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US Federal Government Launches Data.gov 109

Posted by timothy
from the selective-reporting dept.
Elastic Vapor writes "I'm happy to announce that the US Federal Government earlier today launched the new Data.Gov website. The primary goal of Data.Gov is to improve access to Federal data and expand creative use of those data beyond the walls of government by encouraging innovative ideas (e.g., web applications). Data.gov strives to make government more transparent and is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. The openness derived from Data.gov will strengthen the Nation's democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government." I hope the data reported will be impartially selected, honestly gathered, clearly explained, and perfectly accurate. Perhaps they could start with inspiration from the Concord Coalition's National Debt Counter.
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US Federal Government Launches Data.gov

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  • www.data.gov gets slashdotted in 3...2...1...
    • www.data.gov gets slashdotted in 3...2...1...

      But it isn't! Haven't looked at much of it but that's the first thing they got right. :)

    • The days of getting slashdotted are over! Slashdot does not have enough traffic to do that anymore :-)
  • Search for "millimeter"

    0 results found

    Also not found: CIA, NSA, NASA, Project Bluebook

  • by Anonymous Coward

    what you did last summer, free of charge.

  • by gammygator (820041) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @01:00PM (#28042865)
    "I hope the data reported will be impartially selected, honestly gathered, clearly explained, and perfectly accurate."

    Good luck with that, this is the government we're talking about...
    • by timeOday (582209) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @01:15PM (#28043095)

      Good luck with that, this is the government we're talking about...

      Yeah, I think sarcasm was his point. Personally I don't get it. Nobody's perfect, but I trust .gov data more than from private companies almost any day.

      • Yeah, because government agencies have no reason to manipulate data. We certainly have seen no evidence of costs being wildly underestimated when an agency is trying to get approval for a new program.

        Do you know that states hire consultants to identify ways to change their operations so that they can manipulate certain metrics that result in more federal funding? This is a fake example, but if the feds give states more money if they have a welfare fraud rate less than 10%, then the state will a) increase ef

    • by Ezrymyrh (1554969)
      Cue the Jedi mind trick, "This is not the data you are looking for"
    • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <[Satanicpuppy] [at] [gmail.com]> on Thursday May 21, 2009 @01:26PM (#28043327) Journal

      He misses the point with his naivety, but you miss it with your cynicism. The data will still be incredibly useful, even if they're trying to game it, or sloppily collecting it, or if they're putting it up in an obscure, unorganized format.

      A broad enough dataset can be used to determine things well beyond it's intended scope.

      • A broad enough dataset can be used to determine things well beyond it's intended scope.

        Indeed, any regular reader of slashdot (or even better, any reader of RISKS Digest [wikipedia.org]) should be well aware of that.
        Here's one example we all should remember:

        http://consumerist.com/345219/researches-claim-to-reverse-netflixs-anonymization [consumerist.com]

        • Heh, that was exactly what I was thinking of.

          The thing is, there is no way that they could really sanitize it without making it obviously worthless. You could try and seed it against certain types of analysis, but you can only do that for big obvious targets. Any target where you're coming at it obliquely...I don't see how they could do it.

          That would be like trying to alter a dictionary to prevent someone from writing a certain novel.

      • by timothy (36799) Works for Slashdot

        Hey, I was being cynical, too (hence the link to the Concord Coalition ;)). But I agree with you -- no matter *how* bad it is (and I hope that much of it won't be bad at all), it will be useful for the very reason you name.

        timothy

    • lies, damn lies and data.gov!
    • I hope the data reported will be impartially selected, honestly gathered, clearly explained, and perfectly accurate. Perhaps they could start with inspiration from the Concord Coalition's National Debt Counter.

      Good luck with that, this is the government we're talking about...

      What's funny about your cynicism is that the referenced website in the summary IS ALREADY depending on government data to function. The cited example is an example of an instance where the government is already living up to the promise you just scoffed at as impossible.

      http://www.treasurydirect.gov/NP/BPDLogin?application=np [treasurydirect.gov]

  • by malevolentjelly (1057140) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @01:03PM (#28042921) Journal

    Let's get some of this data into Wolfram Alpha. Then we query things and get simple charts and graphs that will scare the living hell out of the average tax payer. "Annual cost of tank treads"... "total corporate welfare"...

    • by Thaelon (250687)

      Hear hear!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by modestmelody (1220424)
      One of the best tools I've found online for going through government data is the IPEDS (Integrated Post-Secondary Data System), which allows you to mine for some pretty interesting and specific information that's reported to the Department of Education by all post-secondary institutions. The ability to work with this common data collected by the government anyway makes my own research far easier.

      Wolfram|Alpha mining sets like these would just take the whole process one step further by allowing non-exper
  • There doesn't appear to be much data indexed yet, just data that has been publicly available for years.
    Patent data? Check
    Storm data? Check

    Yawn. Call me when the FBI starts uploading data.

    • If anything this is more about accessibility. I once had to do a project working with archived data from NOAA. A site like this would have saved me a lot of time.. As with anything give it time and it will hopefully get better.. Either that or wither and die in a new administration =P
  • Hacked Data dot com. Coming to an Identity Theft near you!

  • by Statecraftsman (718862) * on Thursday May 21, 2009 @01:09PM (#28043019) Homepage
    So far I see only 47 datasets available(is that the best you can do US Gov't?!?!) but the best thing about this site is that it serves as an official directory to myriad data sources. Higher visibility of that data to the general public may encourage more citizens to ask for this kind of data for their areas of interest or for their jurisdictions. So overall this is a good thing. The only thing I wish they would do is provide a forum/mailing list where data consuming developers can coordinate their tools to process this data. I expressed more about this idea here: http://www.thenationaldialogue.org/ideas/grow-a-development-data-analysis-community [thenationaldialogue.org]
  • IIS, once again (Score:4, Informative)

    by tcopeland (32225) <tom&thomasleecopeland,com> on Thursday May 21, 2009 @01:13PM (#28043069) Homepage

    $ curl -i http://data.gov/ [data.gov]
    HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently
    Date: Thu, 21 May 2009 18:13:00 GMT
    Server: Microsoft-IIS/6.0

    Bah!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Alinabi (464689)
      Forget about IIS. Most of the data is in DBF format. DBF!!! How about using some non-proprietary format from this century like, say, XML.
      • by wumpus188 (657540)
        What's so proprietary about dbf? It's so ancient, the specs themselves are old... f.i. here's some [clicketyclick.dk]. I'm sure there are many free/oss converters too.
        • by skarphace (812333)

          What's so proprietary about dbf? It's so ancient, the specs themselves are old... f.i. here's some [clicketyclick.dk]. I'm sure there are many free/oss converters too.

          Have you ever tried to work with DBFs with any open source tools out there? It makes me want to break my fingers so I can't type and have an excuse not to mess with it.

  • "More input, more input!"

  • poster guy:

    http://www.wallstats.com/deathandtaxes/ [wallstats.com]

    Or at least learn from it and similar presentations.

    William

  • Unbiased opinion? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kmac06 (608921) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @01:24PM (#28043281)

    ...committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. The openness derived from Data.gov will strengthen the Nation's democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

    That sounds like it was written by the Ministry of Truth. No one should ever read something like that without huge warning bells going off.

    • Hmm... that Elastic Vapor guy is from Toronto, Canada. It seems FOREIGNERS are very happy indeed about this new database.

      So, how many days until the 10:00 news is crowing that Obama is spending our tax dollars to give American secrets to other countries?

      • by frankie (91710)

        p.s. Even worse, he's doing it ON THE INTERNET! Just like a CRAIGSLIST call girl!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by rpillala (583965)

        Fox was reporting recently that higher fuel efficiency standards put your family's lives on the line. When really it's driving that does that.

        So it shouldn't be too long.

        • by cayenne8 (626475)
          "Fox was reporting recently that higher fuel efficiency standards put your family's lives on the line. "

          While that statement is a bit extreme...it does have some possibilities that way.

          To get a car with super low mileage, it will have to be quite small, and light...possibly affecting how it would end up on the wrong side of a crash with another car.

          Remember...those old cars, trucks and SUV's aren't going to disappear immediately, they'll be around for decades. And in an accident with a little econo ligh

          • by Reece400 (584378)
            I've been in two accidents, Ford SUV t-bones Dodge Neon into a sign and GM Pickup t-bones Rear end of Dodge Neon. (me in the neon)

            In both cases no one had more than bruises. In the first case, both vehicles were totaled (Equal damage). In the second case, we drove away and popped the dent in the plastic back out with a prybar leaving only creases in the paint while the truck was leaving coolant and the front frame was badly damaged.
    • by ThorGod (456163)

      ...what part of it sounds like it's from the Ministry of Truth?

      I mean, really. I've worked with data from a myriad of sources and I can guarantee you that the US government supplied data is by far the cleanest, most unbiased stuff out there. (And, no, no one's going to have the resources to estimate national GDP going back a century and a half other than the US government.)

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      It would be the Ministry of Truth if this organization made sure it was the only supplier and analyzer of this information, rather than allowing it to escape on "the internet".

      The data itself could be heavily biased, but since the current data sets seem to be census data and similar sets(taxes, marriage/divorce rates), it doesn't seem to have the aim of a propaganda tool currently.

      It could be turned to one to be sure, but if it does provide moderately raw data sets then I'd say it would promote democra
  • by really_irish_man (1559155) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @01:29PM (#28043367)
    The government is an easy target to pick on, but they do have some really useful sites such as thomas.loc.gov and census.gov. Data.gov is a great concept, my only concern is will it change every time a new president takes office? Just as the various executive orders are issued and rescinded based on who's in power, will they also tinker with what data, data.gov will own?
    • That's not the real issue. Data.gov and other measures of transparency are really a double edged sword.

      On the one hand, they *try* to get government to seem more accountable and transparent. Supposedly, when the government wants to say... bailout a bank, you will have the ability to see that money is going.

      On the other hand, it might actually lead to more centralized government in the false belief that we can keep checks on things via this 'transparency'.

      Unfortunately, a lot of people... who have never ra

      • by Improv (2467)

        Not everyone shares your philosophy. Personally, I trust the federal government much more than I would trust state or more local levels of government. There are risks of misgovernance at *any* level, and tearing down the centre just makes civilisation run more bumpily.

  • A /. post I can USE!

    PS: The data you get from the US government is infinitely more reliable than from any other country out there. Need I say: China?

  • if they really want "creative use" of government data, they'll release those interrogation photos so we can finally get to work photochoppin'.

  • "I hope the data reported will be impartially selected, honestly gathered, clearly explained, and perfectly accurate."

    At which point I was glad that the article was essentially over, because I couldn't suspend my disbelieve any longer...that, and I was laughing hysterically.
  • I hope the data reported will be impartially selected, honestly gathered, clearly explained, and perfectly accurate.

    Sorry, but HA.
  • is this just a list of data from other government sites? why no central proxy, web services, atom feeds, or other useful features besides just linking?

    • by skarphace (812333)

      is this just a list of data from other government sites? why no central proxy, web services, atom feeds, or other useful features besides just linking?

      So far, yes. But it sounds like they will eventually become a clearing house of the data. It's a start.

  • As much as the Left would like for us to be, we are NOT a democracy. We're a constitutional Republic.

    • So, apparently, it's not important for the electorate in a republic to have information available, which might help them be better informed voters? Yes, the USA is not a *direct* democracy, but I've always been taught that a republic is a type of democracy.

    • As much as the Left would like for us to be, we are NOT a democracy.

      A direct democracy? No. We use a form of representative democracy [wikipedia.org].

      We're a constitutional Republic.

      And in common American usage of the term Republic just means a form of representative democracy.

  • Mirror it quick (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TomRC (231027) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @02:35PM (#28044521)

    I hope someone will mirror the data there the instant it appears, so when someone in power decides that an inconveniently revealed truth needs to be shoved down the memory hole, a web app will instantly highlight any redacted information.

  • It would great if it includes data on legislation and if that data can then be tagged by industries (health care, telecom, etc) impacted by the legislation. The data can then be cross-referenced against campaign contributions, and we can extrapolate who voted on what based on how much money they received in contributions from the effected industries.

    It would be great if the contents of political speeches were uploaded, and that data tagged by interest group. The speeches can then be cross-referenced again

  • I just feel like it could be a little more vague. I suggest "thing.it" or possibly "yadayadaya.da".

    • by pwfffff (1517213)

      I find it hard to believe that you can't connect the dots between 'government data' and 'data.gov'.

      Well, never mind, this IS Slashdot... the 'data' stands for 'data' and the 'gov' stands for 'government'.

      HTH

      • by whiledo (1515553) *

        As opposed to all the non-data being posted under the .gov domain?

        • As opposed to all the non-data being posted under the .gov domain?

          Ideally all of the other data on .gov would be available on Data.gov as well.

          What would you suggest they call it?

          DataThatIsAvailableElsewhereOn TheGovDomainButFormattedForEasyParseingAndDataMining.gov

          It's a website that provides government data. Government Data. Data.Gov. I don't know how they could be more clear and accurate in their description.

          • by whiledo (1515553) *

            What would you suggest they call it?

            Isn't it obvious? This site is going to wind up pointing to a lot of other sites that ACTUALLY hold the data, like census.gov or irs.gov, because departmentalizing things like that always works better than trying to jam it all together into one hairball. So what do we call things that point you other places based on categories of interest?

            index.gov

            directory.gov

            Hell, I'd even settle for home.gov or start.gov. But data.gov? That's just silly.

  • Where's the new era of openness we were promised?

  • The openness derived from Data.gov will strengthen the Nation's democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

    While I consider openness to be an extremely desirable trait of government, I must question the goals of efficiency and effectiveness. The first examples I think of when I hear the phrase "efficient government" are Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Until they got obsessed with endless warfare, they were quite efficient governments. They got the trains to run on time! They kept met

  • Slashdot, 5/22/2009: "1 TB disk stolen from data.gov"

  • by Baldrson (78598) * on Thursday May 21, 2009 @04:19PM (#28045925) Homepage Journal
    Try laboratoryofthestates.com [laboratory...states.com] which I set up after the Feds decided to turn the national IT infrastructure over to India and send guys the guys who built the information industry to go eat out of dumpsters.

    I did it on no money and it has more data than data.gov.

    • by bfrpsw (1327025)
      Hm. Nothing since 2003 on the front page. I set up my own access to US Economic data from US government sources: http://www.macrospect.com./ [www.macrospect.com] Currently has 177,000 data series from BEA, BLS, Census, OFHEO, FED. Data updated daily as it's released by the publishing agency. Browsing and graphing data is free.
      • by Baldrson (78598) *
        bfrpsw writes: Nothing since 2003 on the front page.

        True enough but my money ran out in 2002 and I've been dumpster diving ever since.

        bfrpsw continues: I set up my own access to US Economic data from US government sources: http://www.macrospect.com./ [www.macrospect.com]

        Excellent!

        One of the things I've been thinking of promoting is a compression prize, similar to the Hutter Prize, but where the corpus is economic data instead of textual knowledge.

        Of course, this would separate the men from the boys in economics so it

  • I give it 4 months until data.gov is accidentally connected to everyones wiretaps or the SSA database. ooops. I can see it now [slashdot]320 million social security numbers were posted on wikieleaks after data.gov ....[/slashdot]
  • Given all the stories of successful hacks into gov't systems, why did we need this again? Seems like people were getting to the data just fine before.

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