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Check out Data.gov’s New Metrics Page

Data.gov recently updated its Metrics{.local-link} page to provide greater detail and transparency to the progress of the Data.gov catalog. Data.gov is primarily a metadata catalog, providing information about, and links to, open datasets made available by federal agencies and participating non-federal sources such as state, county, and city governments. Data.gov features metadata such as title, description, keywords, contact information, and access or download links for nearly 200,000 datasets. Data.gov obtains the metadata from federal and non-federal government sources that maintain their metadata following a specific schema.

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7 Years of Open Data

In its seventh year as home to the U.S. Government’s open data, Data.gov continues to serve millions of people worldwide, from researchers and civic hackers, to businesses and citizens. These users have created apps, launched new products and services, and have improved transparency and openness, making the U.S. Government more accountable and responsive to the American people. Data USA, an online application developed by a team of data scientists at MIT Media Lab and Datawheel, backed by Deloitte is helping Americans visualize demographic and economic data using an open source platform.

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An Introduction to Open Data and APIs

The federal workplace is abuzz these days with talk about open data and how agencies can leverage that data through APIs. According to the federal Open Data Policy, data should be managed as an information asset, and making it discoverable and usable (in other words, open). Open data “not only strengthens our democracy and promotes efficiency and effectiveness in government, but also has the potential to create economic opportunity and improve citizens’ quality of life.

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My Data: Empowering All Americans with Personal Data Access

Summary: Consumers empowered with their own data are in the driver’s seat to make informed choices. In the 21st century economy, Americans rely on online services to access personal bank accounts, pay bills, and shop online, so why don’t we have similar interactions with Federal government through easy-to-use, online tools? The answer is we can—and increasingly we are—as we continue to build a 21st century government. Since first taking office, President Obama has been committed to building a more open and transparent government while, at the same time, protecting consumers and empowering them to make informed choices for themselves and their families.

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Leveraging American Ingenuity through Reusable and Open Source Software

Summary: Today, we’re releasing for public comment a draft policy to support improved access to custom software code developed for the Federal Government. America has long been a nation of innovators. American scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs invented the microchip, created the Internet, invented the smartphone, started the revolution in biotechnology, and sent astronauts to the Moon. And America is just getting started. That is why since the start of this Administration, the President has taken concrete actions to support the spirit of innovation that makes America so strong.

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Moving from Open Data to Open Knowledge: Announcing the Commerce Data Usability Project

Opening up government to better serve the American people has been a key priority of this Administration from day one. On his first full day in office, President Obama signed the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, ushering in a new era of open and accountable government. Since then, the Administration has continued to take unprecedented steps to make government more efficient and effective, including launching Data.gov, establishing the international Open Government Partnership, and signing an Executive Order on Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information.

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Challenge App-titude: A Successful Newcomer Offers a Few Tips

The Reference Data Challenge, launched this summer, was a call for innovative approaches to a long-standing role of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to make “critically evaluated reference data available to scientists, engineers and the general public.” This challenge—our first-ever app contest and second prize competition as an agency—had the dual aims of improving awareness about and usability of our data. We invited submissions of mobile apps that used at least one of six eligible NIST datasets.

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The Data Briefing: Help #HackSuicide This Weekend

A month ago, I wrote about the White House’s call for data scientists and app developers to come together to help combat suicide. On December 12, 2015, there will be five hackathons around the U.S. to #HackSuicide. All the hackathons are free and open to the public. Even if you are not a data scientist, app developer or mental health expert, you may want to attend one of the events to learn how data can be used to solve a vital public health issue.

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The Data Briefing: The Open Government Data Revolution Is Just Getting Started

Some of you may remember when President Reagan opened America’s Global Positioning System (GPS) data. President Reagan gave all countries access to the GPS data in response to the Soviet Union shooting down Korean Airlines Flight 007 on September 1, 1983. I do not believe that the U.S. realized how much opening up GPS data would revolutionize the world economy, health services, travel and almost every other aspect of daily life.

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The Data Briefing: Innovating Health Data at the HHS Idea Lab

By the time this is published, the United States, along with 160 other countries, will be celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week (November 16th through November 22nd). November is also National Entrepreneurship Month with November 17th being National Entrepreneurs’ Day. As President Obama stated in his proclamation: “In keeping with our goal of fostering economic growth through private-sector collaboration, the federal government is accelerating the movement of new technologies from the laboratory to the marketplace, increasing access to research awards for small businesses, making more data open to the public [emphasis mine] and catalyzing new industry partnerships in critical fields such as advanced manufacturing and clean energy.

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Empowering the Voice of Citizens at Core of GSA Open Government

We are proud to announce our commitment to the third U.S. National Action Plan for Open Government, released this week at the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Global Summit in Mexico City, Mexico, and are also eager to share how Public Participation can empower our citizens to have a greater voice and impact in improving their services. In her opening comments at the OGP Summit, Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, noted that making a real impact for citizens takes more than a focus on just increasing social media followers or touting simulated performance, and instead we must dedicate digital engagement programs to providing real, meaningful paths to participation.

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GSA Open Government Builds Solutions and Gives Voice to Citizens

Our work at the General Services Administration encompass many of the pillars of Open Government, from giving a greater voice to citizens to through Public Participation innovations like Challenge.gov to making the DNA of all programs more accessible and usable through Open Data. We at GSA are proud to announce the agency’s commitment to the Third Open Government National Action Plan of the United States under the Open Government Partnership (OGP), announced this week at the OGP Summit in Mexico City, Mexico.

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The Data Briefing: Create an App for Employees with Disabilities

Have you worked with an employee with a disability? Are you an employee with a disability? Then, you know the unique challenges of the average workplace that able-bodied colleagues may never experience. Workplace challenges could be overcome with accommodations such as larger computer monitor displays, wheelchair-accessible office furniture or a voice reader. In some cases, a mobile app is a solution to a workplace challenge. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

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The Data Briefing: Connecting the (Data) Dots—NASA’s NYSpaceTag App

OpenNASA has recently completed another redesign of their site. With over 31,000 data sets, 194 code repositories and 36 APIs, OpenNASA probably has the largest collection of open data of any of the federal agencies. An especially helpful feature is a set of icons devoted to five types of visitors: the Citizen Scientist, the Developer, the Citizen Activist, the Govvie and the Curious. A great feature to engage NASA’s audience is the Data Stories section where people talk about the projects they created with NASA datasets.

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The API Briefing: the Challenge of Government’s Dark Data

By now, you are familiar with “big data” or datasets that are so large that they cannot be analyzed by conventional analytical methods. You may have heard of “long data” which is data that has a temporal context. I work with long data when I analyze hiring patterns over time in workforce data. There is also “small data.” Small data are datasets that describe a current condition. For example, if you have a smart home appliance such as a smart thermostat or a home security system, that appliance is constantly monitoring data such as temperature or if a door is open.

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Empowerment, Innovation, and Improved Health Outcomes: the Blue Button Initiative

Finding and getting access to our own health information can be a complex process. And most of us don’t really think about having our health information readily accessible until we really need it – like in the event of an emergency, or when switching doctors or traveling. Combing through stacks of paperwork and contacting providers is daunting for even the most organized among us. However, this familiar scenario is being reimagined.

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US, Canada, and Mexico Collaborate to Improve Open Government and Digital Services

Many forces are converging to strengthen the political, economic and commercial ties that bind the United States, Canada and Mexico. The GSA Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies (OCSIT) has anticipated this drive toward collaboration for decades, building a network of links among the three nations’ Chief Information Officers and other national technology and data experts. Annual OCSIT-sponsored North American Day (NAD) talks have contributed to improved digital services in all three countries.

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Data, Code, and API Event Round Up

DigitalGov University has hosted some great events over the last year in partnership with Data.gov, the MobileGov Community and 18F to bring you information on opening data and building APIs. This month we’ve rounded up the events over the past year so that you can see what’s been offered. Use the comments below to offer up suggestions on what else you’d like to see on the schedule.

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DigitalGov Monthly Theme: How Data and Code Improve Government Services

Data and code are the foundation, building blocks, and cornerstone of government digital services. They are the keys that open the door to a better digital government future and are fundamental in making government more open. No matter who you are or where you work in the federal space, data and code enable your projects to meet real needs. This month we’re featuring articles around the theme of data and code.

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Digital Analytics Program Among Finalists for Igniting Innovation Award

The federal government has IT challenges, and innovative federal projects are tackling those challenges head-on. As projects gain momentum, outside organizations have taken notice. Recently, Data.gov and DigitalGov’s Digital Analytics Program (DAP) were recognized by the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC), among 30 other finalists for the Igniting Innovation Award. ACT-IAC’s 2015 Igniting Innovation Showcase and Awards recognized tools, solutions, services and programs developed by government and industry leaders.

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The API Briefing: Make 2015 the Year You Create an App

According to some experts, over 80% of Americans will make a least one New Year’s resolution. There are the usual “lose weight,” “quit smoking,” or “exercise more” resolutions. Another popular set of resolutions involves learning new skills. So, if you are looking for a way to improve yourself while helping others, think about making a resolution to learn how to build a mobile app that can be used in disaster relief.

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Introducing “Get Your Open Data on Data.gov”

Data.gov is the central clearinghouse for open data from the United States federal government. It also provides access to many local government and non-federal open data resources. But how does this data get on to Data.gov? Data.gov does not host data directly, but rather aggregates metadata about open data resources in one centralized location. In addition to Data.gov’s recent webinars on how Data.gov harvests data, the Data.gov team has created a living resource to explain in further detail how data must be structured to connect to the Data.

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Can You Crowdsource Your User Experience Research?

In one sense, almost any type of user research is crowdsourced—you’re talking to people and using that information to improve your system. But in a true sense, crowdsourcing is more than just collecting information, it’s collaborating on it. We want to have real conversations, not one-time emailed suggestions without followups. So here’s a few tidbits on crowdsourcing User Experience (UX) for your site, mobile app, API or whatever else you’ve got cooking:

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Data.gov’s Data Pipeline Explained

In case you missed it: the Data.gov team recently hosted DigitalGov University webinars designed to help agencies and open data advocates better understand how to get data on Data.gov and how to implement the Open Data Policy’s metadata schema updates. These webinars were designed assist government data publishers in making more data discoverable to the American people. You can watch these webinars and check out additional supplemental resources below.

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The API Briefing: Brainstorming Ideas for Apps

Data.gov has 130,000+ datasets (as of November 3, 2014) many of which are designed for application developers. In previous columns, I’ve showcased some of the great applications built using federal APIs. Have you wondered where the idea for an app came from? Some developers start with an idea and then look for the API that best fits the idea. For example, a developer may want to create an app that alerts users of unsafe bus or limousine companies.

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Metrics Round Up

We are all collecting a lot of performance data across our digital properties and DigitalGov University has hosted many events on the collection, reporting and strategizing around metrics. DigitalGov has shared many posts on these topics as well. So we thought it would be great to curate these events and posts for easy reference and sharing. Data Collection If you are having a hard time measuring the success of your social media efforts, email campaigns or even your website, these are some of the events that’ll help.

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Getting to Work for the American People

Over the last 6 months, 18F has embarked on a mission to transform the way the U.S. Government builds and buys digital services. We’re currently working with more than half a dozen agencies to help them deliver on their missions in a design-centric, agile, open, and data-driven way. How do we say yes to a project? We ask ourselves: Is there an opportunity to improve the interaction between government and the people it serves?

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Stacking Up the Benefits of Openness

Open government, open source, openness. These words are often used in talking about open data, but we sometimes forget that the root of all of this is an open community. Individuals working together to release government data and put it to use to help their neighbors and reach new personal goals. This sense of community in the open data field shows up in many places. I see it when people volunteer at the National Day of Civic Hacking, crowdsource data integrity with MapGive, or mentor with Girls Who Code.

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The API Briefing: Mining the Rich Data Resources of NASA – The International Space Apps Challenges

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has an enormous collection of aerospace and science data sets. NASA missions and projects can create amazing amounts of data. One example: the Earth Observing System Data and Information System has collected enough information to fill the Library of Congress (Data.NASA.gov). A more recent example: the Solar Dynamics Observatory receives 1.5 terabytes of data a day. As NASA admits, this much information can be overwhelming for agency API development.

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Preserving Fish and Wildlife Service History through Open Data Initiative

In the summer of 1914, Frederick M. Dille, manager at Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge, observed: “The general conditions of affairs at Niobrara are favorable and good. The animals are thriving, the feed has been abundant, the fence is in good shape and Mr. Schultz has handled everything very satisfactory. […] The pheasants have done well and proven a great attraction to the visitors. Mr. Schultz wanted to try his hand at hatching a few of the eggs this spring; they were hatched but none of the chicks survived.

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How to Find Your Open Data Hotshots

How can you find the top 5 users of your open data? We were recently asked this question on the Open Data listserv, and while this information can be a good measure of success for open data programs, we also figured some of the answers shared would be of interest to the broader community. This blog post seeks to summarize and clarify those answers. What Defines a Top Third-Party Developer?

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White House SocialGov Summit Aims to Improve Open Data Innovation

More than 100 digital engagement and open data managers from across government met with leaders in the private sector startup community August 7 at the White House for a summit on integrating our digital services with public participation to create more opportunities for innovation and tackle tougher challenges. The SocialGov Summit on Open Data Innovation was organized by the 700-member SocialGov Community and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, launching a new inter-community initiative to apply combined open data, digital engagement, and innovative technologies to fields ranging from the Internet of Things and emergency management to modernization of the regulatory process.

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The API Briefing: An API that Searches other APIs – HealthData.Gov’s Catalog API

As federal agencies release APIs on an almost daily basis, keeping track of the numerous datasets has become a vital service for developers. The Department for Health and Human Services (HHS) manages HealthData.Gov which currently lists 1,680 datasets in 36 categories such as “Public Health,” “Health Care Cost,” and “Health Statistics.” To help developers find relevant datasets and keep up with newly-added datasets, the HealthData.gov API was created. Developers can use the Catalog API to search the catalog and receive meta-information about a dataset in the JSON format.

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Agency Dataset Publication in Data.gov

Not sure how to get your datasets into Data.gov? We’ve put together an overview to show you how the process works. Agencies prepare their enterprise data inventories in data.json format and post them on their websites (agency.gov/data.json), pursuant to the Open Data Policy and following the guidance and using the tools available on Project Open Data. Data.gov also offers a tool called inventory.data.gov that can be used to assist agencies in creating their data inventories.

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The Golden Metric

Are you looking for the “golden metric” that is the best measure of your agency’s website performance and cross-comparable across .gov websites? If so, stop looking. The concept of the golden metric is a dangerous one because it oversimplifies performance analysis of your website and overlooks the truth hidden behind other, more relevant metrics. Don’t get me wrong—it is easy to fall for the concept of the golden metric.

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Facebook Increases Public Service Verification to Improve Citizen Engagement

Facebook is now the first social media platform to start verifying all federal government pages with their signature blue checkmark using the Federal Social Media Registry API. The Federal Social Media Registry provides the singular source that allows social media platforms to quickly collect real government accounts—emphasizing the critical need to ensure the trust, quality and security of citizen engagement. When the public searches for the new Central Intelligence Agency Facebook account, many different accounts pop up—but only one of them is managed by the actual CIA.

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Overcoming Barriers—DigitalGov Summit Recap

As government innovators, we work to improve public services every day. In essence we are already in a public private partnership. But how can your agency capitalize on existing public private partnerships to engage citizens and enhance services? Four panelists from across government shared their public private partnerships success stories at the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday. The three other panels were on performance analysis, customer service across channels, and inter-agency work.

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Unleashing Data Innovation for Action on Climate Change

Last June, President Obama launched a Climate Action Plan to cut carbon pollution, prepare communities for the impacts of climate change, and lead international efforts to address this global challenge. The plan recognizes that even as we act to curb the carbon pollution that is driving climate change, we must also prepare our citizens and communities for the climate impacts that are already underway across the country. One of the efforts described in that Climate Action Plan is the Climate Data Initiative, a broad effort to leverage the federal government’s extensive, freely-available climate-relevant data resources data to spur innovation and private-sector entrepreneurship in order to advance awareness of and preparedness for the impacts of climate change.

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This Weekend: Event List for Civic Hacking

Our fabulous colleague Jeanne Holm is ready for the #hackforchange events this weekend and summarized some tips, notes and links to resources on Data.gov. Great things will happen this weekend! Remember, if you hear about great uses of government data, let everyone know by tweeting #hackforchange or mention @usdatagov. The Data.gov team is organizing a webinar in a week, showcasing some of the best outcomes and hosting lightning talks by the developers and designers.

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Government IT Is a Small World

The world is getting smaller all the time for those who deal with issues of information technology (IT) in government. GSA’s long-standing relationships with high-level government IT officials in other countries are becoming more and more useful to the smooth functioning of government. With the widespread use of the Internet to conduct government business, IT concerns are no longer limited to local systems—they are increasingly international in scope.

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Five Years of Open Data—Making a Difference

In May 2009, Data.gov was an experiment. There were questions: would people use the data? would agencies share the data? and would it make a difference? We’ve all come a long, long way to answering those questions, starting with only 47 datasets and having 105,000 datasets today. We realized that this was never simply about opening up government data, but rather about growing and nurturing an open data ecosystem to improve the lives of citizens.

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Designing in the Open Training Recap

During the recent redesign of Data.gov, the team developed a process that helped them respond to public feedback, track the actions and hold themselves accountable. In a DigitalGov University webinar, “Designing in the Open—Public Participation in Government Web Design,” Phil Ashlock, chief architect at Data.gov, and Jeanne Holm, Data.gov evangelist, shared how integrating feedback from virtual, online and face-to-face testing, as well as across multiple social media platforms, helped dramatically change the design in the response to the needs of their users.

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The Federal List of #HackforChange Projects

You should be on this list—the current federal government participants in the National Day of Civic Hacking. There are 15 agencies participating in the event, primarily in and around the Washington, D.C., area. This is a fantastic compilation of what agencies are doing, but it is not enough. We need more widespread participation across the country. If your office has a regional presence and has data or ideas for technical and design projects they’d like to contribute, this is a prime opportunity to dip in and see what it is like to work with people outside of government.

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Citizen Engagement at NASA

Recently, the White House hosted Stakeholder Engagement Workshops—an informal meet-up for citizens and federal agencies to discuss progress on Open Government. The third version of our Open Gov Plan is due June 1st. My Open Innovation teammates and I took the opportunity to attend the event. We gained valuable insights from citizen activists on what they want to see in agency plans, as well as how they will judge our progress on White House mandates for transparency, collaboration, and participation.

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Civic Hacking: Pathways for Participation

The National Day of Civic Hacking is actually a weekend. An awe-inspiring two days of collaborative work where coders, designers, writers, innovative thinkers, and data geeks get together to solve problems and build things for their communities. For the Challenge.gov community, this is a fantastic opportunity to get live, hands-on experience talking with and working next to people in a real-time hacking environment. If you’re thinking about running a competition around data sets or have an idea you want to float to developers, you can do it here first and see what feedback and traction you get, before committing to a full-fledged prize competition.

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What to Do with Big Data?

Shortly after taking office in 2009, President Obama launched the Open Government Initiative, an effort to increase transparency, participation, and collaboration in the federal government. The initiative introduced a number of websites and strategies to offer raw government data, including research grant information on data.gov. For energy gurus, data.gov/energy offers downloads of energy-related data such as energy use and consumption in the U.S. Yet the mere provision of big data is not enough; a key component of making big data accessible is providing context and meaning to that data to enable the public to solve problems, identify patterns, and draw conclusions.

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Six Tips for Measuring Success in Challenge Competitions

You’ve run a challenge and prize competition, selected your winners, and distributed the prizes. If you think you’re done, guess again. There’s much more to challenge and prize competition success than getting a solution that solves your problem or meets the criteria. You need to measure success right after your challenge as you work to implement the winning solution. But you also need to measure success over time by keeping in touch with your winners and the other contestants.

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Data.gov – Usability Case Study

We all know listening to your customers is important. Not just reading their comments, but talking to them, actually getting in a room with them, and having them test your product. But if basing a whole-scale redesign around one series of user conversations makes you nervous – it should. That’s because sometimes when we listen, we only see a bit of the bigger picture. It’s only when we get customer feedback, tweak the design, and THEN ask customers a second time that we really validate what customers want.

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Designing for Open Data: Improvements to Data.gov

We’ve written a few times about the changes that we’ve been working on for Data.gov to make it easier for users to find, understand, and use government data. Today you’ll notice even more changes to Data.gov – here’s a quick rundown of some of the main changes you’ll see, and why. Works on your mobile device The site is now responsive to the device you’re using. Pull up Data.

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New Release on Next.Data.gov

Since the launch of Next.Data.gov, your help and ideas have made it possible to make two updates to the site. We’re naming these biweekly releases after the presidents so the one that launched this week is the Adams Release. We’re pleased to announce that much of the work was done by the Data.gov Presidential Innovation Fellow, Dave Caraway, whose passion is open data and how it can be used by entrepreneurs to build businesses and create jobs.

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DATA.Gov: The Next Step is Yours

Americans are rocking open data! From getting people to the emergency room faster with iTriage to helping them navigate road and rail after a disaster, people are innovating, building businesses, and creating safer communities. As developers get more sophisticated and businesses get better analytics, Data.gov needs to change to support them in new ways and your ideas will help to build that future. You are invited to create that new vision.

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Tour Data.gov 2.0

As you know, last month Data.gov launched its new open-source Data.gov 2.0 catalog (catalog.data.gov). Based on CKAN, a data management platform used by many open-data catalogs around the world, Data.gov’s new catalog has received nothing but kudos from users. For the first time, our raw datasets, tools and geospatial datasets are in one place making search and discovery easier than ever. To make exploring the new catalog even easier, Data.

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Usability and Open Source Go Hand-in-Hand for Data.gov

Data.gov launched a major upgrade today, moving to a new catalog based on an open source data management system calledCKAN. In the process of migrating to a new data catalog, Data.gov had the opportunity to do another round of usability testing. Lucky for us, the DigitalGov User Experience Program, that teaches agencies how to test federal websites, is right in our own backyard. With today’s launch, you’ll see the initial results of what we learned from our testers; an expert Data.

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Producing APIs through Data.gov

One way agencies can offer APIs for their data is to use the built–in functionality of Data.gov. The information that is hosted as interactive datasets have an API layer which agencies can make available through documentation in the developer’s section of the agency’s website. The guide below will help you do this. Process Upload a dataset as an interactive dataset in Data.gov. A. Your agency should have a Data.

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