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The intro portion of the FAQ currently reads

Open Data Stack Exchange is for developers and researchers interested in open data.

for people who don't know what open data is could a bit more explanation could be included?

Here is the intro paragraph from Wikipedia.

Open data is the idea that certain data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control. The goals of the open data movement are similar to those of other "Open" movements such as open source, open hardware, open content, and open access. The philosophy behind open data has been long established (for example in the Mertonian tradition of science), but the term "open data" itself is recent, gaining popularity with the rise of the Internet and World Wide Web and, especially, with the launch of open-data government initiatives such as Data.gov and Data.gov.uk.

Edit

After reading The 7 Essential Meta Questions of Every Beta perhaps the larger issue to address here is "What should the FAQ contain?"...

I obviously think there needs to be a better explanation of what open data is, however it would be beneficial clarify some other items as well what kind of questions are acceptable to ask here and what kind of questions to not to ask on opendata.

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I see a defining split between open data on this site meaning "any data", and "data with a social/public benefit". My vote is definitely for the latter: being primarily governmental (in regards to both government transparency into policy and laws and datasets maintained by government such as maps, census, business registrations, etc.) and scientific.

In terms of clarifying what "interested in" means, I see it as:

  1. Discovering existing open data: referring people to existing open data and how to access it

  2. Opening closed data: so referring folks to relevant datasets and answering questions on how to best go about opening it (FOIA, etc.) and packaging it (schemas, distribution, etc.)

  3. Analyzing/Using Open Data: which includes metadata about a dataset (how was this collected? what inherent biases does it have?) and how to best display or correlate it

  4. Popularizing/Explaining Open Data: licenses, platforms, APIs, etc.

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For anyone interested in a definition of Open Data, have a look at the wonderful Open Definition by the Open Knowledge Foundation.

Here's the short version:

A piece of data or content is open if anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it — subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and/or share-alike.

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While I come to this with an interest in "data with a social/public benefit," I am ok with allowing for a slightly wider definition. However, with non-governmental data, there are really no grounds for expecting it to be open.

That said, I think academic datasources like language corpora or research data are equally worthy of discussion, and other sources that are reasonably expected to be available to a wide audience should be fair game as well. Data which can only be used under license would not be.

In general, I'm on board with all 4 of SideOfBacon's bullet items.

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