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Regulations.gov relaunch coming soon

Federal officials plan to completely overhaul Regulations.gov during 2012 to make the electronic rule-making website more intuitive for users, according to version 2.0 of the Environmental Protection Agency's open government plan.

The updates also will make it easier for developers to automatically stream proposed rules onto their own websites using application programming interfaces, or APIs, the plan said.

Updates of agencies' open government plans, first released in 2010, were due April 9, but several trickled in during the past week. A few, such as the Veteran Affairs Department's have yet to come out.

As with the Regulations.gov relaunch, most initiatives in the second round of open government plans focus on updating or improving existing transparency initiatives.

The Health and Human Services Department, for instance, is updating Health.Data.gov, its open data portal, by adding more [[ok?]]APIs and metadata tags so it's easier for researchers and developers to find the information they're looking for.

"We have been really struck by how useful this Web utility has been," Federal Chief Technology Officer Todd Park said in a video introducing the Regulation.gov updates. "We've got a lot of increased clarity about where to take it next to help turbocharge the ecosystem of innovation that's being fueled by open HHS data."

Park was HHS' CTO from early in the Obama administration until he was elevated to the federal CTO position in March.

The Energy Department's plan describes numerous new initiatives since its 1.0 version, including the recently launched Apps for Energy competition, which is aimed at making the department's data more useful for people and organizations looking to cut down on energy consumption.

"For many of the department's open government initiatives, the work is never truly complete," that report noted. "Many of our projects are ongoing efforts to improve transparency, participation and collaboration. As soon as we think we're done and we can check the proverbial 'open gov' box, that is when we stop moving forward. To that end, many of our open government projects are designed for iterative innovation with measurable benchmarks, but without a final completion date."

A majority of the open government plans were released in the government's preferred PDF format. Transparency advocates have long criticized PDFs for being difficult to extract information from.

A notable exception is NASA's plan, which is made up of colorful symbols that link to Web pages. XML.gov Webmaster Owen Ambur is converting many of the other 2.0 plans to more nimble XML format on his site.

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