In preparation for the revamping of our Open Data Policy Guidelines, we reviewed all twenty-three of the current local (city, county and state) open data policies on the books since their debut in 2006. These “open data policies” ranged in form from government administrative memos ordering the release of “high-value” datasets to legislation calling for open data policy planning to the newest member of the open data policy family, South Bend, Indiana’s executive order. Our main takeaway: There has been a lot of copying and pasting amongst policies, confusion on common open data terminology, and missed opportunities for information disclosure, but best practices are emerging.
Copying and pasting boilerplate legislative language is as old as law itself. In fact, legal precedent is built on throwbacks, edits, and remixes. The modern day copying and pasting feature has served as a technological blessing in legal matters that require a high level of repetition, such as producing demand letters for common legal claims, or, for one of Sunlight’s favorite exercises of individual rights, completing a public records or freedom of information request. However, when copying and pasting enters more nuanced areas of law, such as contract or legislation drafting, significant complications can arise. Without the proper edits or engaged collaborative thinking required in policy drafting, the ever tempting copy/paste model falls short. Below we explore just how borrowed open data legislative language thus far has been and examples of where it’s been the least helpful.Continue reading
Earlier this year, Sunlight was issued a challenge: Collect and refute the most common reasons not to release data. As many open access advocates, journalists, and government employees themselves will tell you, there are a variety of "no's" given when the question of data disclosure arises. Many are predictable, some are political, some personal, many practical, and all deserving of attention. Pioneers looking to move their government toward exploring and advancing information release have already come up with rebuttals to many of these refusals, but the collective knowledge is hard to share, usually trapped in email groups, discussion boards, blogs, and the memories and experiences of individuals. So, we're going to meet our challenge with an experiment.Continue reading
As more communities recognize the power and possibilities of sharing public data online, there is an increasing need to articulate what it means to open data -- and how to create policies that can not only support these efforts, but do so in a sustainable and ambitious way. To this end, we are releasing the second version of Sunlight’s Open Data Policy Guidelines. Originally authored last summer and informed by the great work of our peers and allies, the Guidelines are a living document created to help define the landscape of what open data policies can and should do. For this latest version, we’ve reordered and slightly rephrased the Guidelines’ 32 provisions for clarity. We’ve also grouped them into three categories as a way of demonstrating that open data policies can define What Data Should Be Public, How to Make Data Public and How to Implement Policy.Continue reading