This has been an exciting year working on THOMAS. We started enhancing the site in January on its fifteenth anniversary, expanded some of the improvements in June, and revamped it more during the summer recess. There’s been some nice press too.
Our goal at the start of the year was to roll out four sets of enhancements. With only a few weeks to spare, we’ve done it. In this fourth and final update of the year, THOMAS links to GPO Access were converted to FDsys, search was enhanced, more detail was added to the Bill Summary & Status display, and additional metadata was added. The complete list of enhancements includes:
The Government Printing Office (GPO) is phasing out GPO Access. All GPO Access links in THOMAS have been changed so that they correctly link to the new FDsys website. For example, THOMAS previously linked to GPO for the PDF of bills. Now it links to FDsys.
The Bill Summary & Status Search results used to be sorted alphabetically so that, e.g., HConRes appeared before HR. Users requested that the most important bill types appear first. Now, the new order will get users to what they want faster and will help THOMAS users find the most important bills from a search.
The Bill Summary & Status page will now display the Latest Action (where it differs from Latest Major Action). The Latest Major Action in the Bill Summary & Status display does not always show actions considered important to our data providers.
The title on the Bill Summary & Status display is now listed as Latest Title. A bill can have many titles and the Bill Summary & Status component page Titles displays all titles of a bill. The title displayed on the Bill Summary & Status was labeled Title. It was either the most recent official title (if there was no short title) or the most recent short title. Changing it to say Latest Title, is now more accurate.
Cosponsors are now listed in a single column. Previously, users had to read across two columns, which was confusing. Now, the new order improves usability and avoids the difficulty that was previously experienced in reading cosponsor names.
Dublin Core meta tags were added to the top level Bill Summary & Status display page. In addition to the previous metadata for bills, there are Dublin Core tags for title, creator (the sponsor in THOMAS), date, identifier (the THOMAS handle), and type (bill type).