Note that this post is a cross post from my blog, http://sleepisoptional.wordpress.com/2009/10/09/legislink-org-legislative-links-made-readable/
Finding legislative materials is often have the battle of staying informed on what law makers are doing. Sites like opencongress.org and govtrack.us are aimed at making congressional information more accessible and do a good job at achieving this goal. A new project, legislink.org, recently started with the same aim of making legislative and statutory information more accessible. Legislink goes about this task differently by creating human readable URL that direct the user to the legislative information found on the government’s site.
Legislink is not necessarily a better product. Just a different way of getting to important information. (I should disclose that I have contributed to the legislink project on bring it to the state level in Colorado). What I think legislink does extremely well is get the user to the source of the information, the government. Now republishing the legislative material on a new site like Opencongress or govtrack is fine, but why not go to the source of the information first.
Legislink does this by creating URL that can be cited much more easily than the official URLs provide by legislative sites.
For instance, the official Colorado legislative URL for House Bill 08-1266 (a bill I also worked on) is http://www.leg.state.co.us/clics/clics2008a/csl.nsf/fsbillcont3/A254528A18722054872573D1006E26DA?Open&file=1266_enr.pdf. The legislink URL is http://legislink.org/us-co?HB-08-1266. I think that is easier, but you be the judge. In addition, legislink allows users to go directly to a specific section of the piece of legislation, such as section 8 of HB08-1266, http://legislink.org/us-co?HB-08-1266-8. If a bill of interest is long or if you are looking for a specific section of a bill, this feature is extremely helpful.
As a I state above, legislink is not necessarily the answer. Just as opencongress and govtrack are not the answer. But these sites are a step in the right direction to making government information more accessible.
So in the spirit of Chris Brogan, I must applaud Joe Cramel, a retired IT manager for the US Congress, for getting it right by creating the legislink project. I am also encouraging others to participate in building and expanding legisllink by joining the conversation and contributing to the effort on the project wiki.