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Former U.S. Public Printer Bob Tapella explains FDSys

Published on February 28, 2011

Bob Tapella, Former United States Public Printer, tells Cary about his brain child, FDSys and its road-map for the future.

Cary Sherburne:  Hi.  I'm Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor at WhatTheyThink.com and I'm here with Bob Tapella who is the United States Public Printer.  Bob, you know, you've been with the GPO for awhile, you were working with Bruce James and this system, FDSys, Federal Digital System, was kind of your brain child and it's come a long way.  Maybe you can tell us kind of where we are with it, what you're planning with it and why the American people should care.

Bob Tapella:  Okay.  Since 1813, Americans have had a right to see the documents of their democracy, to see what the federal government is doing.  Well today, the majority of all federal documents never seen ink on paper; they're electronic documents.  So we built what we're calling the Federal Digital System to not only make certain that the American public has access to all of these government documents, but that they also are authentic.  So that you know when you download that document it is authentic.

Cary:  And are they in PDFA format?

Bob:  Yes.

Cary:  Yeah.

Bob:  Yes.  And actually we have multiple formats available right now.  What we are releasing is the PDFA.

Cary:  And so, I think I heard you say earlier that there were some X number of documents and you're adding them from various sources on a daily basis.

Bob:  Correct.  At this moment we have over five million individual documents.

Cary:  Okay.

Bob:  Now in some cases, those are pieces of larger documents, like the Code of Federal Regulations, we broke them down into bite size units that are actually accessible.  But the one issue that we're still dealing with is that whole issue of granular authentication.

Cary:  Oh, yeah.

Bob:  We've broken it down as far as we can but we still do not yet have the point where if you were to cut and paste something you could follow where that cut and paste came from and where it goes.

Cary: Okay.  Now that's interesting.  And so, I did go on there at one point, the interface is a little austere, so you kind of have to know what you're looking for, right?

Bob:  Well, actually we've done it in a couple of different ways.  We have the one-line search.  So it's just as easy as typing into Google, but then we also have advanced searches.

Cary:  Okay.

Bob:  So, for the power user, you can take it to that next step and really refine what you are looking for and, for example, you want some information about a particular member of Congress, you can then do a search as to whether or not it was a building introduced or whether it was something that might have been in the Congressional Record.  If it's a topic you could search whether it was in Congress or whether it was done by an agency, which agency.  So there is signficiant advanced search capabilities once you get past that initial very simple easy to use box.  We did that so the public can use FDSys.

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