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    Overheard on the Web, and other Web links
    From The Herald's Research Editor

    Thursday, February 17, 2005

    Getting the Facts 

    Here's an interesting new Web site that at first glance offers a great service: putting the U.S. Statistical Abstract online in an easier to use form than the PDF version available from the Census.
    Facster has the Abstract, that wonderful compendium of statistics put together by various agencies of the U.S. government, in a format that should be easy to browse to find just exactly the right statistic. I found the response time slow (lots of people must have been checking it out today, since it was recommended on the ResearchBuzz); and the pages that showed the data stretch off to the right so you have to be sure to scroll right to see the actual numbers. Some data comes up with no numbers because it comes from copyright sources (links to the actual source are given). There are some fun random facts in blog format on the main page.
    But even more interesting is the Facster Mission:
      "Facster aims to bring rational discourse to the problems of our time. Human nature being what it is, the politics in a democratic republic all too often sink into demagoguery, mud-slinging, and emotion-laden arguments devoid of reason.
      ...At Facster we believe the answer lies in making the facts underlying the political issues easier to retrieve and use in discussion. To that end we've created a site where you can easily find and check all the facts."

    I hope this site lives up to its potential. Worth keeping an eye on.

    (Added Friday:) an email from Facster's Jack Fox assures me that the chart formatting which forces data to the right is being looked at. And that the copyrighted data not available here is available on the Census site and Facster is working on getting permission to link it all, too. Interestingly, though, the United Nations has refused permission. It just goes to show how complicated it is to make a useful site.
    (And, today the site is no longer slow. I just hit it at a bad time, I guess.)

    posted by liz at 5:47 PM
    Comments: Post a Comment

    Elisabeth Donovan

    Elisabeth (Liz) Donovan was a Herald librarian for 10 years, and Research Editor for 13 years. She came to The Herald in 1981, following several years at the Washington Post. She started blogging in 2000, with a news research blog, followed by the blog at in 2003. A frequent speaker and writer on news research, she was honored in 2004 by the News Division of the Special Libraries Association for her contributions to the field.

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