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Who is right, me or the White House?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marshall Kirkpatrick @

Last night I wrote a blog post about the launch of data.gov.uk and said it had 3X as many data sets as the US’s data.gov. Today I got an interesting email from the White House (cool!) saying I was wrong. A number of other people disagreed with me as well. It’s a fun little story, but the question comes down to: do you think that the US Geological Survey maps and related entries category that so dominates data.gov should be counted as equal contributions to the open data ecosystem? Let me know what you think.

Note that I’ve reproduced an email below and at least one commenter has told me I was out of line to do so. I disagree. I think the email is very straight-forward, from a public official and ok to run with a question about whether the assessment of mine it is challenging is correct or not. No big deal, I think. I’m going to think about it some more, though.

Hi Marshall,

I wanted to reach out to you regarding your piece on Data.gov.

Below is a blog post from WH.gov from Vivek Kundra that includes the latest information about the number of data sets available on Data.gov – 168,000.

Your piece incorrectly states that Data.gov has less than 1,000 data sets.

Your story also mentions “critics” of Data.gov who pointed that “it was filled with relatively non-controversial data sets”—if you are interested in representing both sides of the story I’d be happy to put you in touch with some folks.

Below is the link to Vivek’s blog post:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/01/21/they-gave-us-beatles-we-gave-then-datagov

Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

Jean B. Weinberg
Deputy Press Secretary
White House Office of Management and Budget

Here’s my response. It’s not buttoned-up and respectful, I suppose – but we’re all bloggers now, right?

Hi Jean, thanks for the email. Here’s my take on it: data.gov has 969
records of “machine readable, platform-independent datasets.” It also
has aprox 167k geodata records, almost all maps. That’s a convenient
way to say there are 168k datasets, but a big map dump doesn’t seem
that compelling to me. Maybe I’m wrong – but when I see the UK site
sharing data sets like soldier suicides and number of abortions, that
makes a big dump of geological maps on the US site seem anemic. I’d
be happy to talk to someone who feels otherwise, though. Please do
connect me with someone I can speak to about this. I’ve been very
critical of data.gov since it launched and would be happy to be
persuaded to feel otherwise.

Thanks for sending me that link to Mr. Kundra’s blog post by the way.
I think I’ll write a post in response and see if my readers see it the
way I do. I must say, I found his post rather shocking in tone.
Claiming that the UK is following the US’s lead when the UK is working
with Tim Berners-Lee who brought us the World Wide Web and has the
very forward-looking semantic web paradigm in its sights – that
doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

best,

Marshall Kirkpatrick
VP of Content Development and Lead Blogger
ReadWriteWeb

In reality, I imagine that the truth is somewhere in the middle. Maps are hardly worthless and the US Geological Survey data that dominates data.gov isn’t just maps. It mostly is, though, and my point is that data.gov is disappointing so far. What do you think? Am I being unfair? Should I change my perception and coverage of data.gov? I know I’m not the only person who feels critical, but I thought I’d run this numbers discussion past some more people to get some more perspective.

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