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Data.gov To Launch In May 111

Posted by Soulskill
from the when-did-brent-spiner-get-elected dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In late May, Data.gov will launch, in what US CIO Vivek Kundra calls an attempt to ensure that all government data 'that is not restricted for national security reasons can be made public' through data feeds. This appears to be a tremendous expansion on (and an official form of) third-party products like the Sunlight Labs API. Of course, it is still a far cry from 'open sourcing' the actual decision-making processes of government. Wired has launched a wiki for calling attention to datasets that should be shared as part of the Data.gov plan, and an article on O'Reilly discusses the importance of making this information easily accessible."
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Data.gov To Launch In May

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  • Hardfought (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jthill (303417)

    The longer I live, the more Greg Bear's story "Hardfought" bothers me.

    Here, it's the "mandate" in the story: iirc, every warship (and they're all warships) is required to carry all of mankind's digital knowledge on board to ensure that everyone has access to facts and reason to back their arguments.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      When I hear of something this I personally think of Walter Jon Williams' Aristoi, in which the sum of human knowledge is stored in a vault known as the Hyperlogos. It's allegedly above tampering. I don't want to ruin the story, but they make such a big deal out of how incorruptible it is that you know it's going to figure into the story. Same here; this just seems like a single clearing-house for deception. Still, I suppose it's a step in the right and wrong direction at once...

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        While I agree with you to some extent, is there anything that could possibly be done to appease the slashdot crowd.

        Slashdot screams OPEN IT UP! GIVE US TRANSPARENCY.

        And they do.

        And slashdot responds: YOU'RE JUST TRYING TO TRICK US!!!!

        Some days, you really do just have to take your tin foil hat off if you expect to live a life of something other than fear.

        • Nah, it's two different camps.

          It's probably the same groups who believe in security by obscurity vs. security by approach.

        • There is a whole movie about it. It's called "Bubble Boy". (Not a great movie by the way, but your last paragraph is what it ends with.)

    • The longer I live, the more Greg Bear's story "Hardfought" bothers me.

      Here, it's the "mandate" in the story: iirc, every warship (and they're all warships) is required to carry all of mankind's digital knowledge on board to ensure that everyone has access to facts and reason to back their arguments.

      So, if they had Slashdot in the story, you'd have folks saying, "You didn't read your warship, did you?" or "RTFW: Read The Fucking Warship!" .

      Of course, the response would be, "You're a new sailor, aren't you?"

      Oh, never mind.

  • by ZX-3 (745525) on Sunday April 05, 2009 @01:13PM (#27466479)

    This will also be an extension of what Vivek Kundra implemented in DC:
    http://data.octo.dc.gov/ [dc.gov]

    • by garcia (6573) on Sunday April 05, 2009 @02:00PM (#27466885) Homepage

      I am impressed with the data made available there in one location. I have done a lot of work with county criminal complaints mapping [lazylightning.org]; SHP to KML for state, county, and local parks [lazylightning.org]; and restaurant inspection reports [lazylightning.org] for the general area around my home [lazylightning.org] because it's difficult for the average person to get that information in a package that's useful to them.

      It's absolutely fucking awesome to see that other areas are taking the time, effort, and dollars to make data available to those who pay for its creation in the first place. If anything, the Federal Government should mandate that all states funnel that data to them for display to the citizens in one place. There is absolutely no reason why data shouldn't be in one consistent format and in one place for us to pull down to aggregate ourselves if we so choose.

      I for one welcome our data providing overlords.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I'm all for government transparency. But people wouldn't need this quite as much if the government wasn't spending as much to begin with.

        I'm especially in disagreement about Federal mandates. If people in their states are unhappy with how their states are handling things, it's much easier for them, in theory, to make changes on the state level. The more the federal government gets involved the more states have to tax and spend just to comply with federal mandates.

        Ideally, this kind of thing should be done o

      • by trawg (308495)

        Awesome stuff dude.

        I can't believe posts like this don't get more attention from Slashdot-types.

        Governments spend squillions of dollars every year collecting all sorts of random data, most of which people will never hear about, let alone even see. This data is used to shape policies.

        Knowing the data exists and having it available openly for public perusal (especially when put in more human-readable systems like the ones you've provided) will help people make more informed decisions as to who to vote for as

  • by 2phar (137027)

    How about allowing the people to e-file their taxes directly to their government while they're at it, without having to use a third party.

    • by alen (225700)

      e-file has been free for years

      the value that intuit and other companies add is they let you type in your data or import it over the internet and they do all the calculations for you and make up all the forms automatically. they also guarantee accuracy

      • by jlarocco (851450)

        eFile is free, but you can't do it on the IRS's website. It redirects you to some spam filled third party sites where it's sometimes hard to figure out what's part of the regular tax form filling process and what's an advertisement or for pay service. There's really no reason for it not to be right on the IRS website.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by 2phar (137027)

          The problem is you are forced to share a lot of personal information with a private third party agent, when it is really only a matter between you and your government. Unless you want to use snail mail of course.

      • by theCoder (23772)

        As I understand it, e-file is only free if you make less than a certain amount. For the rest of us, it's either pay for tax preparation software (which can come with "free" e-files) or print out the forms. Since I don't want to support an industry that lobbies to make our taxes harder, I choose to print the forms.

        Sadly, I think I'm the only person I know IRL who still does this. Whenever I ask a friend about taxes, they just say "I don't know -- I just used TurboTax".

    • by kestasjk (933987) *
      You can do this in Australia already, and it works pretty well. The tax system is complex, but the "e-tax" application makes the best of it.

      In general government needs to adopt the internet more, what a perfect way to connect government and people more closely.
  • Navigation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by theArtificial (613980) on Sunday April 05, 2009 @01:15PM (#27466503)
    Hopefully this will not be like navigating the maddening Library of Congress website.
    • It directly reflects how the government works, what else would you expect?

      A decade behind the population, complicated as hell, and you are worse off for interacting with it. If anyone asks you: "how does the government work?" simply point them to that site.

      Same with:
      http://www.usa.gov/ [usa.gov]
      http://canada.gc.ca/ [canada.gc.ca]

    • by UltraAyla (828879)
      amen to that. I once spent an hour talking with a Library of Congress librarian about their catalog, and she showed me how to do some powerful things in it, but I still think it's awful. That power could have been achieved in much better ways.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Of course, it is still a far cry from 'open sourcing' the actual decision-making processes of government.

    We already know the decision-making process.

    Politician: I am strongly against X! It is a moral outrage and cannot be signed into law!

    Lobbyist: We understand your feelings on this matter. I represent interests that would find X to be very desirable. Those interests have lots and lots of money. Have some! This is just for your campaign, of course.

    Politician: Hmm, well... Clearly X is the
  • That's a pretty cool project. The scale is huge, and I bet will cost hundreds of millions to pull off, but it's a good idea! And I agree with 2phar, why cant I just go to irs.gov to file? Would be nice, however instead I have to use turbotax and the likes!
    • I did, in fact, efile on the irs website for free this year. Although i understand that it costs money if you make over a certain amount.
      But the service exists.

      • by jlarocco (851450)

        Where? I've been filling my taxes online for a few years now and I've always been sent to a third party site.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by maxume (22995)

          This is why I send paper. The IRS already figures my taxes, there is no good reason that they can't send me their figures, at which point I either agree with them and sign off on them, or I file my own calculations. Using the third party services just panders to stupid idea that they are providing something worthwhile.

          Basically, anybody who took the standard deduction last year might as well get pre-filled forms, but the tax industry has better lobbyists than taxpayers do.

    • About right on the cost. Can you imagine the infrastructure to support all this data? Unless of course they reference it in place which brings up all sorts of security questions. Knowing how fast the Government works, the data may be obsolete before posting and who says WHAT data gets posted. All data is not relevant data. And will it be posted in a usable format for "slicing and dicing" or will it be PDFs of the data?
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        And will it be posted in a usable format for "slicing and dicing" or will it be PDFs of the data?

        If you're still having trouble using PDFs you need to update to a Ca. Y2k version of Linux or something -- unless you're talking about scanned images? That would be a crying shame, but in a lot of cases there is no official digital record, either. (That's an even bigger shame.)

        • Scanned images of pages to PDFs rather than say a Word or Excel (or compatible) that one could lift the data (i.e numbers) from and run your own analysis. I don't know about your copy of Adobe Reader but mine doesn't do a good job of taking a data table and putting it into a spreadsheet with rows & columns. Perhaps the full-up Adobe does better.
        • by afabbro (33948)

          And will it be posted in a usable format for "slicing and dicing" or will it be PDFs of the data?

          If you're still having trouble using PDFs you need to update to a Ca. Y2k version of Linux or something

          Sounds like you're still having trouble differentiating structured versus unstructured data. Budget data in tables or CSV or SQL or whatever is useful. A .PDF of a document where you cannot extract the data into a spreadsheet or database is far less useful.

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            A .PDF of a document where you cannot extract the data into a spreadsheet or database is far less useful.

            No, you cannot. Given a PDF with a table of numbers in data and not image form, I can get the numbers into a spreadsheet or database. It's a bit cumbersome but doesn't require data entry.

            • Neat, I didn't know there were tools available to do that. What do you use?

              • by drinkypoo (153816)

                Neat, I didn't know there were tools available to do that. What do you use?

                The easiest GUI tool to take apart a PDF is Illustrator (Win/Mac) or Inkscape (Linux). There are various to-text or to-html converters which will product a text file you can open in OO.o or Microsoft Office; generally speaking if you select a bunch of tabbed text (use search/replace to convert spaces to tabs if necessary) and paste it into a spreadsheet it will be entered into separate cells. Microsoft Office is especially good at taking some arbitrary text and getting it into columns correctly, but massagi

  • I really want to meet the Web developer(s) who developed Data.gov's temporary home page. Its source is simply horrible.

    1) XHTML standards compliant? Far from it.
    2) Why use <center> tags?
    3) There's a couple of unused and unclosed <p> tags.
    4) No CSS at all.
    5) Why use an image to display text?

    I hope that was a quick job by an intern. Otherwise, we're doomed :P

    WhiteHouse.gov doesn't pass standards compliance validation, but for the most part, it's alright. It could be better in so
    • by garcia (6573)

      As far as I'm concerned it can be a bunch of raw links to RSS feeds, CSV, and XML files. Who the hell cares what a data repository looks like? I want to take that data and use it myself elsewhere. I don't need it to be pretty where I get it from as long as it's in a format that's useful.

      • What if those feeds have bad markup? Then it'd be harder to extract and use the data, which is opposite of what wants to be achieved.

        Standards are there for a reason. While I'm not pedantic with needing to follow every stinkin' standard, they are there as guidelines for a reason: to make sure what's created is as useful as possible to the largest amount of people.
      • Yeah.
        I will only code my software in dialects of Basic and Assembler.
        And the streets shall be made of gravel with mud underneath. As long as you can drive on it...
        Let's build out cars out of plastic and glue. As long as it drives...
        And let's build our houses out of wood and plaster. ...
        Oh wait...

        hum...

        OH *WAIT*!

    • 2) Why use <center> tags?
      [...]
      4) No CSS at all.

      Kinda answered your own question there, huh?

      • Hehe :P
        You can use CSS for other things, but I was pointing out the use of depreciated tags in the XHTML standards.
        • the use of depreciated tags in the XHTML standards.

          I'm actually annoyed that the Center tag was ousted. I liked it, dammit! I read the reasoning behind the deprecation decision, it's far from nonsense, but I don't want to let go of my precious tag!
          From my cold, dead web pages I tell ya ;-)

    • by Khashishi (775369)

      This is obviously just a temporary page. Who cares if there is CSS? That's just another layer of formatting nonsense for a short message, when the browser default format will do fine.

      Unclosed <p> tags? What's the point of closing <p> tags? It's just a few wasted bytes and a few moments of wasted typing time. Standards zealots should spend their time criticizing things that actually matter.

      Now, the image text, I don't get that one. That's stupid.

  • Republicans are going to be upset with that Sunlight Foundation. Cast light on how corporations, lobbyists, and individuals interact with Gov. That could cause some chaos. As a Libertarian, I look forward to that.
    • Re:OUCH; (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Abcd1234 (188840) on Sunday April 05, 2009 @04:11PM (#27467855) Homepage

      Oh come on. I'm as liberal as they get, but to claim that democrats are somehow exempt from manipulation by "corporations, lobbyists, and individuals" is laughable at best. Both parties take full advantage of the fact that money somehow equates to free speech in the US.

      • I never said otherwise. In fact, I have little doubt that Dems are corrupt. The fact that they have not ungagged Sibel Edmunds speaks loudly. But starting with Nixon, it has been mostly republicans that have been blocking attempts to get to that data. The rest (dems, indies, and most other parties) have worked to open gov to give up data. For example, post Nixon, presidents informations was to be released 20 years after office. In 2000, W changed it to allow either past president OR the family to review an
  • by BitZtream (692029) on Sunday April 05, 2009 @02:30PM (#27467131)

    Of course, it is still a far cry from 'open sourcing' the actual decision-making processes of government.

    If this results in the same performance expectations as OSS projects, I'll take the current government of ANY country on Earth over an OSS one any day.

    For every successful OSS project, I'd say there are at least 10,000 pitiful ones, thanks to their management. Compare that with the current way goverment works on the planet and I'd say that for all their problems, the current systems used to form goverments are all, with out any doubt in my mind, far better performers than the average OSS project.

    Why would we want to make things WORSE for pretty much everyone, in the off chance that we happen to get lucky enough to get the right people on it to make it successful. The successful OSS projects that you can think of are exceptions to the rule, not the norm. While they are great and all, I'm not personally willing to play those odds. Its not like playing the lottery where you have as a 1 in 14 million chance of winning a few million dollars, but you're only out 1 if you don't win. While it would be fabulous if we did it and it worked, the risk involved if we fail alone makes it not worth attempting in my mind, add in the odds of it working and its almost worth shooting you just so no one else gets this crazy idea in their head. Obviously a little late now, but I think you get my point.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RudeIota (1131331)
      I don't believe an entirely open source, wiki-style government sounds appealing at all. That would be anarchy.

      But that isn't what you're talking about... Just wanted to make that point first.

      This is a stretch, but in a way -- on paper -- we already have an 'open source' government. You contribute by suggesting/complaining to your congress critter and they are supposed to represent you. The idea is that your contribution will be taken into consideration, expanded upon and eventually legislated. You elect
      • What's wrong with anarchy, specifically the capitalistic flavor, which just protects human rights and the free market, and leaves the rest to be sorted out by the aforementioned market. I thought that was pretty much the embodiment of /. political thinking. *shrug*

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Toe, The (545098)
      The borrowing of the term "open source" refers (loosely) to the ideals [metagovernment.org] of the open source movement, not the management processes any project may use. In fact, "open source governance" is a governance methodology, and not the same as the governance mechanism of any existing OSS projects.
    • by rubycodez (864176)

      er, because those mismanaged open source projects mass murder people on the scale of hundreds of thousands and embezzle money on the scale of billions? they line their pockets and project their power with the blood of soldiers and the misery of the people? yeah, your governments are much better than any half-assed FOSS project.

    • by jyx (454866)

      For every successful OSS project, I'd say there are at least 10,000 pitiful ones

      Ive worked in government it for the last 13+ years. You can easily swap 'OSS' with 'government' and your sentence will still be correct. Be aware that your government is riddled with just as many pitiful, mismanaged IT projects as those OSS one, the only difference being *you* are paying for these failures.

      (And that's just at the operational level, you would be horrified to know just how much of your life is actually governed by poorly put together excel spreadsheets.)

    • For every successful OSS project, I'd say there are at least 10,000 pitiful ones, thanks to their management.

      "For every successful closed source software project, I'd say there are at least 10,000 pitiful ones, thanks to their management."

      Stop pretending failed internal projects that never see the light of day don't count. Open source is the same except visible. That's the whole point.

      Whenever you see anybody replacing what should be the word "software" with the more selective words "open source software"

  • still a far cry from 'open sourcing' the actual decision-making processes of government

    And thank Jebus for that... direct democracy would be the undoing of our republic based systems of governance.

    • by Toe, The (545098)
      I encourage you to read the source site [metagovernment.org], which details a ground-up, sophisticated mesh of communities based on consensus. While it gives everyone a say in any governance decision, it is radically different from the traditional concept of direct democracy. Note also that Metagovernment is a global project and not focused on any singular government. In fact the first targets are very small, non-governmental communities such as condominiums and clubs. Transformation of something like the US federal government
  • I really hope they publish the stuff as Linked Data [ted.com].

  • remember e.gov? whatever happen to the millions (or billions) spent there?
  • "...and an article on O'Reilly discusses the importance of making this information easily accessible."

    Like that saying at the end of some cartoons "Knowing is half the battle". Now let's work on making it more understandable.

  • <head>
    <title>Data.Gov</title>
    </head>
    <body>
    Nothing to see here, move along.
    </body>
    </html>

  • Will this actually be data.go.us? I heard recently (can't find link) that out of "fairness" to the rest of the world, .gov domain is moving to .go.us

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