Benjamin J. Balter recently discussed the need to publish open government data that is developer-friendly. He writes, “Despite increasing public support (as well as a number of executive mandates) publishing public data in a machine-readable format is not as simple as pressing the ‘publish’ button. Why? Equally important as exposing the information itself is fostering a vibrant developer ecosystem around it. By making the publishing agency, not the public, responsible for making information immediately useful, government can lower the barriers associated with consuming its data and introduce additional citizen services at little to no cost to the agency.”

He continues, “Good, clean data may be surprisingly difficult to come by, especially when working with government systems that have been coupled together over decades. Data standards and conventions change, mechanisms of data collection evolve, and the data itself may be interpreted differently as new policies are introduced. As a result consistent practices, like naming conventions or data formats, often go overlooked. Where practical, take steps to normalize the data prior to release, rather than pushing the responsibility off to be inefficiently repeated by each application individually.”

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