Magazine article Online

Magazine article Online

Article excerpt

Welcome to the new ONLINE. New editor (well, Marydee's a familiar face to many of you as ONLINE's DOLLAR SIGN columnist, but is new to editing this publication), some new columnists, and yup, a new back page. Reva Basch, the resident pundit of this space for the past two years, has decided to take a well-deserved sabbatical. Since we've often joked that my career has tracked hers-just five years behind-I'm looking forward to a sabbatical in five years, too.

In the meantime, REVA'S (W)RAP has morphed into ONLINE SPOTLIGHT. I'll be looking at an online product or service that's caught my attention recently. Given the excitement of the presidential election-and the fact that I'm a political junkie who lives in my nation's capital-I was drawn to the notice of, a new initiative to make federal government information easily accessible.

It's a noble effort, and I applaud the General Services Administration for taking on this project. Goodness knows, we need help in mining for information buried in U.S. government Web sites. The main page has a portallike feel to it, with a categorized listing of "Interesting Topics", links to Featured Subjects (which links to government Web sites on hot topics such as flu vaccine or buying a home), and a search box.

The Interesting Topics area has a consumer orientation-topics range from Federal Benefits & Grants to Consumer Services & Safety and the U.S. in the World. Most ONLINE readers will find the "Library and Reference" category most useful, since it includes links to legal and regulatory sites, statistics, government directories, and related tools. However, note that while the Interesting Topics area looks like a directory of the site, it's not. It is really just a collection of links to government sites of greatest interest. Once you drill down one level, you get to a list of un-annotated links to other federal government sites. It's a great place to start if you don't have the foggiest notion what agency would be tracking the information you need, or if you just need a quick answer to a question-for example, what government agencies deal with health-related issues or what information the government provides about small businesses. …

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