A Note on New Recovery.gov Features
by Craig Jennings, 10/30/2009
We've been pawing at Recovery.gov for a couple of hours now and the results are...mixed.
We haven't had a good look at the 143,000 recipient reports yet. That might take a few more
minutes days. We'll have something up in the next week commenting on the actual reports data.
But, I can tell you with the latest data comes a few new features on Recovery.gov. First, here's what we like:
One feature of the site that did win unanimous praise in this office was the new State/Territory Summaries page. Users can select a state from the dropdown menu, click "Go," and be taken to a nice summary of Recovery Act spending for the given state. The summary shows, among other things, some summary stats of awards (number, amount, job counts, etc.), Top Recipients, Top Jobs Created/Saved by Zip Code, and Top Funding Federal Agencies. Good stuff.
Another feature touted by Board Chair Earl Devaney in his latest Chairman's Corner note is an enhanced Download Center that gives users "access [to] files containing recipient contracts, grants and loan data in XML and XLS formats." More formats is a plus. But also noteworthy is the availability of report change histories and a late reports report. However, I haven't seen these reports, because when I select the dropdown to view the reports, I get an Error page.
But there is at least one area can be improved.
The site now features a "Search Recipient Reports" feature that allows users to search recipient report data by keyword. This feature was glaringly absent last week when I was trying to find details about certain contracts. The new search feature, however, is a few yards short of a touchdown.
The primary issue, which may abate as the search engine continues to crawl through the data and index it, is that searches only sometimes work. For example, a search for "Alpha" returns a recipient report of a contract of Alpha-Boulder Limited Liability Company. However, looking at data downloaded into a spreadsheet, one also sees a grant report from Alpha Building Foundation Corp. -- a result not returned in the search. A search for "Savannah River" should return the recipient report for a contract with Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, LLC. Instead, I get "No Results found for this query!" And occasionally one bumps into an Error page indicating that the system really doesn't like what you're trying to search for.
However, when search results are returned, it's not entirely clear what exactly is returned. A click on a result makes it clear, but a glance at the result text is rather confusing.
Of course it's not unlikely that the search functionality will be more solid in the next few days. When I first hammered the site after the data were posted, the search function never returned anything. Now, however, it is returning (some) results. So, I'm looking forward to seeing this functionality become more stable and hopefully even built out a little more.
Bottom line: the new functionality moves the ball forward and we are getting a better Recovery website. Of course we'd like to see more, but things are moving down the field.