This question asks whether we should have a specific tag for all questions of the form "where can I find open data about [x]"?

However, it appears to me that this is just about the only type of question that is reliably considered "on-topic" for this site. Of the top-rated questions so far, I see approximately three that are not data-hunting questions, and of those, one already has four close votes. The top question is quite good, but has almost as much to do with Creative Commons licensing as it does with data, and honestly I have no idea how many more of these types of questions this site could generate in the future. This question does show the potential for questions related to tools for use with open data, but the question itself seems a little too open-ended to me, and most questions of the form "how do I use [this tool]" (which would be less open-ended) would probably be more appropriate for Stack Overflow (if it's a programming tool) or Super User (if it's not).

Beyond that, we've already had several discussions about what's off-topic, with the consensus frequently being "yep, that's off topic." (Although my answer to the latter question is the top-rated, the question I asked that partially inspired the question was closed.)

So my question is: can anyone explain what the potential for this site is beyond data-hunting questions? Can you give examples of hypothetical (or already-asked) questions that demonstrate this potential?

3 Answers 3


Can anyone explain what the potential for this site is beyond data-hunting questions?

I'm very interested in this site for "process" type answers, like Should I approach an agency unofficially before FOIAing them? and What is the best way to request machine readable data from a FOIA request?.

There seems to be some disagreement over whether these questions are appropriate, but they also seem to have a high number of votes. They also seem to be very similar to appropriate questions in other Stack Exchange communities like Cooking. For example When to add fresh basil to a tomato sauce?.

I think it can be tough for people coming from StackOverflow where the "best" answer is one that compiles. Whereas here, I think the best answer is one that is both functional (tells you what to do), but also explanatory (tells you why it's done that way). Process questions have a little more wiggle room than code questions, but I still think they can be specific enough to provide real value to people coming to this community (especially organically through Google).


One potential I see is "higher-level" questions, like Open Data Scorecards?, a question about measuring and comparing openness of governments. Also under this category could be questions about legal means to overrule refusal of disclosure. I could even imagine people asking pushing forward open data movement.

Also, I'm interested in questions about source like:

How can I trust the authenticity of an open data source?

How to verify the completeness of a list of something?

How to integrate data from multiple sources (say GDP figures of one nation from CIA, World Bank, and the Statistics Department of that nation)?


I hope that there can be a place for questions that cover the work that often must be done to prepare 'open data' to support analysis or other uses.

While I agree there some questions for extracting and cleaning data could be asked on Stack Overflow, I think that these tasks are such a integral part of actually using open data that we will have both many users coming with these questions and a great depth of experience within this community in dealing with these data munging issues. I hope they can find a place here.

  • 1
    If it's technical questions about normalizing / homogenizing data, I could see arguing to put those on Stack Overflow or one of the other sites. Questions about social and legal conventions for preparing a data release I would happily support here. (and I might support the other ones, too, depending on how they're phrased .. remember, if you decided to be anal-retentive on the exclusivity, and we can't get the numbers up that SE wants ... they shut us down entirely ... so trying to keep a walled garden might end up in no garden.
    – Joe
    May 12, 2013 at 17:46

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