21 July 2009

Building on Open Data

One of the great things about openness is that it lets people do incredible things by adding to it in a multiplicity of ways. The beatuy is that those releasing material don't need to try to anticipate future uses: it's enough that they make it as open as possible Indeed, the more open they make it, the more exciting the re-uses will be.

Here's an unusual example from the field of open data, specifically, the US government data held on Data.gov:

The purpose of Data.gov is to increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. Although the initial launch of Data.gov provides a limited portion of the rich variety of Federal datasets presently available, we invite you to actively participate in shaping the future of Data.gov by suggesting additional datasets and site enhancements to provide seamless access and use of your Federal data. Visit today with us, but come back often. With your help, Data.gov will continue to grow and change in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

Here's how someone intends to go even further:

Today I’m happy to announce Sunlight Labs is stealing an idea from our government. Data.gov is an incredible concept, and the implementation of it has been remarkable. We’re going to steal that idea and make it better. Because of politics and scale there’s only so much the government is going to be able to do. There are legal hurdles and boundaries the government can’t cross that we can. For instance: there’s no legislative or judicial branch data inside Data.gov and while Data.gov links off to state data catalogs, entries aren’t in the same place or format as the rest of the catalog. Community documentation and collaboration are virtual impossibilities because of the regulations that impact the way Government interacts with people on the web.

We think we can add value on top of things like Data.gov and the municipal data catalogs by autonomously bringing them into one system, manually curating and adding other data sources and providing features that, well, Government just can’t do. There’ll be community participation so that people can submit their own data sources, and we’ll also catalog non-commercial data that is derivative of government data like OpenSecrets. We’ll make it so that people can create their own documentation for much of the undocumented data that government puts out and link to external projects that work with the data being provided.

This the future.

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