Time To Make Carl Malamud Head Of The Government Printing Office

from the yes-we-scan dept

If you're unfamiliar with Carl Malamud, you haven't been reading much news lately. He and his work to open up government documents and information to the public have been covered by the New York Times, the Washington Post and various other publications in just the last month alone. But that's not to suggest what he's doing is recent. For years, Malamud has gone above and beyond in making government information more accessible and more useful to everyone -- rather than just politicians and big companies.

Now, he's positioning himself to be put in charge of the Government Printing Office to be able to do the same thing from the inside of our federal government, rather than from the outside. It's hard to think of anyone quite as visionary in terms of how government information can be presented to the public in a transparent and useful manner. He's looking for support for his campaign, and you can read all about what he would do if given the chance at YesWeScan.org:
For over 20 years, I have been publishing government information on the Internet. In 2008, Public.Resource.Org published over 32.4 million pages of primary legal materials, as well as thousands of hours of video and thousands of photographs. In the 1990s, I fought to place the databases of the United States on the Internet. In the 1980s, I fought to make the standards that govern our global Internet open standards available to all. Should I be honored to be nominated and confirmed, I would continue to work to preserve and extend our public domain, and would place special attention to our relationship with our customers, especially the United States Congress.

Access to information is a human right and the United States of America is the world's leading producer of information. As the publisher of the United States, GPO plays a vital role in promoting useful knowledge, promoting the progress of science and useful arts, and promoting and preserving the public domain.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Ima Fish, Feb 25th, 2009 @ 7:19am

    There are times when you're better off being an outsider. As an insider he'd have to abide by the rules and wishes of those higher up in the system.

    Sure, he could quit when they try and bend him, but if he's going to quit when the going gets rough, what's the point of even attempting to get the job?!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    John Duncan Yoyo, Feb 25th, 2009 @ 7:28am

    If he can give the House and Senate and staffs and all the bills 'printed' to Kindles so that they can read them as soon as they are completed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    SomeGuy, Feb 25th, 2009 @ 7:33am


    So... you argue that he should stand up to his superiors, but he can't (for uncited reasons), so he shouldn't even try to get the job...? I think the 'point' of trying to get the job is for the greater access to government material and the potential to stand upon principle when the going gets rough. Sure, they can toss him out (can they? I'm assuming) when he bucks the system, but even then we won't be worse off than we are now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Ima Fish, Feb 25th, 2009 @ 7:57am

    Re: Re:

    "but even then we won't be worse off than we are now."

    I think he would be worse off. Now the only person who can tell him what to do is himself. In the job, he'd have numerous superiors telling him what to do and not do.

    And like I said, sure he would not have to listen to those other people, and sure he could quit. But then what's the point of getting the job?

    Think of it this way, how much consumer protection work would Nader had done if Chevrolet had hired him immediately after the release of Unsafe at Any Speed? He did much more good (or harm, depending on how you look at it) as an outsider.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    SomeGuy, Feb 25th, 2009 @ 8:28am

    Re: Re: Re:

    My point was, if he quit we'd be no worse off than we are now. The benefit to taking the job is the added access to government documents, etc. people can tell him what to do, sure, but where you assume that he'll fold because otherwise he'll lose his job, I assume he'll do the right thing until he loses his job.

    There's no way of knowing what would have happened if Chevy hired Nader, because it didn't happen. There would have been opportunities for him to do great good from the inside, you can't deny that.

    My assumption is that they'd take the job in order to do good work, and would rather lose that same job than not-do ood work. That's all I'm saying.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    mike42 (profile), Feb 25th, 2009 @ 8:33am

    Re: Re: Re:

    But think about it: inside, he would have access to so much more information, and once it's on the Internet, there's no getting rid of it. He could do more in a week on the inside than the 20 years he's spent on the outside. So what if he's only there a month? He'd have an even better idea of how the system works, and how to beat it. I say, get him in there ASAP!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Janet Altman, Feb 25th, 2009 @ 8:38am

    I believe that transparency is the best way to make an organization effective and sustaining. Along with transparency comes having the good sense not to publish information that would be put someone or a group of someones in danger.

    The bigger question I see here is not that the information is out there but that is can be altered. In a system such as this digital security is going to have to be front and center.

    http://www.justaskgemalto often publishes the latest technology trends in digital security. I know it's out there. It's just a matter of keeping up with it and using it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    SomeOtherGuy, Feb 25th, 2009 @ 9:35am

    This Carl guy is obviously a very talented web monkey but where's his experience in running an actual old school printing press? Congress still needs a printed copy of the congressional record sitting on their desk when they walk in every morning. Digital publishing will obviously continue to grow but c'mon, writing a book on Novell and crawling a few websites doesn't make this guy the 21st century Ben Franklin.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    chris (profile), Feb 25th, 2009 @ 9:38am


    i agree completely.

    it's always better to do nothing instead of risking failure.

    also, the government has magical powers that turn you into a corrupt automaton so it's better to not risk exposure.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Michael, Feb 25th, 2009 @ 11:02pm


    Think of all the paper, and money, that could be saved by having soft copies of everything.

    Think of the -benefits- of having a visual diff tool built in so that it would be easy to see everything that changed between revisions, and even sign off on changes you liked and didn't want to track (until it changed again).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Michael, Feb 25th, 2009 @ 11:04pm



    No really. Stop the presses. We -really- do not need that until the final draft.

    What we need are checksums (math fingerprints) and open protocols and systems designed to assist people in managing the deluge of information that comes at them so they can actually understand what's been changed, and track issues they care about.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Raichel, Aug 2nd, 2009 @ 2:36pm

    An attempt to make legal information free.

    Here is a site (http://www.FreeCourtDockets.com), that attempts to make Pacer (federal court docket repository) free to the public on an ad-supported model.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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