It’s nearly impossible to find anything useful on the SEC’s website . It needs to be demolished and rebuilt from scratch. The way filings are published is fundamentally flawed. It may have been wonderful at some point, when people marveled at being able to crudely access filings online. But it sucks now. Three suggestions:
- Filings should be broken up into smaller chunks of content. Sections should be divided up in ways that help search engines (including the sec’s internal one) find info. I randomly picked an 8k to look at, and it had 15,000+ words in it. Most of them were gibberish and legalese, barely decipherable. There’s no way a search engine can look at that document and point a user to what they’re looking for.
- Improve the file structure and internal search engine. If you do a search on sec.gov for JPM filings, you get this pile of crap. And if you drill down to something that looks interesting, you get an even more useless page like this.
- The SEC desperately needs basic search-engine-optimization. They lack Web-Development 101 stuff like meta-descriptions and keywords. These have been web-standards since the mid 90’s, maybe earlier.
It’s crazy. $200 billion for AIG? No problem. But our internal financial reporting system is still in the dark ages. If you do it right, these changes shouldn’t be expensive. And it would have a huge impact on transparency and accountability. $15 million could buy 120,000 hours of web development at $125 an hour (check my math?). If you hire experienced programmers and managers, that’s more than enough time to fix this abomination.
I’ve managed large content-migration and overhaul projects before. It’s not fun, but it’s doable (even with something the size of sec.gov). Model the revamp on those done by web companies like google, amazon, and ebay. But for the love of god, please don’t use the traditional government method: give the deal to a politcally-connected, but technologicaly-inept firm. I’m hopeful that Obama will follow through with his pledge of transparency. This would help, a lot.