• Government Data

    How to Make Government Data Sites Better

    Accessing government data from the source is frustrating. If you've done it, or at least tried to, you know the pain that is oddly formatted…
  • Strava Metro aims to help cities improve biking routes

    May 23, 2014  |  Data Sharing

    Strava Metro MelbourneLast month, Strava, which allows users to track their bike rides and runs, launched an interactive map that shows where people move worldwide. That seems to be a lead-in to their larger project Strava Metro. Here's the pitch:

    Strava Metro is a data service providing "ground truth" on where people ride and run. Millions of GPS-tracked activities are uploaded to Strava every week from around the globe. In denser metro areas, nearly one-half of these are commutes. These activities create billions of data points that, when aggregated, enable deep analysis and understanding of real-world cycling and pedestrian route preferences.

    Strava had a handful of clients before the official launch, such as the Oregon Department of Transportation. From Bike Portland:

    Last fall, the agency paid $20,000 for one-year license of a dataset that includes the activities of about 17,700 riders and 400,000 individual bicycle trips totaling 5 million BMT (bicycle miles traveled) logged on Strava in 2013. The Strava bike "traces" are mapped to OpenStreetMap.

    This is what I was getting at with those running maps, so it's great to see that Strava was already on it.

    It'll be interesting to see where this goes, not just business-wise, but with data sharing, privacy, and how users react to their (anonymized) data being sold.

  • Global status tracker for open government data

    November 5, 2013  |  Data Sharing

    Open Data Index

    The Open Knowledge Foundation launched the Open Data Index, so you can see what data countries provide to their citizens.

    An increasing number of governments have committed to open up data, but how much key information is actually being released? Is the available data legally and technically usable so that citizens, civil society and businesses can realise the full benefits of the information? Which countries are the most advanced and which are lagging in relation to open data? The Open Data Index has been developed to help answer such questions by collecting and presenting information on the state of open data around the world - to ignite discussions between citizens and governments.

    Based on community editor contributions, the index assesses the availability of datasets such as transportation timetables, election results, and legislation, and provides a single-number score. The higher the score is, the more data a government makes available to the public. Of the 70 participating countries, the UK leads the way, followed by the United States and Denmark.

  • U.S. Open Data Institute

    October 29, 2013  |  Data Sharing

    With a $250,000 grant from the Knight Foundation, Waldo Jaquith pushes forward with the U.S. Open Data Institute, an effort to link government data sources and organizations over the next year.

    I'm convinced that we already have many of the right people, organizations and businesses working on open data in the United States. They just don't know about each other. (The organization certainly won't duplicate any of the efforts of the folks in this space.) And we have nearly all of the necessary software, but so much of it is only known within its narrow domain, despite its broad applicability. The institute will connect all of these entities, promote the work of those who are leading the way and provide supportive, nonjudgmental assistance to those who need help. We don't have all the answers, but we know the folks who do. We want to amplify their message and connect them to new collaborators and clients.

    This could be fun.

  • Problematic databases used to track employee theft

    April 3, 2013  |  Data Sharing

    Employee theft accounts for billions of dollars of lost merchandise per year, so it's a huge concern for retailers, but it often goes unreported as a crime. If only there were reference databases where business owners could report offenders and look up potential employees to see if they have ever stole anything. It turns out there are, but the systems have proved to be problematic.

    "We're not talking about a criminal record, which either is there or is not there — it's an admission statement which is being provided by an employer," said Irv Ackelsberg, a lawyer at Langer, Grogan & Diver who represents Ms. Goode.

    Such statements may contain no outright admission of guilt, like one submitted after Kyra Moore, then a CVS employee, was accused of stealing: "picked up socks left them at the checkout and never came back to buy them," it read. When Ms. Moore later applied for a job at Rite Aid, she was deemed "noncompetitive." She is suing Esteem.

    On paper, the data sounds great for business owners, and keeping such data also seems like a fine business to run. Thefts go down and owners can focus on other aspects of their business. The challenge and complexity comes when we remember that people are involved.

  • PDF data woes

    September 14, 2011  |  Data Sharing

    We do not provide these tables in Excel or CSV format. You will have to cut and paste from the pdf.

    — A government group that provides a lot of data

    If you're going to provide a dataset to the public, or anyone for that matter, please don't use PDF as your one and only format. At the very least, provide it in Excel. You can easily export spreadsheets to PDF. I don't hold anything against the person who sent me this message. She was just doing her job. But organizations need to get with the times and provide data in a way that is actually usable.

  • Open data doesn’t empower communities

    July 5, 2010  |  Data Sharing

    internet.artizans reflects on the usefulness of open data:

    I'm inspired by the idea that nuggets of opened data could seed guerilla public services, plugging gaps left by government, but i don't see any of that in the data.gov.uk apps list. The reasons aren't technical but psychosocial - the people and communities who could use this data to help tackle their own disadvantage and marginalisation don't have the self-confident sense of entitlement that makes for successful civic hacktivism.

    The groups that really need it also often don't have the tech or know-how to make use of - or even collect useful data - to make a case for anything. People like us, the data and tech-savvy can help.

    [via migurski]

  • Instant electric bike and data collector

    May 26, 2010  |  Data Sharing, Self-surveillance

    When you ride your bicycle around, I bet you always wish for two things. First: "I wish this was electric so that I didn't have to pedal so much." Second: "I wish I could use my bicycle as a data collection device." Well guess what. Your dreams have come true. The Copenhagen Wheel, conceived by the MIT SENSEable City Lab, will do just that. With everything rolled up into one hub, a quick and simple installation turns your plain old bicycle into an electric data collection device.
    Continue Reading

  • Tim Berners-Lee with an update on open data

    March 15, 2010  |  Data Sharing

    If people put data on the Web - government data, scientific data, community data - whatever it is, it will be used by other people to do wonderful things in ways they never could have imagined.

    — Tim Berners-Lee, TED, February 2010

    Tim Berners-Lee, credited with inventing the World Wide Web, comes back to TED a year after his call for open, structured data with a quick update. Spoiler alert: things are looking good - and they're only going to get a lot better. But you already knew that, right?
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  • Open Thread: Is Google Latitude Dangerous?

    February 12, 2009  |  Data Sharing, Discussion, Online Applications

    Google recently released Google Latitude, which is an online application that lets you share your location with online friends:

    Of course when any application shares where you are at any given time, people start to feel like Big Brother is looming in the background ready to sneak up on us from behind a giant bush. Some call it a real danger, but is it really? I put this question out to all of you:

    Is Google Latitude a danger to anyone who uses it?

    My take on things is that people are already doing it anyways, so why not make it easier for those who are interested? Sure, if some stalker got a hold of your location, that could be bad, but that's true for a lot of data... credit card statements, cell phone logs, Twitter... As long as the proper security are put in place, I don't see what all the fuss is about.

  • Walker Tracker – A Community Site for Pedometer Fans

    January 23, 2008  |  Data Sharing

    Those of you who have been around since the beginning know that I am just obsessed with my pedometer. Albeit, lately, I haven't felt inclined to go for a winter stroll in the below freezing weather. When I was keeping track of my steps though, one of the difficulties was staying consistent. Sometimes I would forget to wear my pedometer, while other times I would forget to record my steps.

    I imagine Walker Tracker could help a bit in solving that second problem. I know it was always easier to make it to the gym when I knew one of my friends was going to meet me there. Walker Tracker is like that friend at the gym. The site lets you keep track of your steps as well as see how others are doing.

    We're trying to change the world. We're trying to get you and us and everyone we know off the elevator and out of the car and onto the sidewalks and trails. We're doing it one step at a time.
    Get up, stand up and walk.

    OK, maybe it's a little hoorah, but if you feel like actually accomplishing a new year's resolution this year, Walker Tracker could be a good place to start.

    [via Web Worker Daily]

  • 100 Reasons You Should Be Interested in, Want to Share, and Get Excited About Data

    November 7, 2007  |  Data Sharing

    When I talk about data, people often zone out or don't really see the interest. Why does this happen? People just don't understand the wonder that is data and how much of their life is led by data. With that in mind, why would people share their data? You can't share something you don't know exists. Off the top of my head, here's 100 reasons to be interested in, want to share, and get excited about data.
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  • Access Restrictions on the Release of Gun Sales Data

    October 24, 2007  |  Data Sharing

    I just found this in my draft folder from a while back. It's kind of old news, but I think it's still worth mentioning.

    Gun control advocates failed to gain local government and law enforcement agencies' access to gun sales data.

    The House Appropriations Committee defeated two attempts by gun control advocates to strip four-year-old restrictions on the use of information from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives tracing gun sales. The votes were a victory for the National Rifle Association and came despite the Democratic takeover of Congress in January.

    One side argues that gun sales data will help law enforcement agencies track gun dealers who sell guns illegally. The other side argues that there's privacy at stake, and there's a chance that police officers' identities could be inferred. A big victory for gun rights advocates, or so the the article might suggest.

    My opinion -- even if gun sales data were given to law enforcement, how could anyone guarantee data integrity? I think it's fair to say that dealers selling guns illegally aren't going to provide accurate reports. Sell a gun under the table with cash, don't report it, and the data doesn't reveal much. Am I missing something here?

  • Second Day of New York Taxi Strikes

    September 6, 2007  |  Data Sharing

    As the second day of the New York taxi strike begins over GPS and credit card technology, I'm left wondering what taxi drivers are making such a big fuss over. First, drivers are complaining that GPS is an invasion of privacy, and second, they argue that credit card transactions will cause a decrease in profits due to credit card fees.

    Starting with the credit card transactions, I'm about 80% sure that drivers don't have any actual data to back up their claims that they're going to start making less money. Non-strikers say that the credit card capability will not only help business (by bringing in those with corporate credit cards), but also increase tips. This information comes from cabs that are already equipped with the proper gizmos.

    What are taxi drivers trying to hide? What is this invasion of privacy talk? These drivers are working for a large company. I repeat, they're working. I don't demand a private office when I'm at work, and I don't see much reason drivers should care a whole lot. If someone is slacking, taking shady routes, or just plain doing something they're not supposed to do, then they should be held accountable. Unless I'm mistaken, I don't recall a whole lot of whining when San Francisco cabs had similar equipment installed.

    So stop the fuss, and just mondernize up to the proper century, New York cab drivers. I'm sure Stamen Design and Cabspotting* would greatly appreciate it.

    *I am not associated to either.

  • Don’t want to share our data / OK, what’re you hiding?

    August 20, 2007  |  Data Sharing

    I don't want my credit card numbers floating around, because then I'd be screwed. That kind of data needs to be locked up tight behind a billion firewalls, a lock safe, five armed guards, and another locked safe and then one more guard plus another safe. However, there are lots of other kinds of data that should be online and publicly available or at least accessible via a phone call.
    Continue Reading

  • My Mission is to Collect Basic Data

    August 13, 2007  |  Data Sharing

    PedometerI began my path of higher education at Berkeley as an Electrical Engineering and Computer Science student. As a stat graduate student, it's hard to remember sitting in all of those (boring) engineering classes.

    If I learned anything though, it was from the painful computer science projects. No matter how big the project, I would start by breaking it up into lots of mini-tasks and work my way up to the final solution. I think this has helped me a lot not only in grad school, but solving problems in my life. Hence, my first attempt at continuous data collection has started at a very basic level -- my pedometer.

    Continue Reading

  • Immigration Data Available from Homeland Security

    July 5, 2007  |  Data Sharing

    There was a Sharp Rise Seen in Applications for Citizenship, as reported in The Times today, and of course there was a graphic to complement that article that showed the rise in applications over the years as well as a by-country breakdown for 2006.

    Surge Seen in Applications for Citizenship

    Graphics in The Times always site the source, which was Department of Homeland Security in this case. I thought, "Do they have some kind of source who they actually call to get this data?" Thinking such a thing, I feel pretty dumb now. In fact, I always see that source on all of the graphics, and have just assumed that there was some connection between The Times and the source.

    Wrong.

    So lazy me finally decided to look into things, and you know what, the Department of Homeland Security has a whole section on their website for Immigration Statistics. There are freely available spreadsheets, reports, publications, and even a little something on data standards and definitions, prepared by none other than the -- Office of Immigration Statistics. Very pleased.

    It's kind of sad that this is just now news to me, but better now than never, eh?

  • CitiStat: Injured on Duty “Data”

    July 2, 2007  |  Data Sharing

    CitiStat Buffalo

    I was flipping through the channels the other night and came across a televised CitiStat meeting for June 1. A bit of a coincidence since I happened to be looking at the CitiStat website earlier that day. What's CitiStat, you ask? Well it's like a spin-off of CompStat, a program in NYC and LA, that makes police officials accountable for their actions by looking at data -- number of homicides, where they happened, what's being done, etc. CitiStat, in Buffalo, is the same thing, but for the Police, Fire Department, and whatever else they can think of, and seemingly not quite as reputable.

    Anyways, they were talking to some city official about fire department employees that were IOD, um, that's injured on duty (but I must've heard IOD like a billion times). There was some discrepancy on the definition of IOD. As a result, the data was worthless. The police commissioner spoke as well with his own IOD numbers. After that, there was a lot of arguing and as a result, a meeting was agreed upon. Well, not really. They agreed that they would schedule some meeting, but it's been a year of "What is an IOD?" Pretty sure that won't be settled for a while.

    They were also able to agree that the number of IODs was somewhere between 50 and 200. Yay.

    So despite the fact that the CitiStat program is two years old, there's still lots to be done. Officials aren't used to recording and looking at data, and it's clear, few even had any notion that data could be useful. However, I am glad that they're making the effort -- even if all of the data is stored on a bunch of inconsistent Excel spreadsheets :P.

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