While this is a little late, late’s better than never for giving thanks. This year, we’ve got a lot to be thankful for. Open Data in Open Government had big accomplishments this year. The Vice President is talking data quality in government on the Daily Show. ABC News along with Recovery.gov‘s controversy have brought government data into prime time. It’s been a long time since transparency has seen this kind of attention.
At this time of Thanksgiving here in the United States I wanted to give thanks for the new and changing government datasets that we have now. Some are truly amazing.
Say whatever you want about the “Cash for Clunkers” program– whether you think it was a success or a failure is up for the partisans to debate– how they published their data was great. They published human readable summary documents in their appropriate file format– in this case PDF and published raw data in both CSV files as well as Excel files and an access database. To top it off, they released a data dictionary so that one could understand what the data meant in the database. This is a significantly improved way to publish data. And we’re thankful for it.
FEC data catalog
This year, the FEC invited us to testify twice about how they could improve their operations and their website. The second time, we supplied them with a crowdsourced testimony and they, in turn listened. Rarely does the Federal Government listen and act so quickly when it comes to technology. Just a few months after our testimony, the FEC launched their own Data Catalog. The result: an agency that we once rolled our eyes at has quickly laid the foundation for modernization and shown everyone how easy it is to move to the head of the pack.
While we complain about both the breadth and quality of data in Data.gov provides, we’re happy it exists. We think it was a great step forward for transparency. Hopefully more effort will be put into consolidating the data all in one place.
Like Cars.gov, whether or not you think the Recovery is good or bad doesn’t matter– that’s for the politicians to decide. The fact that people are engaged in an argument over the quality of data on a government provided website is a victory for Transparency. That the Recovery board put up a bunch of erroneous data before trying to go and fix it so that people could see what kind of data was being reported before it got judged for accuracy is a tremendous win. So we’re thankful for Recovery.gov
The White House Visitor Logs
The White House is publishing the names of every visitor going to the White House. While that data is slowly being rolled out we’re happy to see the administration taking steps in the right direction and once they’re released to a more full extent, we should all look at doing something interesting with them.
The Forthcoming House Expenditure Reports
Though it is hard to be thankful for something that doesn’t quite exist yet, our world is abuzz about the forthcoming expenditure reports from the House congressional offices. While campaigns (funded by donors) file their expenditure reports and the FEC along with OpenSecrets.org publish that data online, congressional offices (funded by taxpayers) are a different story. Typically those expenditures are printed in a book, and not published online. But now the House is putting them online so that we can see how these Congressional Offices are spending their money.
So much other stuff
There’s lots of other stuff to be thankful for this year around opening government– from state data catalogs to the many accomplishments of our community. But the Federal Government rarely gets a nod from us for doing something right. If you’re a federal employee working on this stuff, we genuinely thank you for the hard work you’re doing.