Friday, February 16, 2007

Government RSS Feeds

Sophia Travis is a Monroe County Council member - and, remarkably, one who is sophisticated enough to have her own blog. On one post, she asks what information we'd like to see on the Monroe County web pages. I would like to see an RSS feed. Here's why: Government business does not lend itself well to the regular web page format. The people's business does; the most important thing for the web site will always be ways to contact government officials; how to apply for permits; pay parking tickets; vote, etc. But government business consists mostly of a neverending string of public meetings, each one with an agenda beforehand and minutes afterwards. The best way to present a stream of information like that is with a feed. For example, I've already created a feed for the Council meetings using the very nice, if complex, Feed43 service. My feed will do the job, giving me an update through my feed reader whenever a new meeting agenda or minutes are posted, but it's pretty content-free, as the feed can't do much except monitor each row of the table of meetings on the page. But suppose the county tech services people set up an easy way to post updates using TypePad or Blogger - suddenly it's easy for them to update the site and there's a good description of the update in the feed. Then, perhaps, it could be expanded using the same feed, to give information on other public meetings, notice of events the council members are participating in, and any other kind of information that has a time element. I'm thinking this is actually a time saver, at least for that one poor soul whose responsibility it is to go in and edit the HTML table on the page whenever new meeting minutes are available!

What would you like to see on your local government web site?