Fortunately, every indication we've gotten from the Obama team since they went online for his campaign is that they're absolutely capable and willing to get this kind of technological change done. The task they're facing, and all the obstacles in their way, are largely the result of legacy. It's a shame it has to be backwards-compatible. It's a pity we didn't have all this technology (or some incredible foresight) when the British burnt down the White House, as we could have rebuilt it with this kind of transparency in mind.The kind that present technology facilitates with ease.
[...] it's a sentiment echoed even more concretely by Ohanian. "Lots of data comes out of government; we don't all want to have to slog through it, but computers can," he says. "So if they can make that data available in accessible formats—data that belongs to us as taxpaying citizens—that could be great." He cites "Web 2.0 mashups," like Google Maps with housing values or crime statistics overlaid on them, as an example of the kinds of creative ways that government-assembled data could be reused if provided in XML (extensible markup language) formats, which define the content of a document separately from its formatting precisely so that it can be repurposed in other applications.
And if anyone from the White House is reading this, that means no more PDFs, whose contents aren't easily searched or extracted for further use. Says Ohanian: "PDFs are the bane of my existence—they aren't much more of a favor than having a printed document."
As for Ohanian, what he hopes to see after a four- or eight-year Obama presidency is for Whitehouse.gov to become a useful tool. "I've never had a reason to go to Whitehouse.gov before. So if it becomes a usable tool for citizens, that will be an accomplishment, because it means that the tech has been put to good use." That's a lot to place on a single URL. Let's hope that Obama & Co. are up to the task.It's true, the closest I'd ever gotten to WhiteHouse.gov was when I'd trick friends into visiting WhiteHouse.com (formerly a NSFW site). I look forward to the day when the .gov is a regular destination.