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Is it OK to post a open data request for things that either:

  • will never be open data
  • or which would require Wikipedia/OSM class efforts to gather

For instance, let's say we are in 2002 and OpenStreetMap does not exist:
Would it be OK to post a question "Where can I find an open map of the world?" ?
It is an impossible wish, the question will most probably stay in the Unanswered queue for years.


Note - This question is sparked in part by these comments from a fellow OpenData contributor:

I would also wonder if there's a respectful but decisive way to ask people not to merely post "wishes" -- many of the data requests are for things which will never be open data, or which would require Wikipedia/OSM class efforts to gather.

I think there's a real problem with having the unanswered question queue cluttered with essentially unanswerable questions.

5

Even difficult questions should be allowed.
I believe that even our craziest Open Data dreams will become true one day.
(Wikimedia calls that spirit "eventualism")

  • Even difficult-to-fulfil data requests are interesting.
  • When asking the question, you might think it is impossible, but in fact the data might already be available somewhere difficult to find, and someone might know about it. Not asking (or deleting questions that sound impossible) would be a shame in such cases.
  • For data that really does not exist yet: Thanks to search engines, OpenData can actually act as a gathering point for people interested in this data, and together they might share ideas, and get collaboration started. Quite a few new datasets were actually created as a direct consequence of the question being posted here, and hopefully it is only the beginning :-) (example)
  • The Unanswered page should not be seen as a list of questions that needs to be exterminated. Look at Software Recommendations: 58% of unanswered questions is perfectly livable, the community over there does not consider it as a problem, it is natural that most software just does not exist yet.

Needless to say, all questions should be of high quality. See How a good data-request question should look like.

  • 2
    I agree. When asking a question, the person really doesn't know that the data doesn't exist, just that either (1) it isn't accessible to them, or (2) it has not been released publicly. Asking the question is a step to finding or opening up that data. I say, ask away! – Jeanne Holm Mar 26 '15 at 14:29
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I see no reason to look to the Software Recommendations SE as a model. In fact, among the sites on StackExchange, it has the absolute lowest answer rate. The median rate is 91% answered. Answered questions are a sign of a strong community.

I don't disagree that some requests for data which isn't currently collected are interesting. But I think that data requests should be held to high standards just as other questions are: indicate what you've tried, where you've looked, what you've learned about why the data may not yet exist.

As an aside, could you indicate the cases where questions here resulted in new datasets being created? That is a great success story for this site.

  • not sure about "new" but there's been a number of datasets that have come through that are no longer live; piecing them back together (almost always using the wayback machine) has proved fruitful and given them new life. although i have no idea where they live now. i think about this quite often...it would be keen to have a spot to start uploading them. perhaps opendata se mods could create a github account and start accepting pull requests? – albert Apr 7 '15 at 6:50
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    I don't particularly endorse the suggestion, but if you think this is a good idea, I suggest you post it as a question on the Meta instead of a comment. More to the point, I won't be one who volunteers to manage a data orphanage, but the open source imperative is to scratch your own itch, so if there are folks who would, by all means, go for it. – Joe Germuska Apr 7 '15 at 10:17

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