Data.gov aims to provide public access to the high quality datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the US Federal Government. The datasets are available in various formats from TXT to XML or KML. A solid search engine makes the datasets searchable and filterable based on keywords, categories formats or agencies. Each dataset is described with meta information like release date, anaysis unit, time period, frequency or data collection instrument. The reader can engage with others by using the commenting and rating functionalities for each dataset.
It’s official description goes as follows:
Data.gov includes a searchable data catalog that includes access to data in two ways: through the “raw” data catalog and using tools. Please note that by accessing datasets or tools offered on Data.gov, you agree to the Data Policy, which you should read before accessing any dataset or tool. If there are additional datasets that you would like to see included on this site, please suggest more datasets here. For more information on how to use Data.gov, view our tutorial.
Infosthetics.com pointed out that these datasets are hardly accessible or understandable by the majority of people. Raw and machine-readable data is very interesting for developers to use it in their applications but for average readers it’s not suited to provide much insight. The data is the foundation from which understanding may arise if it’s communicated in a clear and understandable manner.
Let’s imagine a place where this data may be communicated in a more human readable way. The reader could choose a dataset, use an appropriate visualization method, mash the data with other resources, see what other users have done with the data and share his thoughts and insights. Does this ring a bell? Well, this is something already happening on the Many Eyes website or in the NY Times Visualization Lab. Maybe these forces could be grouped together and thus help making use of the data easier for the audience.
The Sunlight Labs have initiated the second installment of their Apps for America competition. The project rewards the best application built with data from the Data.gov website. It’s supported by Google, O’Reilly Media, and TechWeb.