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Page history last edited by Tantek 12 years, 1 month ago

Open Government


short URL: http://tr.im/opengov



Recommendations to government sites for transparency and open data, in order of priority:

  1. Just publish it! Whatever existing electronic format you have your papers, data in, whether HTML, PDF, .doc (MS WORD), CSV, just publish it on the Web. Don't worry about format conversion (for now). Just put the data out there so it's at least somewhat accessible to the web, search engines, applications etc.
  2. open robots.txt. As Obama did, no disallows for any content (only 2 lines in Whitehouse.gov robots.txt on inauguration. view current Whitehouse robots.txt), in contrast to previous Bush administration robots.txt (view Bush Whitehouse.gov robots.txt - over 2400 lines long!). An open robots.txt file is essential to letting search engines and archives (like the Internet Archive) archive government web pages for historical purposes.
  3. Public Domain License. Contribute every page to the public domain by linking it to the Creative Commons Public Domain dedication with rel="license". Contributing to the public domain lets anyone create archives and in addition share them. Consider using Creative Commons CC0 for better international sharing also.
  4. Permalinks to versions. Make and maintain permalinks to the data. Version pages when major changes occur (more than just typo/spelling corrections), at least with suffix -YYYY-MM-DD snapshots of previous versions at same URL.  Permalinks better enable online conversations about the content that is published, and provide good citations for other sites to use when mentioning, summarizing, or republishing government data. For more on this see: http://citability.org/
  5. Semantic HTML+microformats. Publish your government data and reports with valid semantic HTML + microformats for max lifetime+access (as tweeted 2009-075). If your in-house web designers/developers don't know what that is, hire outside web designer/developer contractors that are experts in semantic HTML and microformats. Requirement: must have several live sites in their portfolio that have valid semantic HTML + microformats. Do not compromise on this.
  6. Empower independents. Empower developers, entrepreneurs, and the next http://govtrack.us as http://thomas.loc.gov did (as tweeted. ) by providing data plus design guides (thanks @simplescott)
  7. Re-use print IA for v1 usability. Parallel print equivalent information architecture (IA) for v1 usability. Many current users of government data (judges that cite legal cases) are used to citing (and thus trusting) print version of government data. On any v1 of a site for which print equivalents exist, simply re-use/mimic the existing organization of books, periodicals, sections, chapters, pages, paragraphs etc. when designing the URLs and other information architecture of the online version. 



Many of the above points were originally inspired by the OpenGov session at SXSW2009.



  • OpenScience - some of the above was updated with better consideration of scientific communities.



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