EGovernment at the Legislature

From Emerald Isle to Emerald Slippers

By Rick Jelliffe
May 28, 2010

There has been a drought so far this year of articles about things that interest me. Perhaps the blogosphere has dissipated into the twittersphere, a cloud of smoke. But now the possibility of an exception: Sean McGrath is writing a series around the design issues for KLISS (Kansas Legislative Information Services System) which his company is doing.

Legislatures often toy with using markup. Some adopt it successfully, but there have been some significant failures, dating back to SGML times. In former times, the works would usual gum up because sooner or later some Important Personage wanted to edit in Word or Word Perfect, and any idea of using structured data flew out the window. Over time, it seemed that I would hear of as many projects reverting back to DTP or WP from markup as transitioned from DTP/WP to markup-based systems.

The grass was always greener on the other side of the fence, and the sweet spots could only be reached by either scaling down ambitions (just have dumb documents and whatever low-hanging fruit came with it) or scaling up the paybacks (have well-integrated markup systems with proper indexing, beautiful typesetting, multiple output formats, web-based delivery, disciplined and professional drafters, etc.) But when you have to choose between convenience and quality, neither choice is a winner.

Sean has had a few blog entries at time of writing:

I particularly liked the last one. I hope there are more to come. For my thoughts in a related area (i.e. publication of legislation in multiple formats excluding the tricky drafting stage) you can see my blogs

While there have been scores of projects, there has been very little writing in the area of the issues involved. So Sean's blogs will, I am sure, be a valuable asset for other legislatures. Without this kind of sharing of professional information and approaches, I don't see how various eGovernment/eDemocracy/eLegislature/eEtc, projects have a hope of succeeding, actually.

Jeni is the other exception here, in a related area: her blog items on data.gov.uk, such as Why Linked Data for data.gov.uk have been really insightful, clear and as practical as it is possible to be when discussing RDF-ish issues.


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