More than half of the questions on OpenData are data-request questions, so I think it is time to think a bit more about:
The ideal data request
- Data: Explain exactly what data you are looking for. Put a Wikipedia link under each ambiguous word or abbreviation, as abbreviations can have a different meaning in different fields.
- Context: What are you actually trying to achieve, what is your final goal that the data will help you get done?
- Region: Not everybody is in the USA. Say what country/region your question applies to, if applicable. Some questions do not need a region, for instance questions about chemistry or astronomy. If you want data that covers the whole globe, say it explicitly as well.
- License: Say what licenses are acceptable, and whether you are ready to invest money on it or not.
- Format: Say what numeric units and data/file format you want, if you have a preference. Say whether screen-scraping answers are acceptable or not.
- Authority: What kind of organization do you want the data to come from? Government-issued data only? Peer-reviewed data only? Is crowdsourced data OK?
- Requirements: List all other requirements you have.
- Non-answers: If you have tried a few obvious candidates before (or while) asking the question but they don't fit, then explain why. For instance, if you are looking for an encyclopedia but Wikipedia is not a valid answer, then explain why. This will provide more clues to what you are looking for.
The minimal data request
- Data: Explain exactly what data you are looking for.
- Context: Optional, but it might prevent us from helping you or making the question more useful. Questions with context are also often more understandable.
- Region: Strongly recommended. If not specified, be prepared to accept answers that only apply to Pakistan or Botswana.
- License: Optional, we will assume you want open data.
- Format: Optional, but then be prepared to accept answers in esoteric formats.
- Authority: Optional, we will assume that you are ready to accept answers from potentially unreliable sources if no other source seems to exist.
- Requirements: Optional.
- Non-answers: Strongly recommended. At least show that you have searched for a solution and explain what is wrong with the solutions you have found so far.
Anything I forgot?