Freedom of the press is well understood, at least in the democratic world, to be an essential part of governance. Louis Brandeis of the US Supreme court once put it even more pithily: “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.” I’ve certainly spilled some ink on the relationship between media and search in this blog, but I want to introduce a new twist to role of search played by Lucene/Solr.

At the “UN-connecting the World” conference held in Geneva in late May 2010, a group of developers unveiled resolutionfinder.org, a data repository that simplifies access to UN Resolutions. The UN is intended to represent everyone on earth, and so if you live here on this planet, the resolutions it has passed could be relevant to you.

Solving a big problem, like, say, malaria in Africa? The UN has been busy there, and since all politics is local, and you need local action from you government, you might want to give your local politicians some air cover on what the UN says about eradicating malaria. Since no matter where you live, politicians probably spend more time looking for babies to kiss than reading UN resolutions. It would be handy to find these resolutions to help persuade those politicians to stop kissing babies and worry more about keeping them healthy.

There was a time when knowing what resolutions were passed meant you had to have a printing press and/or a bookshelf. No more: Resolutionfinder.org was built by a team of 3 developers in five days using Solr.

Still searching on for UN Resolutions on Malaria? Try this URL: http://resolutionfinder.org/search?q=malaria&t[27]=local+strategies&tm=any&s=Search

One of the authors of the project, Lukas Pahwe Smith, wrote a quick case study, which we’ve posted here. It’s a great example of how Solr makes search faster and better — and might just help make the world a better place faster. Maybe we could see some public domain work to improve search on key topics from the US government, with the same kind of really nice faceting resolutionfinder.org has — with Solr driven mashups applied to things like the US Congressional Record and legislative online resources. Free software, free search — like free press?