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    Public Information Done Right

    by Amanda Hickman
    September 10, 2008

    I spent Tuesday in Washington DC at Websites Without Walls. A nine hour trip for a four hour meeting always makes me nervous, but we’re passionately interested in seeing New York City match Washington DC’s astounding wealth of open public data. Never knew that the District publishes an astounding wealth of usable public information? Me neither. I made the trip to find out more.

    While New York City busies itself posting PDFs of city agency documents within 10 days of their publication, the District of Columbia’s Office of the Chief Technical Officer is churning out no less than 261 live data feeds and maps, and has mandated that no city agency may acquire software that cannot publish to the data warehouse.

    Two hundred sixty one and growing, while the British Government’s Power of Information Task Force is sponsoring a contest with a $35,000 prize to the best idea on “how to reuse, represent, mashup or combine the information the government holds.” To get folks started they’ve put together a comprehensive list of public data sources in the UK.

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    The data that Washington DC makes public is the same data that city agencies use internally every day. Unfortunately, it seems to be so obvious to the current administration that this is public information that they don’t have many insights about how other cities might find the political will to follow suite. One interesting observation: that DC has managed to sell the data warehouse as a way that the city can retain control over data. By providing the data as feeds that civic projects can re-purpose, the city has the power to correct data and see those corrections percolate out in a way they never could with figures published in hard copy.

    Other tasty morsels from Websites Without Walls? NPR’s API is up and running and mighty robust, Stephanie was the most used word in congress on Monday.

    Tagged: api mashup open data feeds wes08sep
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