Happy Document Freedom Day! What are you doing to celebrate?
While it may not be obvious, open standards go hand-in-hand with open government. If we are asking our government to make information about itself available to the public, documents should be released in a way that everyone can access. Access to government information should not be only for the privileged few that can afford expensive commercial software needed to open files in proprietary formats. The public should be able to use any device, operating system, or software of their choosing without having to worry about what documents and data they won’t be able to access.
Please note that while we advocate for the use of open document formats, it is more important to release data in appropriate formats. You won’t get any praise from us for releasing earmark requests in ODF instead of a proprietary format. Structured data should always be released in programmer friendly formats such as JSON, CSV, and XML.
Additionally, open formats should be offered in addition to common proprietary formats instead of replacing them completely. We’re not zealots here; proprietary document formats make sense for a large number of users. Just be kind to those of us that choose to not run the software needed to access the documents and give us an open choice.
Sunlight is celebrating by making the following pledges:
Any document created by Sunlight that is published in a proprietary format will also be published in an open document format.
We will update our recommendations to government to include the publishing of open document alternatives when proprietary formats are used. The Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information hint at this, but we’ll make it explicit.