the Presidential Records Act, including Vice Presidential records.
See all those references to executive positions and legal statues? Every last one of those should be a link. Each of these defined terms should be entities in this document. When those terms are later used, they should be links to the formal definition.
I am not saying it is President Obama’s obligation to mark up legal documents. But whoever is editing these drafts needs to have the tools to make it easy. But what is the way to do this now? I do not know.