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C-Span Posts Full Archives Online 115

Posted by kdawson
from the but-no-perl-libraries dept.
An anonymous reader sends word that C-Span has completed its project of making all of its footage available online. "The archives, at C-SpanVideo.org, cover 23 years of history and five presidential administrations and are sure to provide new fodder for pundits and politicians alike. The network will formally announce the completion of the C-Span Video Library on Wednesday. Having free online access to the more than 160,000 hours of C-Span footage is like being able to Google political history using the "I Feel Lucky" button every time,' said Rachel Maddow, the liberal MSNBC host."
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C-Span Posts Full Archives Online

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  • I predict this goes away pretty quickly- as in a unanimous resolution to cut the project's funding.

    • Re:Not for Long (Score:5, Informative)

      by bsDaemon (87307) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @08:09PM (#31503706)
      C-SPAN is a private non-profit and receives no government funding.
      • Re:Not for Long (Score:5, Insightful)

        by value_added (719364) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @09:16PM (#31504126)

        C-SPAN is a private non-profit and receives no government funding.

        True enough, but that's not really the whole story. I'll quote Wikepedia's summary:

        Uncommonly for a television network, C-SPAN is operated as a non-profit organization by the National Cable Satellite Corporation, whose board of directors consists primarily of representatives of the largest cable companies. C-SPAN accepts no advertising; instead, it receives nearly all its funding from subscriber fees charged to cable and DBS operators. Contrary to popular perception, C-SPAN receives no funding from government sources.

        Put crudely, everyone with a cable-TV feed is paying for it. But wait, there's more ..

        It receives no funding from any government source, has no contract with the government, and does not sell sponsorships or advertising. It strives for neutrality and a lack of bias in its public affairs programming.

        I doubt anyone would quibble with the above. I sleep comfortably knowing that consumers of (mostly) mindless entertainment along with viewers of CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News all help pay for what's routinely offered on C-SPAN. That irony, of course, is layered with another irony, that while most of those groups repeatedly make claims of media bias, few would consider watching C-SPAN. Boring? You betcha. Most of life's issues are mind-numbingly dull in their complexity, especially when presented unedited and unfiltered.

        • Re:Not for Long (Score:5, Informative)

          by MarkvW (1037596) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @09:32PM (#31504260)

          CSPAN isn't always boring. Sometimes authors speak very compellingly about their books. When they've got a good author and a good topic, CSPAN is easily the best thing on the tube.

          • CSPAN isn't always boring. Sometimes authors speak very compellingly about their books. When they've got a good author and a good topic, CSPAN is easily the best thing on the tube.

            I, for one, would certainly agree with you. But the people GP is talking about would find shows like Book TV to be as dull as watching paint dry. Shows like that require that you pay attention and use your brain. And there are no loud explosions.

        • Re:Not for Long (Score:5, Interesting)

          by TubeSteak (669689) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @09:44PM (#31504308) Journal

          That irony, of course, is layered with another irony, that while most of those groups repeatedly make claims of media bias, few would consider watching C-SPAN. Boring? You betcha. Most of life's issues are mind-numbingly dull in their complexity, especially when presented unedited and unfiltered.

          I sometimes listen to House/Senate debates on C-Span in the car and when you compare news articles to the actual debate, it's amazing how much nuance journalists throw away.

          Our Representatives usually have a very good grasp of the issues, but this fact is rarely carried through into the reporting which follows.

        • Re:Not for Long (Score:4, Interesting)

          by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @10:19PM (#31504532)

          That irony, of course, is layered with another irony, that while most of those groups repeatedly make claims of media bias, few would consider watching C-SPAN. Boring? You betcha. Most of life's issues are mind-numbingly dull in their complexity, especially when presented unedited and unfiltered.

          Not to mention that much of what Congress does is mind-numbingly stupid in its procedural complexity and various random tactics that are commonly used all the time to slow down what's going on even further (and thus make it even more boring).

          Back when I was in high school, I'd sometimes turn on C-SPAN when I came home after school after a hard day and needed a nap. It provided useful "white noise."

          What I quickly learned was that aside from days when debates were happening on major issues, most of C-SPAN when Congress was in session consisted of Congressmen speaking on obscure resolutions like honoring some random person, or (better yet) delay tactics like quorum calls, invoking procedural idiocies that bog down debate in parliamentary matters, etc.

          It's ironic that the service that brought Congress to the public on video resulted in Congressmen themselves hanging out in their offices rather than the chamber, thus creating not only the news soundbite (nobody's usually there listening anyway, so everybody's trying to score a place on the evening news on camera), but also the creation of novel ways of slowing down business. I can remember entire afternoons consisting of quorum calls, where everyone would file into the chamber for attendance purposes that would waste a half hour, file out, and then someone else would "note the absence of a quorum," and the whole process would start all over again.

          Your tax dollars at work....

        • by jduhls (1666325)

          I sleep comfortably knowing that consumers of (mostly) mindless entertainment along with viewers of CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News all help pay for what's routinely offered on C-SPAN.

          I sleep comfortably watching C-SPAN.

    • by mhajicek (1582795)
      Or it will be censored in the name of "National Security".
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by larry bagina (561269)
      cspan isn't funded by the government.
  • by NaCh0 (6124) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @08:08PM (#31503692)

    The video is only as good as the meta data associated with it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by X0563511 (793323)

      If only 22,776 people sit down and review 10 hours of video each, we can have the entire 26-year span (assuming 24/7 of that 26-year span has video to bother with) done in 10 hours.

      It's not as bad as you think.

    • Well, they should simply offer tagging. Let them tag positions in the time line with keywords, and anchors to whole URLs. In both directions.
      Then everyone watching only a short segment, automatically can become a meta data generator, and if he does it well, others don’t have to watch it again, to find interesting stuff.

  • Too bad... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ThermalRunaway (1766412) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @08:08PM (#31503700)
    Half the health care debate wasn't on CSPAN at all... we could go back and see the insanity over and over again
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Well, like most bad legislation, most of the dealing was behind closed doors.

      • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        Well, like most bad legislation, most of the dealing was behind closed doors.

        I hate to break this to you, but most good legislation is dealt behind closed doors, too. Unless you're one of those that believe that there's no such thing as "good legislation".

      • Re:Too bad... (Score:5, Informative)

        by moosesocks (264553) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @10:52PM (#31504718) Homepage

        The doors may be closed (actually, they rarely are), but the cameras are still rolling inside.

        Senate committee hearings are streamed live on their respective websites, and are archived shortly thereafter. If you need something that predates the Senate's streaming media operation, the Library of Congress or the National Archives can help you. Because there can be over a dozen hearings going on simultaneously (sometimes while the Senate floor is also in session), most of these do not make it to C-SPAN, although they are indeed available to anybody with the patience to watch them.

        If something seems egregiously absent, send a FOIA request.

        (Disclaimer: I work for the Senate Recording Studio who are responsible for the production of any TV or Radio broadcasts/recordings that take place in the Senate)

        • by ShakaUVM (157947)

          >>The doors may be closed (actually, they rarely are), but the cameras are still rolling inside.

          Interesting.

          Out of curiosity, then what's the point of a closed door session if everyone can just watch the streaming video live? (Or after it gets archived, I guess.)

          • by quanticle (843097)

            There are two types of 'closed door' sessions. The first is like the one GP described. The public is not invited in, but the session is still recorded, and those recordings and transcripts are made available to the public. The purpose of these sessions is to allow representatives to discuss issues without having anyone try to play to a visible peanut gallery.

            The second type of closed door session is where issues of National Security are discussed. As far as I know, these sessions take place in secure ro

        • Senate committee hearings are streamed live on their respective websites, and are archived shortly thereafter.

          That's very good to hear and is perfectly sufficient. You don't need a bunch a screaming going on in the background. Just want access to proceedings. If it was up to me I'd also setup cameras in the hallways. There's no small amount of wheeling and dealing going on there too. Giving up their privacy is the price they should have to pay for their authority. I think that's a fair deal.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      This will help with health care. No one will ever need to by sleeping pills again.

  • Finally!
  • by Hero Zzyzzx (525153) <danNO@SPAMgeekuprising.com> on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @08:18PM (#31503754) Homepage

    I'm glad this exists but will probably never visit it.

  • Close captioned? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hadlock (143607) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @08:20PM (#31503768) Homepage Journal

    Close captioning textfiles of every video might be more useful. Much easier to sift through data and refine your searches that way. The full record of CC files in .txt format can't run more than a gigabyte. Anybody got a link to that .torrent?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by HaeMaker (221642)
      Transcripts are searchable...

      http://www.c-spanvideo.org/videoLibrary/search-results.php?keywords=series+of+tubes [c-spanvideo.org]

      ...however it is not working for me at the moment.
      • by Hadlock (143607)

        Can someone run a script to rip the transcripts to a series of text files, with a file name, URL, original record date and misc info in the "header"? I'd be happy to seed that torrent. Comon' Slashdot, we can do this!

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You forgot the quotes "series of tubes" brings this [c-spanvideo.org] up.

    • The problem with this strategy is that captions often have typos, and are not properly annotated. As such, they are not considered part of the official congressional record. (Live TV captioners have a tough job. I don't envy them one bit, especially since Senators have been known to mumble from time to time.)

      Fortunately, we have official congressional records. They've been available online [loc.gov] (and in libraries) for about as long as we've had libraries or internets, and contain this wonderful information an

      • by Hadlock (143607)

        That looks like the actual bill text, I'm looking for the transcription of what was actually said on the house/senate floor. The procedural dialog, debates on bills, and speeches would be very interesting to have on tap and data mine.

        Someone already found the transcripts on the cspan website and emailed me directly about it. Maybe someone else can jump in here too and we can scrape the site.

        How do i write a wget script that access http://www.c-spanvideo.org/videoLibrary/ajax/ajax-transcript. [c-spanvideo.org]

        • by Zen Hash (1619759)
          #!/usr/bin/env python

          import sys
          import urllib2

          try:
          first, last = [int(x) for x in sys.argv[1:3]]
          except:
          print 'usage: %s [first#] [last#]'
          sys.exit(1)
          url = 'http://www.c-spanvideo.org/videoLibrary/ajax/ajax-transcript.php?progid=%06i'
          headers = {'User-Agent':'Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 5.1)'}
          print first
          print last
          for i in range(first, last + 1):
          print 'Fetching %06i' % i
          data = urllib2.urlopen(urllib2.Request(url % i,None,heade
          • by Zen Hash (1619759)
            append " % sys.arg[0]" to line 9
            • by Hadlock (143607)

              Thanks!

              • by etnoy (664495)
                Code development (including sending patches)...via Slashdot comments? Must be a new record. Let's write an abstraction layer for this storage mode for a VCS and we're all done!
                • by Hadlock (143607)

                  Some sort of forum system with separate threads (separate from the main page discussion) might be warranted, if that's what you're getting at. The journal system isn't really cutting it.

    • by redshirt (95023)

      I used to work there back in the early 90s when it was still the Public Affairs Video Archives. Not long before I left, I wrote software to parse closed-captioning and generate metadata for the program. It would collect things like what part of the session congress was in, the topics being discussed, who was talking, vote outcomes, etc.

      The biggest problem by far was there because it is a live program, there were a lot of misspellings that had to be accounted for, as the people doing the closed captions di

      • by Hadlock (143607)

        Any good search terms worth checking out? The "transcripts" available on cspan's site currently is only the first 100 chars or so, but it would appear the entire CC data does exist... In regards to the accuracy, a quick google yields all sorts of complaints about the quality of the CC transcription... better to have something than nothing i suppose. Do you know who I could contact at CSPAN that might actually listen to/execute my request? We're doing a scrape now (Stay tuned) but like I said, it's only the

    • Well good luck with that and president President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho’s predecessor, who only used grunting, obscene hand gestures, shooting guns while dancing, and a rare expletive in his speeches...

  • Someone above me mentioned Metadata - the Closed caption data is already included in a search-able form, this we don't need to regenerate the metadata.

    Also now I can direct link to Obama saying "It helps in Ohio that we got Democrats in charge of the machines" (relating to the election infrastructure).

    http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/280876-1 [c-spanvideo.org] (34:31)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by maxume (22995)

      He then goes on to talk about how corruption is a problem for both parties, it is pretty obvious that the bit you are pointing out is him sniping at Republicans, not him talking about how it's a good thing the corruption in Ohio favors Democrats.

  • Time to add the Lie detector to the Ticker line...Every time someone lies on Cspan. whoop whoop whoop!

  • ... for the most boring thing on the Internet.
  • Now all we need is a large screen in the House and Senate and allow anyone to call up the video from the past.

    Congress person A: "Well I never said that we should cut funding to orphans."

    Congress person B: "Let's go to the play back. On June 28th at 10:45 am you gave a speech on the floor, let's listen in,'We should cut funding to orphans.' Sounds to me like now you are lying."

    I would watch CSPAN 24-7 just to see both sides tripped up by their own words.

    • The Congressional Record is available and easily searchable, which would permit you to do the same thing, although I suppose it's a bit less dramatic.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @08:35PM (#31503870) Journal

    ... so it works with Firefox and Noscript...

    (I had finally unscrewed their previous AJAX-or-whatever abortion sufficiently to be able to watch their live feed channels - with manual poking EVERY TIME. But I'd given up on figuring out their interface to their earlier, partial, library offerings.)

    Just tried this stupid thing: With only c-spanvideo.org enabled it showed me a static image with no controls. Adding netsuite.com made it hang my browser at 98% CPU. Had to kill it and restart.

    Don't they have any competent web designers that actually TEST their product with non-IE browsers?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I intentionally block scripting on a website and blame the creators when it doesn't work properly too.
      Javascript isn't the "abortion" it used to be, it's critical in many sites, especially with dynamic content. If you want to block a significant portion of web content, that's your choice, but don't complain when things don't work because you refuse to allow your browser to use the required Javascript libraries.
      /Firefox and NoScript user.
      //No issue using site.
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by LordLucless (582312)

      Try accessing a site with half a browser, get half a site. Guess what, flickr is useless when you disable images too.

  • Goody! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LaminatorX (410794) <sabotage AT praecantator DOT com> on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @08:40PM (#31503890) Homepage

    I'm totally going to watch the Iran Contra hearings. Inouwe chewing out North FTW.

    • Re:Goody! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @09:10PM (#31504092) Homepage Journal

      Inouwe chewing out North FTW.

      You've got to watch Ollie North's jaw muscles working. You know he's thinking about jumping over the table and snapping Inouwe's neck like a twig. He's trying to decide whether or not his patron Ronald Reagan would have pulled strings to get him pardoned for the attack or not. Considering the blanket pardons that went down later, I'm guessing that Reagan/Bush would have indeed pardoned North if he'd attacked.

      The amazing thing about that moment in history is that Oliver North and Ronald Reagan actually believed they were doing God's will by selling arms to the guys in Iran who are now our "sworn enemies" and the "Axis of Evil".

      That's ultimately why this C-Span archive project will not interest most Americans, who seem to believe that history started last week, and there were no terror attacks on the US during the Bush Administration(a quote that Dana Perino, Bush Press Secretary has made numerous times). You just watch, by 2012, people will believe that Barack Obama was president on 9/11.

      • Re:Goody! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by commodoresloat (172735) * on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @09:23PM (#31504196)

        The amazing thing about that moment in history is that Oliver North and Ronald Reagan actually believed they were doing God's will by selling arms to the guys in Iran who are now our "sworn enemies" and the "Axis of Evil".

        Now? The thing that was so scandalous was they were our sworn enemies even then! At least with the Afghan "freedom fighters" that Reagan also armed, we can say that he didn't know then that they would become our great enemy. But with Iran the Reaganites knew exactly who they were dealing with.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          It is even crazier if you throw in the idea that the 1981 release of hostages was manipulated to get Reagan elected. But this is a suspect theory:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/October_surprise_conspiracy_theory [wikipedia.org]

          • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

            Well, it's a "suspect" theory until you start to read about Michael Ledeen and his cake in the shape of a key and bible and realize that we were ruled by people who were nuttier than fruitcakes.

            And, they were only the farm team for what later became the administration of George W. Bush.

            I'm pissed at Pres Obama for a lot of things, but the biggest is that he's letting Bush/Cheney/Rice off the hook for war crimes. I'm angry that GWBush can sit in leisure and grow old gracefully after the things that were don

      • That's ultimately why this C-Span archive project will not interest most Americans, who seem to believe that history started last week, and there were no terror attacks on the US during the Bush Administration(a quote that Dana Perino, Bush Press Secretary has made numerous times).

        She's not the only one saying that. Rudy Giuliani said [huffingtonpost.com] "We had no domestic attacks under Bush; we've had one under Obama."

        Mary Matalin said [huffingtonpost.com] that the 9/11 attacks were "inherited" from Clinton.

      • There was one terror attack. The following attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq killed more people than that in a month (or even less), AND did NOTHING against it. (As the “terrorists” were in Pakistan and Saudi Arabian states, who are our “friends”).

        Oh, and another bit of interesting history: Who supplied the Afghanis with weapons, while the Russians attacked?
        Exactly. The US. (Which made the war not cold at all. Just fought with the lives of non-Americans.) I know first-hand.

        • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

          There was one terror attack.

          That's right, just one if you don't count the anthrax and the DC snipers.

          The problem is that Bush gets to take a mulligan for 9/11. That's right, for him that was just a breakfast ball and because it didn't happen again it's not counted against his permanent record. After all, who knew that muslim extremists wanted to destroy the WTC, right?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Unfortunately that's just before the time period released, so that material isn't up yet, but apparently it will be soon -- yes, I read the FA:

      C-Span was established in 1979, but there are few recordings of its earliest years. Those “sort of went down the drain,” Mr. Browning said. But he does have about 10,000 hours of tapes from before 1987, and he will begin reformatting them for the Web soon. Those tapes include Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign speeches and the Iran-Contra hearings.

      In the meantime, check out the film Coverup [imdb.com], which covers the scandal and has some great scenes from those hearings, including that particular exchange (among others) with Oliver North.

      • by jcarkeys (925469)
        They have some of the days of the Iran-Contra hearings. I don't know if it was all of them, but some was up there. I don't know what particular day the OP was referencing, I was trying to find what he's talking about.
  • by HaeMaker (221642) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @08:46PM (#31503926) Homepage

    Consider the amount of processing power it took to compress 160,000 hours of video fully indexed and ready for viewing.

    Incredible for a non-profit.

    • by Neoprofin (871029)
      It's even more incredible that no one mentioned their work on this until now. I'm desperately crawling through the site trying to find out how the big cable providers screwed us on this one and I'm starting to get desperate. How is Slashdot supposed to survive if they can't tear apart ideas before they're even implemented?

      Cheers to you CSPAN, and cheers to everyone else who now has 23 years of non-stop drinking game material!
  • ... a video record of some senator reading the phonebook.
  • I can't wait to see what the Daily Show and Colbert Report can do with this. They'll sometimes run footage of politicians contradicting themselves, such as a "debate" between Candidate Bush and President Bush. This should give them even more material to work with and call them on their bullshit.
  • by MikeFM (12491)
    I thought you said CPAN [cpan.org]. Much confusion.
  • As if a million policy wonks creamed their pants simultaneously....

  • Went back to listen to the call in show on 911. Very interesting hearing those stunned voices on that day.
  • This is an incredible boon for remix video artists who work in political matters. EBN [wikipedia.org] was doing some great work like this in the early 1990s, using just VHS tapes and their own jury-rigged controllers; imagine what they could do now with a library like this at their fingertips and digital video editing technology.

  • If those videos could be downloadable for free (instead of for $30.00), I could make some wonderful mash-ups.

  • Are the Richard Nixon tapes online yet? Last I bothered, they were $6 per audio cassette. C-Span Radio would play them every week as they were released several years ago. It was my yard work companion for two years.

  • I see they conveniently omitted this [theonion.com].
  • Just me? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tthomas48 (180798) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @01:25AM (#31505328) Homepage

    What does "liberal" have to do with this story? Couldn't simply a news anchor say the same thing? Or does referring to CPAN and Google in a sentence make you a liberal?

  • ... C-SPAN is awarded a patent for it insomnia cure.

  • Rock Lyrics Record Labeling [c-spanvideo.org] Skip to Zappa at about 80 min, and hate the RIAA all over again.

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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