July 22, 2009
Mashable ran an analysis by Jim Hendler called “What’s in Data.gov?” I must admit that I have not set aside the time necessary to figure out what this new government service offers. I am a bit jaded when it comes to government information. The Web accessible content is often interesting, but I find it less helpful than information that I have seen in the course of my projects for a number of countries’ governmental entities. In short, the good stuff is rarely online. What is online, is often baffling to me because basic metadata such as the date the document was created and last changed are often missing. Even the author is elusive. Locating a person who knows about a particular document can be an exercise in frustration. Mr. Hendler’s write up explains what is in Data.gov. For me, the most interesting comment was:
Not all of the datasets have a link to downloadable data because some offer only browseable data via their own websites, Others publish datasets in multiple formats. As of today, the online static files associated with the datasets are distributed as follows: 204 datasets offer a CSV format dump, 10 datasets offer an XML format dump, and 21 datasets offer an XLS format dump.
In short, a promising start but inconsistent, incomplete, and fragmented. Governments are not particularly skilled in electronic publishing. Progress is evident however.
Stephen Arnold, July 22, 2009