Evaluating /Open pages


Right now, we’re focused on one thing: watching agencies put up their /Open page. We built a little tool that allows us to check in with each agency daily and notify us when it is up. When we put it up, agencies like the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Agriculture quickly put up placeholder pages to get a green check-box next to their name. Silly.

The point of the Open Tracker not to evaluate, it’s to let us know when we can start evaluating and to encourage federal agencies to meet the deadline they’re directed to meet. Today, I’m happy to say the Department of Labor can rightfully claim they’re the first to launch a /open page 18 days ahead of schedule. It meets a basic criteria: publish some data, allow people to submit feedback, and is acknowledges the intent of the open government directive.

Now, that’s not to say it’s complete: far from it. 2 out of 3 of the “datasets” aren’t datasets at all– they’re documents. One of them is a tough-to-parse PDF file, and the other is a 38 page document with a 137 page bibliography. And I’m not sure how they measure up to the Open Government Directive’s definition of high-value. But that’s not what’s important right now. What’s important is, they’ve taken their first stab– a first draft of something that will take years to get right. Once the deadline is passed, then it’ll be time to start providing hard critiques.

We’ve been hard at work figuring out how to evaluate the datasets agencies are providing. So far we have a draft of a score-card that we’ve used as a hand-out to various agencies. It’s based on the 8 Principles of Government Data though we’ve added a 9th (permanence). Here’s our scorecard so far– would love your input on them:

These are, as I said, a draft– and open to your input.

We should see lots of green checks in the next 2 weeks as the /Open page deadline comes closer. Once that happens, we’ll start evaluating each Agency on its performance and make some clear recommendations on how to make these datasets not only available but also useful.