Regulations.gov unleashes wealth of information for users
January 16, 2008
In 2003, Regulations.gov was unveiled, promising to allow individuals to more easily find and comment on proposed rules being considered by federal agencies. New features promise to allow users more flexible search and open a treasure trove of information to remixing by third parties, thanks to an RSS feed of information from the Federal Register. Regulations.gov was intended to serve as a one-stop portal for commenting on proposed rules online, hopefully an easier and more efficient method of commenting. However, Regulations.gov has been plagued with usability problems, effectively limiting access to those select few who could spend the time learning to use the system. Luckily for those of us who found the old interface confusing, Regulations.gov has graduated to Regulations.gov 2.0. Search has been drastically improved, and an RSS feed is available for information in the Federal Register. In a 2003 Policy Post, CDT noted the underpowered Regulations.gov search engine; the site's update replaces the search with a much simpler, more powerful search. Other features that we hoped for from Regulations.gov have also come along, with easier ways to find recent rules, and rules with comment periods that are closing soon. These features help novice users to browse rules and navigate the site, and the search itself provides a simpler interface to find rules. Regulations.gov now provides an RSS feed of all information they post from the Federal Register. This includes proposed rules, final rules, and government notices. While the RSS feed is a step forward for accessibility of this information, it is not useful for most users. Few people are interested in every proposed rule under consideration. However, this feed allows third parties to use this information to create more useful applications of the raw data. One example of this is OpenRegulations.org, which has used the RSS from Regulations.gov to provide RSS feeds of regulations and notices from each agency. I am confident that more useful applications of this feed will be implemented; by providing the raw data, Regulations.gov has empowered citizens to use and remix the information in new and useful ways. After all, Regulations.gov doesn't need to envision every possible useful feature; they just need to make sure that people have the tools to implement that feature. Congratulations on your 2.0, Regulations.gov.