Here's What's Awesome

Apr 18, 2011

Over time the Obama Administration has been building out government webspace for transparency projects – making the vast amount of public government data not only available, but usable for people who want to make graphs or maps or other mashups. The tax receipt page on lets you enter what you paid in federal taxes - including Social Security and Medicare taxes – and then shows you a breakdown of how much of your money went to defense, entitlements, education, and so on If you follow the budget closely, this probably won’t tell you anything new, but since most of us don’t follow the budget closely, you might learn something about the relative sizes of different federal programs.

Techpresident: The White House Wants to Tell You Where Your Tax Dollars Go: Your 2010 Federal Taxpayer Receipt:


Somewhere between half and three-quarters of the funding was cut out of the funding for and other transparency sites. We’ll have to see exactly what the funding level is, and how much data will end up on those sites. The internet community loves transparency and loves information being free and available – but we’re talking about tens of millions of dollars. Transparency costs money, and right now the feds are in the mood to cut spending.

ReadWriteWeb: et al. Budget Slashed by 75%:


The White House website says it’s voluntarily publishing the name of everyone who walks into the White House and why they’re there. There’s a report from the Center for Public Integrity that says a huge amount of that information is simply the names of people who went on public tours of the White House, and that some of the more useful data has holes in it – missing names and so forth. An article on Politico suggests some of the logs are being written in a way that benefits the administration – for example, a politically sensitive individual, like a lobbyist, or a big CEO, is listed as meeting with a junior staffer when they may actually be meeting with someone higher up.

The White House stands by the logs and says they’re doing more than any other administration has ever done, but it’s important to remember – like any other historical document, you have to treat this as information collected by humans and sometimes humans collect information for their own purposes and not just for transparency or posterity.

Center for Public Integrity: White House visitor logs riddles with holes -

Politico: White House visitor logs leave out many -


There was a really interesting project late last week, where the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Nova Scotia marked the 99th anniversary of the Titanic sinking by tweeting its wireless radio messages in real time, so you could experience the wireless radio traffic, the Morse Code messages, as they were sent out. It was a little chilling to see these messages as the ship calls out for help, but what really struck me was how similar it was to the Twitter messages we’ve seen during recent disasters, after the earthquakes in Japan or violence in the Middle East. The medium may change, but people stay the same.

Google Maps Mania: American Civil War on Google Maps -

The Next Web: Titanic sinking to be tweeted in real-time -


The Oregon legislature is no stranger to love. Lawmakers managed to include lyrics from Rick Astley’s iconic tune “Never Gonna Give You Up” into their floor speeches on the budget. This was not simply a play for publicity; The Oregon State House is split 50/50 between Republicans and Democrats, so lawmakers on both sides of the aisle put this Rickroll together, apparently as a way to encourage the two sides to work together. And it seems to have worked – their budget bills ended up passing. 

Mental Floss: Oregon House Members Rickroll Colleagues -


Remember that plan to put a statue of RoboCop in Detroit, that raised a ton of money and is on its way to the Motor City? Well, now everybody wants to put pop culture everywhere. A Star Wars fan was proposing that they build a full-scale Imperial Walker in Oklahoma City as a big tourist draw. The Star Wars fans started raising money and pledging their support; Lucasfilm, on the other hand, got in touch with the guy who raised the idea and then the project ground to a halt. People do own these pop culture icons, after all. But while this project is at the very least in limbo, this won’t be the last such project, I’m sure of that. Which leaves hope that someday I’ll see a statue of The A-Team in Los Angeles.

AT-AT for America:

Cnet: ‘Star Wars’ fan gathers support for life-size AT-AT -


The big video this week is a cat that befriends a dolphin – they’re both at the edge of the water nuzzling each other. There’s actually a term for this on the web, from the site Cute Overload – interspecies snorgling. Whatever you call it, it’s cuteness to an insane level.

URLesque: Cat Befriends Dolphins, My Heart Explodes -

YouTube: Friendship between cat and dolphin