Releasing zoning data is an important first step to developing a better public understanding about this local government process that impacts the most physical elements of neighborhoods. Having better standards for releasing this information could lead to even better understanding of zoning and its impacts, encouraging more reuse and analysis of the data in apps, news stories and beyond.
While zoning is an especially complex dataset because of its its many variables from city to city, among other reasons, there are a few steps cities could take to improve the quality of this data and its ability to be reused and analyzed. Many of these ideas can be found in our Open Data Policy Guidelines.
1. Mandate timeliness -- Releasing zoning data in a timely manner, and updating it when changes are made, gives people a chance to be aware of and react to changes that might impact them.
2. Use open formats -- Open, structured data helps encourage reuse and analysis, and for zoning data releasing several different kinds of open structured data might be helpful for different levels of users. CSV or XML files are formats that can be used for spreadsheets with zoning information. File formats specific to geospatial software, from shapefiles to GeoJSON, can help encourage the development of more advanced apps and mapping of zoning data.Continue reading
This Is Why Government Should Use Open Formats
James Fee brings news of a dismaying decision by an Ohio court. A real estate appraiser named Robert Gambill tried... View ArticleContinue reading
The Missing Data Behind The Plum Book
The latest compilation of more than 8,000 federal jobs known as the Plum Book is out, and for the first time it is available in print, digital, and mobile format. There's still something missing, though, with this list that holds interest for the public and Washington, DC, power brokers: the data behind it. Every four years, the Government Printing Office (GPO) compiles this publication of positions that "may be subject to noncompetitive appointment," as GPO puts it. The book is important because of the information it provides about who is chosen to fill presidential-appointed and other positions. In short, it is the best, most authoritative list of senior positions throughout the executive branch. It originated in the 1950's during the Eisenhower administration, when the Republican Party requested a list of positions the president could fill, according to GPO. The Plum Book has come out every four years just after the presidential election since 1960. Anyone viewing the book (whatever the format) can look up positions by agency, position title, appointment type, pay, term expiration, and more. It is an incredibly rich source of information that has many possible uses. There are still barriers to accessing that information, however. The book is available on the GPO website in text and as a PDF, neither of which is an open format that would make sorting or reusing the underlying data a simple task.Continue reading